First Drive: 2021 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

Everyone wants a crossover, so, is the new Fiesta-based Ford Puma any good? Spoiler alert: Yeah, it is.

Anyone old enough to remember when the Ford Puma was a weird looking coupe? Well, it ain’t anymore. Meet the Ford Puma, a compact SUV that’s based on the Ford Fiesta platform and is hoping to snot the new Nissan Juke, Toyota C-HR, Volkswagen T-Cross and others.

What is the Ford Puma?

There are a couple of differences between this thing and a Fiesta, well, more than a couple, but a couple that might make you think plumping for the slightly bigger Puma is the way to go. Sure, the Puma isn’t what you’d call a high-riding SUV but it sits 30mm higher than the Fiesta and the driver sits 30mm higher than they do in the Fiesta, so, all up you’ve got an extra 60mm of height.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

And then there’s the boot which offers a clever little hidden bin for storing either wet stuff or things you want to keep away from prying eyes. There are also cool little catches that swing out when you raise the boot floor to hold it out of your way. The spare is a micro spare hidden away at the bottom of the under-floor storage bin. The boot, at 410 litres, is a good size.

Overseas the Puma can be had with a handful of engines as well as a mild-hybrid technology but in Australia there’s just the one engine, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder and one transmission, a seven-speed DCT. We’ll get to how these work shortly.

There are three variants, the entry level Puma, the ST-Line we’ve driven, and the top-spec ST-Line V. Introductory drive-away pricing for Puma is: Puma FWD $31,990; Puma ST-Line $33,990; and ST-Line V $36,990 drive-away. To combat key rivals, the Puma’s been stuffed with plenty of tech, like a digital instrument cluster, excellent infotainment system, impressive active safety features, and more.

What’s the Ford Puma like to drive?

The Ford Puma, regardless of the spec, can only be had with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine making 92kW at 6000rpm and 170Nm of torque from 1500-4500rpm. This is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

Okay, the numbers, on paper at least, are unlikely to get the juices flowing (a Nissan Juke has less power but more torque) but on the road the Puma feels urgent enough. Although we can’t help but hope Ford Australia will change its mind on the Puma ST and bring it Down Under…it’d be a ripper.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

The Puma will easily keep up with traffic on the highway with plenty of oomph for overtaking on hills too. That’s down to that flat torque curve from 1500-4500rpm and the quick- and smooth-shifting transmission.

And it helps that the seven-speed DCT is quick witted and seamless with its shifts up or down the ratios. And, while some dual-clutch transmissions can be clumsy at low speed or when crawling, you’d be hard pressed to pick the Ford’s tranny as a DCT if you didn’t know it was one.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

The ride and handling is good too. Our drive was confined to some highway and around town stints with only one or two jaunts out onto some twisting bitumen. It was enough to give a good feel for the ride and handling.

Tip into a corner and the Puma sits nice and flat with good mid-corner bump control, indeed, the control of general body movements is good as is bump suppression be it at highway or around town speeds. There’s none of the bobble you’d expect in a small, higher-riding vehicle, testament to the suspension tuning.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

And, similarly, road noise is well suppressed as is wind noise. Indeed, you barely feel or hear anything in the Puma. The engine noise is suppressed nicely too, even when you rev the thing right out to 6000rpm. The steering is relatively feel-free but it’s direct and the weighting is consistent throughout the action with excellent highway straight-ahead stability.

There are driving modes like Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail and these tweak things like transmission and throttle response, as well as changing the colour of the instrument cluster and the fonts used for a touch of the dramatic.

In all, Ford’s done a good job with the Puma where it’s ride and handling is concerned and it’s easily one of the standout compact crossovers in the segment with the sort of bump management and body control you’d expect from a bigger vehicle.

Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 5.3L/100km but in our testing, around 500km across a week, we averaged a combined 6.0L/100km.

What’s the interior of the Ford Puma like?

Well, thanks to a longer wheelbase than the Fiesta it’s based on (bigger by 10cm) the Puma feels roomy inside while remaining urban friendly on the outside (only 4.2 metres long all up). It’s also wider (both in body and track) than a Fiesta which the taller Puma needed to be to make sure it handled the way Ford wanted it to.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

That’s meant, whether you’re in the front or the back of the Puma there’s plenty of room. The driver’s seat is manual adjust on the ST-Line but with reach and rake on the steering wheel you’ll be able to get a comfortable driving position. And I like the fact that even with the seat down nice and low you still get a good view out over the bonnet with the edges always in view. Indeed, vision all the way around and through the mirrors is excellent, and the high-definition reversing camera is probably the best in the segment.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

Over in the back seat there’s plenty of room for adults with the seats well shaped and supportive. The middle seat is best left for emergencies only as it lacks the shape and support of the outboard seats. One of the letdowns is the lack of directional rear air vents or USB outlets, and there are no vents underneath the front seats. That said, this is only a small vehicle and the climate control is effective at reaching into the back of the car quickly.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

The dashboard is like that of the Fiesta and Focus, read practical and stylish. There are contrast stitched soft touch materials around the place, storage bins and wireless charging at the base of the dashboard. The dashboard itself is well laid out with the 8.0-inch infotainment screen taking pride of place with Ford’s clever SYNC3 infotainment system. There’s also Apple and Android connectivity. The climate control is a mix of easy to use dials and buttons, interestingly it’s only single-zone.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

The tech feel is upped thanks to the digital instrument cluster which is excellent and carries plenty of information from the usual suspects like speed, revs, and fuel to the distance to the vehicle in front of you, posted speed limits and navigation directions.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

The boot offers 410 litres of storage space and more than 1000 litres if you fold down the back seats. The boot floor can be raised or lowered and the cover is fabric and so bends out of the way you’re carrying something bulky in the boot. There are also the features mentioned earlier in this review, like the removable  hidden storage bin beneath the floor.

What about price, safety and ownership?

There are three variants, the entry level Puma, the ST-Line we’ve driven, and the top-spec ST-Line V. Introductory drive-away pricing for Puma is currently: Puma FWD $31,990; Puma ST-Line $33,990; and ST-Line V $36,990 drive-away. Expect prices to go up once the initial ‘special offer’ period ends.

In terms of warranty, the Puma comes with Ford’s standard five-years or unlimited kilometres as well as fixed price servicing of $299 for each service for four years or 60,000km. Service schedule is set at 12 months or 15,000km. And, for some pub trivia with nothing at all to do with the warranty or service schedule, the Puma is built in Romania.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Review

The new Puma boasts a five-star ANCAP rating and an impressive active safety list of standard features, like autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, emergency assistance (where it will dial emergency services if you’re involved in a collision and your phone is connected), lane departure warning and lane keeping aid, speed sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear seat belt reminders, power child locks, rear parking sensors and multi-view reversing camera.

2020 Ford Puma ST-Line Specifications

Price $33,990 – driveaway Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety five star ANCAP Engine 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine Power 92kW at 6000rpm Torque 170Nm of torque from 1500-4500rpm Transmission seven-speed DCT Dimensions 4207mm long 1805mm wide 1548mm high 2588mm wheelbase Turning Circle 10.4m Weight 1287kg Boot Space 410L Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 42L Thirst 5.3L/100km claimed combined; 6.0L/100km tested

Ride and Handling
Fun Factor
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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.
first-drive-2021-ford-puma-st-line-reviewVERDICT: Ford has done a good job with the new Puma. From the pricing to the specs, to the way it drives. We’re looking forward to spending more time with the other variants but the ST-Line feels like a lot of car for the money and a properly practical family car to boot.