Up until now, if you’ve wanted a small, fast crossover, it’s had to be all-wheel drive and quite expensive. Think the VW T-Roc R (£40,735) or Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 (£43,565). Now, though, Ford has a similarly-sized alternative that undercuts the cheaper of those two by a whopping £12k.
Sure, the new Puma ST is 100bhp down on the VW and is front-wheel drive, but we can pretty much guarantee you’ll have more fun in the Ford. We know this because it’s a close relative to the Fiesta ST, which is by far the best-driving hot hatch.
This marginally heavier, slightly taller Ford has been fitted with the same 1.5-litre inline-three turbo engine, which provides 197bhp and 214lb ft of torque. Here, it’s able to provide a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds, just a couple of tenths away from the Fiesta. The top speed, meanwhile, is 137mph.
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As with the Fiesta, there’s a Performance Pack (yours for £950) which adds launch control and a Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential. The Puma also gets a version of its cousin’s unusual, banana-shaped ‘directionally-wound’ rear springs, and a rear torsion beam that’s 40 per cent stiffer than the one used for the lower-riding ST.
The steering is 25 per cent faster than in a boggo Puma, while the brakes are 17 per cent bigger. Wrapping each of the new 19-inch alloy wheels are bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.
To go with the new rims, there’s a new front bumper with an integrated splitter, which decreases lift at the front by 80 per cent. You get a new bumper at the rear, too, with something which just about passes for a diffuser poking out the bottom.
Inside, there is (of course) a flat-bottomed steering wheel, plus an ST-specific gear knob and Recaro bucket seats clad in Miko Dinamica. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, an eight-inch infotainment screen and Bang & Olufsen sound system all feature as standard, while at the back, you get the same 80-litre ‘MegaBox’ under-boot storage as the standard Puma.
The colour palette features six hues: Agate Black, Desert Island Blue, Fantastic Red, Frozen White, Magnetic and the brilliantly named Mean Green. That last one is exclusive to the ST, and if you buy one of these without speccing it in that colour, we’ll be thoroughly disappointed in you.
The Puma ST is priced from £28,495, which is around £4000 more than a Fiesta ST.