Our ‘Mean Green’ Puma ST has turned a lot of heads during a week of testing. The ST comes from the ‘Ford Performance’ division and its safe to say any of its ‘badged’ cars tend to look particularly striking with eye catching colours. The ST pushes out 200hp through its front wheels. The ST’s EcoBoost 3-cylinder, 1.5 litre petrol engine is tuned to deliver real punch and the Puma ST doesn’t disappoint. The Puma ST is based on the mechanicals from the much loved Fiesta ST but features beefed up suspension components and a 40% stiffer twist-beam rear axel to counteract the crossover’s height when cornering. For now the Puma ST sits in alone in a niche of the new car market.
Our ST came very-well equipped and really looked great with its contrasting black roof, twin exhaust and smart looking 19 inch alloys with red brake callipers peeping through the rims. LED headlight are standard as are ‘ST’ puddle lights. The compact 5-seat (at a squeeze) crossover looks really purposeful with its ST badging, subtle body styling kit and Ford Performance embossed splitter delivering that all nod to onlookers of its performance potential.
The Puma ST gets tuned sports suspension that delivers a firm and near-comfortable ride on most surfaces. The chassis is set up to be able to survive on the road and race track and any standard of driver will enjoy using their talent behind the wheel. The ST has selectable drive modes of Normal, ’Eco’ (haha), Sport and Track. In Track mode, all vehicle dynamics features are tuned for the fastest possible lap times, traction control is disabled, and ESC interventions are set to wide-slip mode for as ford describes ‘the purest driving experience’. This mode requires a good degree of attention and enthusiasts will enjoy the challenge.
You can easily shift between these settings on the move via a handy steering wheel mounted button you operate with you right thumb. The ST has hot hatch performance with 0-100km taking 6.7 seconds, top speed is 220km/h. To add to the theatre of driving the ST there is a ‘engine sound enhancer’ that delivers a meaty note to the proceedings. The ST will burble and parp in Sport and Track modes and no matter how contrived the sound is – it is grin inducing.
Our test car had two optional packs fitted the first is essential if you are an enthusiastic driver. The ST Performance Pack (€1,172) includes: a mechanical limited slip differential (LSD), launch control, performance shift light and shift Indicator. Launch control is a nice party trick but most drivers will leave it alone, the real essential bit of kit here is the LSD as it delivers enhanced cornering traction.
We also had the €1,456 Driver Assistance Pack fitted. It includes: AEB by radar/camera, BLIS (blind spot warning) with CTA and active braking, intelligent adaptive cruise control (a potential licence saver) with evasive steering with manual transmission, Stop and Go incl. Traffic Jam Assist (Automatic Only), Active Park Assist, front parking sensors and a rear view camera – that pack is good value for money too.
For short trips or demanding, enthusiastic driving the ST’s partial leather and Miko Dinamica (faux suede) Recaro sport seats are incredibly supportive, but, on longer journeys they get pretty uncomfortable unless you are the size of a jockey. My hips were sore after one 370 kilometre run. I ended up doing the last 100km with a folded up jacket under my backside… it worked too! I have the same trouble in the Fiesta ST with its hip hugging seats.
Ford quotes CO2 Emissions at 134g/km (NEDC) note this figure is higher using WLTP. Ford Puma pricing starts at €26,069 with Puma ST pricing starts from €41,813.
The standard Puma works well as a compact car and lets not forget that brilliant boot with its ‘MegaBox’ (80 litre cargo basin) under the flat floor that allows a Yukka plant or Golf bag to be carried upright with the tailgate closed. The Puma ST goes to another level with brisk and enjoyable power and driving dynamics to match. its steering is sharpened to react quicker than a standard Puma (+25%) and its stops better too with brakes that are 17% larger too. The Puma ST grips the road really well and is shod with specially-developed Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.
“Real driving enthusiasts aren’t going to settle for less excitement just because life demands a more ‘sensible’ car, so our number one priority was that the Puma ST had to be as exhilarating and capable as every ST model, without sacrificing any of Puma’s practicality,” said Stefan Muenzinger, Ford Performance manager, Europe. “We believe that we have the best-handling small SUV in its segment. It really does feel connected and has the true ST feel. It is a joy to drive.” Compared to the Fiesta ST, the Puma ST feels like its trying a bit too hard. The Fiesta ST is a superb hot hatch and highly regarded. The Puma ST with its fashionable crossover styling is a fun package. Because it is relatively small and not over-powered you can feel good about how you get your kicks.