Ford’s fan-favourite, the Fiesta ST hot hatch, now has a high-riding sibling, with the unveiling of Europe’s 2021 Puma ST.
Under the bonnet is the same 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine as the Fiesta ST, producing 147kW of power and 320Nm of torque (up from 290Nm in the hatch) from 2500-3500rpm.
Drive is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, enabling a 6.7-second sprint from zero to 100km/h – 0.2 seconds slower than the related hatch. A shorter final drive ratio sees top speed fall from 232km/h in the Fiesta ST to 220km/h in the heavier, less aerodynamic Puma ST.
Cylinder deactivation technology – which can shut off or restart a cylinder in just 14 milliseconds – enables an estimated NEDC (equivalent to Australian standards) combined fuel economy figure of 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres.
Chassis and performance upgrades to match the Puma ST’s extra grunt over its regular stablemates include an available Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential, brake-based torque vectoring, stiffer ‘force-vectoring’ springs with twin-tube fixed dampers, 25 per cent faster electric power steering, and larger brakes, measuring 325mm up front and 271mm at the rear.
Ford claims a 50 per cent increase in stiffness for the Puma ST’s rear torsion-beam suspension over the standard Puma, matched with 24mm front and 28mm rear anti-roll bars.
Four drive modes are on offer, which vary the engine mapping, throttle response, traction and stability control, power steering weight and the sports exhaust’s variable valve – which Ford claims is around one decibel quieter than that of a Fiesta ST – depending on the mode selected.
Eco adjusts all parameters to maximise fuel economy, Normal sets up the Puma ST for “natural responsiveness and a connected feel”, Sport sharpens throttle response and opens the exhaust valve, while Track sees all settings placed into their most hardcore modes, traction control is disabled and stability control is set to a ‘wide-slip’ mode.
A Performance Pack will be offered in European markets, adding launch control and the aforementioned Quaife limited-slip front differential.
Like its Focus ST and Fiesta ST range-mates, visual differences between the Puma ST and the standard Puma ST-Line are relatively minor.
Upgrades up front include a ST-badged grille, gloss black front air intake inserts and a black front splitter – with the lattermost claiming to increase front-end downforce by 80 per cent – while towards the side and rear there’s a larger rear roof spoiler, new lower rear diffuser, dual exhaust tips and 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres.
The roof, trim, side skirt accents, mirror caps and roof spoiler are all finished in gloss black, while six colours are on offer: Agate Black, Desert Island Blue, Fantastic Red, Frozen White, Magnetic (grey) and the ST-specific Mean Green hue.
Inside, highlights include heated, ST-embossed Recaro sports seats trimmed in Miko Dinamica suede, a flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel, ST-badged gear knob, Ford Performance-branded sill plates, and Metal Grey contrast stitching throughout.
The car will also project an ‘ST’ logo onto the ground from the power-folding mirrors when the vehicle is unlocked.
The regular Puma’s 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 8.0-inch Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto carry over, with the addition of ST-specific start-up screens and instrument cluster graphics for the launch control function.
Other interior features include wireless smartphone charging, a heated windscreen, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, an optional Bang & Olufsen sound system, and an 80-litre ‘MegaBox’ storage space underneath the floor of the 456-litre boot.
Available safety technologies include autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert with braking functionality, automatic parking, a speed limiter, and support for the FordPass Connect app, allowing the owner to remotely unlock/lock their Puma ST, find its location and more.
The 2021 Ford Puma ST will launch in Europe later this year, with prices in the UK to start from £28,495 (AU$51,430, or £3295/AUD$5950 more than the flagship ‘ST-Line X Vignale’ grade in Britain).
Sadly, the Puma ST isn’t bound for Australian shores – despite local buyers’ thirst for performance SUVs – with Ford Australia confirming there are “no plans” for the model Down Under. The lack of an automatic transmission, no doubt, making its chances all the more remote.
The non-performance Puma range – powered by a 92kW/170Nm 1.0-litre turbo matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – touches down in Australian showrooms later this month, priced from $31,990 drive-away.