What's the space like inside?
In terms of exterior design, the cute bug-eye front-end, pert rear and sporty stance will appeal to many buyers looking for a funky small SUV.
Previous Ford models had awkward dash layouts and sub-optimal driving positions, but models like the Focus, Escape and Puma represent a major upgrade.
It’s slightly smaller in all dimensions (except width) than the Juke, but larger in all areas (except height) than the CX-3.
The Puma shares its underpinnings with the Fiesta light hatch. As a result, the functional, yet generic dash layout is identical.
Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system is well executed, but what was once a market-leading system is now just good. Graphics are dated and the menu layout is a little clunky.
Thankfully, the Puma has a regular automatic gear shifter, as opposed to the dial found in the Focus and Escape.
As expected from Ford, the front seats are nicely cushioned and well bolstered, but require manual adjustment. The ST-Line gets sporty red stitching on the seats, doors and console.
Rear headroom is ample but knee room behind my own driving position is average. The rear seats are flat, and it lacks rear vents, USB ports and a central armrest, but has map pockets.
The Puma’s 410-litre boot is one of the biggest in its class. Under the floor there’s 80 litres of useful space in the shape of a plastic-lined tub with a drain hole, which was a perfect fit for a pair of beach chairs. Bag hooks and a 12-volt outlet are handy additions. Under that is a space-saver spare wheel.
How does it drive?
All Puma variants are powered by Ford’s award-winning 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine delivering 92kW and 170Nm.
There’s turbo lag when accelerating from a standing start, but it achieves a lot for such a small powertrain. It’s got more poke than expected, maintaining power up a few big hills, and it feels more responsive than the Juke.
Upshifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission are a little sharp when accelerating hard, but it does a fine job at regular speeds around town.
You feel low to the ground and planted in the Puma, like a hatchback. That’d be the Fiesta underpinnings. Steering is precise and there’s some weight to it too.
The Fiesta ST we tested last year [add link please] was a blast and you can feel its DNA in the Puma. The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension setup is geared for sporty driving and it delivers sharp handling.
It’s flat through tight corners, offering plenty of grip. It’s probably the most dynamically engaging light SUV on the market.
The ride on the 17-inch wheels is on the firm side, with large potholes making their presence felt, but low-speed ride is easy to live with.
Sport mode firms up the ride, but response isn’t drastically improved.
In Europe, Ford has launched a warmed-up Puma ST variant that uses the same 147kW 1.5-litre engine as the Fiesta ST, but sadly it’s not on the cards for Australia.
The Puma has a surprisingly quiet cabin. The engine is so quiet when you hit the start button it’s hard to tell if it’s actually on.
We recorded fuel consumption of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres after a week of extensive driving, a little more than Ford’s 5.3L/100km claim.
The cheeky Puma is more expensive than some competitors, but it’s worth the extra spend. It’s the new driver’s pick of the growing light SUV brigade.