The Ford Puma ST can be thought of as a more family-friendly version of the pocket-rocket Ford Fiesta ST – just about the best small hot hatch you can currently buy. That bodes well doesn’t it? Especially as it gets pretty much the same drivetrain with 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo Ecoboost engine putting out 200bhp and 320NM of torque But this is bigger, taller, heavier, you’re thinking. True, but torque has been increased slightly to maintain 0-62mph acceleration performance at an impressive 6.7 seconds with a top speed of 137mph.
There are other benefits too: the steering is quicker, the brakes bigger, the anti-roll bars stiffer, the suspension actually softer, the exhaust a little quieter and of course it’s a bit higher – by 3cm. There’s also an ST Performance Pack that adds a mechanical limited slip differential and launch control. In the infotainment menu there’s even a lap timer, for when you want to take your family around Brands Hatch I suppose. Perhaps passenger sick bags should also be on the options list.
Before options you’re looking at a price of around £29k – the Fiesta ST is about £7k less. But with the Puma you get a decent sized boot, that has a hidden, drainable, bin in the back. The back seats can swallow fully grown people as well as kids (although the front bucket seats rob a few millimetres compared to the regular Puma), and the front not only accommodates but welcomes you with shimmering Puma logos and glittering ST lettering on its screens. Plus a naughty little red ‘S’ button on the steering wheel spoke.
That unleashes modes of madness that bring extra oomph to proceedings in this compact SUV that is not quite ready to let go of its lunatic heritage. It’s a bit like the Max Power generation parent that hasn’t quite matured, despite 1.5 children, a dog and an urban semi.
Similarly, hurl it into a corner and initially it conforms to front-drive compact SUV status and appears to want to understeer – but that’s just a front, an instant later torque vectoring is sling-shotting it through S-bends. Trust it, and trust the steering – initially a little elastic on the straight-ahead – as there is heft and even a little feel to be called upon.
The gear shifts are snappy, the ratios are spot on, slam it up through the revs, bounce it off the limiter, shock the drivetrain with fast changes, tame the torque at the front, and don’t forget to laugh out loud. This thing will take you back, yet in an instant will revert to daily driver chores. Brakes are solid, the ride is well judged.
Should you get one instead of a Fiesta? Only if you need the extra space. Should you get one instead of the regular Puma, say in ST-Line guise with 155bhp at a few grand less? I hesitate in resounding endorsement. But only because the regular Puma is itself that good. Plus you’ll get 50mpg versus 41.5mpg for the ST, and be kinder to the world at just 101g/km CO2 emissions, rather than 155g/km. And while it’s two seconds slower in the 0-62mph, it doesn’t feel slow at all, the initial take-off aided by the mild-hybrid drive system.
Tough call then. The ST-Line is all the Puma you’ll need, but the frankly the ST is the one you want.