New Ford Puma & Nissan Juke vs Volkswagen T-Roc
The all-new Ford Puma and Nissan Juke have the potential to take charge of the popular small SUV market. But first they have to beat the Volkswagen T-Roc...
Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line X
- List price - £23,645
- Target Price - £23,177
Based on the excellent Fiesta hatchback, so it promises Ford’s trademark sharp handling.
Nissan Juke 1.0 DIG-T 117 Tekna+
- List price - £23,895
- Target Price - £23,007
Second-generation Juke offers improved space, better quality and more mature looks.
Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI 115 Design
- List price - £23,005
- Target Price - £21,575
The car to beat; the T-Roc majors on comfort but is a consummate all-rounder.
Car makers have long had an obsession with big cats. From the lion on Peugeot’s crest to Jaguar to Panther (Google it), there’s something about the feline family that they just love to draw parallels with. Ford is the latest to do so with the Puma – a name it originally used on a small 1990s coupé and which has been exhumed for its new small SUV.
Sitting above the Ecosport but below the Kuga, this sporty-looking Fiesta-based SUV comes with the sort of clever mild hybrid technology you’d usually expect to find in a much more expensive car – something that should, in theory, help it combine lively performance with parsimonious fuel consumption. The Puma also has an ingenious boot and is temptingly priced, even in range-topping form, as tested here.
But to claim top honours in this class, it’ll need to duke it out with an all-new Nissan. The reinvented Juke has less divisive (yet still eye-catching) looks than its predecessor and a plush new interior, while it comes stupendously well equipped in top-spec Tekna+ form.
Our newcomers both square up against the Volkswagen T-Roc, a car whose talents have shown no signs of dwindling despite being on sale for more than two years. It’s actually the cheapest car in this test, largely because it’s appearing in mid-spec Design trim.
On the road
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Each of our contenders has a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine under its bonnet, so you’d assume the differences in performance would be tiny. In fact, they’re huge; the Puma makes its rivals seem positively tardy, pulling with far more urgency at low revs and taking several seconds less time to accelerate from 30-70mph when you work the engine hard.
The Juke and T-Roc are more closely matched, although the T-Roc always has the edge, whether you’re pulling from low revs in a high gear or revving the engine hard to extract every morsel of performance. Yet despite coming up short in this company, the Juke rarely feels sluggish.
In fact, you’re more likely to be irked by its woolly gearshift. In the T-Roc, changing gear is an altogether more pleasant experience and, thanks to a more feelsome clutch pedal, the VW is also an easier car to drive smoothly. Again, though, the Puma wins the day here, with the most positive clutch pedal and a delightfully precise gearshift that’s a joy to snick back and forth.
The Puma’s 48-volt mild hybrid system (that’s the mHEV bit) deserves special mention; it shuts the engine off when you’re coming to a stop to save fuel while keeping the steering and brakes supplied with power. Engage a gear at a standstill and the engine comes back to life in the blink of an eye, before a small electric motor lends a hand when pulling away to ease the load on the engine. The engines in the other cars also shut off automatically, but only when you come to a standstill, and they take longer to start up again.
If you enjoy driving, the Puma will win your heart in other ways, too. It’s super-agile by small SUV standards, darting into bends with little body lean, whether you’re just scooting around a roundabout or flying down some fast country lanes. Then there’s the steering, which gives you by far the best sense of connection with the front wheels, something you’ll really appreciate no matter how quickly or slowly you’re driving.
Again, the Juke and T-Roc are left fighting it out for the runner-up spot when it comes to cornering skills. The Juke’s tyres generate more grip and it leans slightly less when you’re tackling tight twists and turns, but the T-Roc is actually more confidence-inspiring to drive, due mainly to its better-weighted, more precise steering.
Unsurprisingly, the firm suspension that helps to keep the Puma’s body propped up through corners does make for a relatively firm ride. However, in some respects, it’s actually a more comfortable car than the Juke; you feel sharp-edged bumps more abruptly in the Puma, but many will find the Juke’s incessantly choppy ride more annoying. However, there’s no doubt that the T-Roc is the one to choose if you really value comfort, with one of the smoothest rides in the class.
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