As a former owner of the original Ford Puma, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend six months with the model that has revived the nameplate nearly 20 years after it was discontinued.
They’re very different vehicle styles, though. Two decades have transformed buyer tastes, and inevitably the new Puma is an SUV-inspired crossover, whereas the first Puma was a compact sports coupe.
One commonality: the 21st century Puma is based on the platform of the Fiesta city car, just like the version that existed between 1997 and 2001.
Ford’s little crossover certainly has some visual identity just like the old Puma, looking more sophisticated than the little-loved EcoSport model it replaces. In our view, the 2021 Ford Puma is certainly more high-riding hatchback than SUV.
The ST-Line V looks relatively premium, too, with its stylishly sporty body kit, 18-inch alloys, and our test car’s Magnetic paint job, while the teardrop headlights (with great-looking integrated DRLs that are split into two strips) are a nice nod to the original Puma coupe.
Front-on is arguably the Puma’s least convincing angle, but at least for me the rear and rear-three-quarter views look terrific.
The Ford Puma sits in the ‘Light SUV’ segment according to official industry statistics, though with pricing that isn’t exactly light it also encroaches into Small-SUV territory.
The range starts at $29,990 before on-road charges, placing it above the $27,990 typical of direct rivals – such as the Juke and T-Cross – and making the entry point much higher than models such as the Mazda CX-3.
Current drive-away pricing, however, only adds between $1450 and $2000, starting from $31,990.
|2021 Ford Puma ST-Line V|
|Engine||1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||92kW at 6000rpm, 170Nm at 1500–4500rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||5.3L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||NA|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||410L/1170L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2019)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Juke, Skoda Kamiq, VW T-Cross|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$39,990|
Our stint with the Puma focuses on the $35,540 RRP flagship ST-Line V ($36,990 driveaway).
To its credit, the Puma is well equipped in its base form, featuring wireless smartphone charging, LED projector headlights, foglights, LED daytime running lights, cabin ambient lighting, speed-sign recognition, attention monitor, tyre pressure monitoring, auto high beam, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a SYNC 3 infotainment system including navigation, 8.0-inch touchscreen and voice command.
There’s even a massage function for the front seats, plus lumbar support.
Is it worth finding an extra $5000-odd over the entry Puma and bypass the mid-range model for our long-term ST-Line V range-topper? Ford Australia certainly aims to tempt buyers, adding features including leather seats, front parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto tailgate, keyless entry, and a 575-watt B&O Play audio system.
Our long-termer also has both main options available for the Puma: a $2000 panoramic sunroof and a $1500 Park Pack that assembles multi-speed adaptive cruise control, evasive steer assistance, parking assistance, and blind-spot monitoring.
Prestige paint ($650) and roof racks ($250) are options for all models, and the auto tailgate ($750) is available for the base and mid-spec variants.
There’s also an option to have a contrast black roof with certain paints, costing $1150 as a combination.
Ideally, blind-spot detection would be standard on all models, and it should certainly be included on the ST-Line V along with adaptive cruise.
Our long-term ST-Line V – finished in optional Magnetic (dark grey) and equipped with both the Park Pack and panoramic roof – costs $41,140 all up. That’s getting exxy for a compact mainstream crossover/SUV, especially considering an Audi Q2 starts from $41,990 before on-road costs – even if it wouldn’t have as many features as the Puma.
The Puma is also not alone among its peers to push the boundaries on price.
A range-topping Nissan Juke, the Ti, is $39,490 drive-away, for example. It has 19-inch wheels, heated front seats and a 360-degree camera over the Puma ST-Line V, but lacks the Ford’s panoramic sunroof, auto tailgate and speed-sign recognition.
A VW T-Cross Style fully optioned to match the Puma’s equipment is $38,640 drive-away, though also lacks the same Puma features above and doesn’t offer leather upholstery.
Skoda’s new Kamiq Monte Carlo is $36,990 drive-away, but needs a $4300 Travel Pack and $550 for metallic paint to properly match the ST-Line V (though thus equipped offers extras in the form of heated seats front/rear and a larger, 9.2-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay).
But consider the $42,558 drive-away Hyundai Kona Highlander and you have a compact SUV that looks, on paper, like a more genuine flagship model. Its standard features include electric front seats with ventilation, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a head-up display and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The Ford Puma has opportunities to stand out in other areas, however, which is exactly what we’ll explore over the coming months. We'll go into more detail on its interior, practicality, technology, three-cylinder turbo and dual-clutch auto, fuel consumption and, of course, the way it drives.