Ford has added an important car to its range but is the new Puma compact crossover enough to halt the blue oval’s slow decline… we’ll see.
Ford right now has a couple of excellent cars in its range in the Fiesta and the Focus but outside of that buyers are looking elsewhere. Rival brands have stolen a march on a firm that can be painfully slow in adapting to market trends. Shortly the completely new Kuga will join the Puma to shake up the market further and this will help draw serious attention to the brand again. Ford Ireland says these cars will give it access to an additional 40% of the new car market that it wasn’t in before. The SUVs/CUVs sector itself accounts for circa 45% of the new car market in Ireland. The compact SUV crossover is the class of the year in terms of the range of new models out there to choose from. Almost all car brands are offering fresh and interesting compact crossovers e.g. Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke, Citroen C3 Aircross, Skoda Kamiq, Renault Captur, Volkswagen T Cross etc. etc.
The five door Puma is built on the Fiesta platform (as was the original Puma) with the body beefed up a bit to make it look far more substantial than the Fiesta. Pricing starts from €24,465 sitting above the Fiesta (from €19,007), the Focus (from €22,805) and the dreadful Ecosport (from €23,525). Styling is surprisingly good. The car looks chunky and sturdy but is colour sensitive. Our black car hid the under-filled wheel arches quite well. Dramatic LED running lights also helped the Puma strike a pose in the street. Access is good but the door sills are quite high.
Inside the cabin can seat five but takes four adults in reasonable comfort. It is spacious for the class and occupants sit tall in the rear and up from the ergonomics for the driver encourage a more elevated seat height. The Puma features all the current switchgear we know from Focus and Fiesta plus a few more buttons. Lots of ADAS electronic aids are available e.g. adaptive cruise control with stop & go, speed sign recognition and lane centring, plus local hazard information capability.
The interior’s party trick is its 456 litre boot. Open the tailgate and there is no way there is 456 litres of space. Lift the boot floor and you’ll see something remarkable that I can best describe as a little bath tub stowage area. This ‘MegaBox’ tub allows two golf bags to be loaded in the boot with the seats in place – standing up! The box even has a drain plug should you wish to store wet stuff (or change the water if used for goldfish – that’s a joke by the way). A clever load cover/ parcel shelf acts in concert with the tailgate too.
The Puma grades available are: Titanium (17 inch alloys), ST-Line (from €26,065) and ST-Line X (18s) from €27,865. Our ST-Line X test car had a lot of standard kit: 18-inch matt black alloy wheels; SYNC-3, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation & and excellent B&O premium sound system, partial leather sports trim, privacy glass and a shark fin antenna. Optional extras included: self levelling LED headlights (€900), met paint (€700), handsfree tailgate (€700) and the driver assistance pack (radar and camera fusion pre collision assist; BLIS with CTA and active braking; Intelligent adaptive cruise control with evasive steering (w/traffic jam on A/T); Active park assist (incl. front parking sensors); rear view camera – €1,500. This brought our total to €31,665.
One engine is offered in Ireland namely a 1 litre, three cylinder petrol (EcoBoost) turbo charged unit that produces 125hp sent to the front wheels (a 155hp is available in other markets). A 48-volt mild hybrid system with an 11.5kW belt-driven integrated starter/generator helps reduce C02 slightly (125g/km / tax band B1) and aid efficiency. An average fuel consumption of 5.5L/100km (WLTP) is quoted but we seldom came close to it. A six-speed manual gearbox helps make the most of the modest amount of power on tap. The mild hybrid helps progress as it fills the power gap caused while waiting for the turbo to spin up and at times the Puma can feel quite brisk.
The Puma is a very important car for Ford and will do well as all of the firm’s core dna is present. It has an exterior look that is on-trend, it drives well, handles with confidence and feels so familiar. A plug in hybrid is coming and it will have a circa €2 grand premium over the diesel version. “We think new Puma will prove very popular in the Irish market”, said John Manning, Ford Ireland Market Lead. “The small crossover / SUV segment is very much a growing one in Ireland with a wide range of models available to prospective buyers. We really feel that Puma has the attributes to stand out from among its competitors: mild hybrid technology, class leading cargo space thanks to the novelty and practicality of the MegaBox, up to the minute technology, great looks and most of all, great drivability. Put all of them together and that is a winning formula”.
With so many concerns affecting sales such as WLTP and the UK’s trade agreement post Brexit, Ford Ireland expects a new car market of just 111,000 in 2020 – that’s some 5% down on 2019.