NEW FORD PUMA

Ford injects design flair and genuine driver appeal into a class not noted for an engaging experience.

Ford has revived the Puma nameplate for an athletic small crossover that has swept into the market like a breath of fresh air. The three cylinders of the 1.0-litre 999cc Ecoboost engine are mounted transversely in the nose and drive the front wheels through a seven-speed automatic. This transmission is mandatory and really rather good at shifting the Puma smoothly and efficiently. It gets off the mark eagerly and revs quietly and freely to the 6500rpm red line, reaching 100km/h in just under 10 seconds if you demand maximum effort.

The regular Puma driven here foregoes sports suspension in containing the taller body and makes do with disc brakes up front and drums at the rear. Extra width helps the handling with track width up by 58mm over the Fiesta. The Puma also has the rubber for vigorous exercise. The stylish 17-inch alloys are wrapped in 215/55 Goodyears and they keep about 1260kg feeling mostly planted.

The engine might be small but it still contributes to a 60:40 weight split front-to-rear. Even so, the Puma holds its line well in fast bends on dry roads. In fact it drives extremely neatly and purposefully like a warm Fiesta model, with crisp and accurate steering, and most drivers will find its behaviour little different from the hatchback while offering useful extra space and versatility. You’ve got 401L of load space with the rear seats in place or 1161L when folded flat.

With that comes a bit more cabin noise, however, and the ride quality benefits from a 95mm wheelbase stretch but loses some gains due to its broader boots hitting the road.

Two spec levels are available and the more expensive ST Line attracts with extra safety features, a bit more pizzazz inside and out, and a 12.3in touchscreen (compared with the standard 8.0in unit) for Ford’s Sync3 infotainment.

As agile as its shapely looks suggest, the Puma represents practical and affordable fun in the popular small crossover class so keenly contested by all manufacturers and, at first glance, seems destined for considerable market success.

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FORD PUMA

ENGINE 999cc 3-cyl petrol turbo

POWER 92kW (123bhp)

TORQUE 170Nm@1400-4500rpm

TRANSMISSION 7-spd auto

DRIVETRAIN Front-wheel drive

WEIGHT 1285kg

LENGTH 4.19m

WHEELS 17-inch alloy

TYRES 215/55 R17 (f, r)

0-100km/h 9.8 secs

FUEL CLAIM 5.3L/100km

PRICE $33,990

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