Ford Puma ST mHEV, the mildly hot one

In Car Reviews, Ford, Hybrid by Robin Roberts

The Ford Puma was at the top of Britain’s car sales in 2023, it’s easy to see why

Car Reviewed: Ford Puma ST EcoBoost mHEV 7 Speed Automatic

Ford has a soft spot for the Puma, first considering using it for a performance version of the Escort and then putting it on the 1997 compact coupe before shelving it a couple of years later, only to resurrect it after 17 years for the present SUV series.

It has also played about with the ST and Vignale suffixes as it did with the Ghia years before, along with the famous RS badges.

Now, it has come full circle with the Ford Puma ST, and it’s a surprisingly complete car with potentially extensive appeal as the industry takes cautious steps from hybrids to fully electric models in under a decade.

Today’s seven-model Puma range goes from about £25,640 to the ST Performance at £33,110 before extras. Nearly all use 125, 155 or 170ps EcoBoost engines, but two variants can be ordered with 200ps 1.5-litre powerplant and, depending on a model, have 6sp manual or 7sp auto boxes, all driving the front wheels.

The only extra on the test car was the driver assistance pack, including intelligent cruise control, blind spot detection and park assist at £650 and Azura blue paint for £525.

We have tested a few Puma models over recent years since it was reborn as a small SUV, and the latest version is arguably the best all-rounder. 

The Ecoboost triple-pot 1.0-litre engine is produced with varying degrees of power and we evaluated the highest-tuned derivative, the ST, with a seven yes seven-speed Powershift automatic gearbox.

Now, you may think that’s a lot of gears for the 1.0-litre to be sorting through, but in fact, the powertrain is a real gem.

The dual-clutch design means there is always a gear available for imperceptible changes, whether going up or down the box, so the response time is milliseconds.

That not only makes it very smooth to drive in town or through country lanes, but effortless at motorway speed and also extremely economical as the engine has to do the minimum of work to extract the best performance for any situation.

The engine was surprisingly quiet for such a small capacity unless you really pushed it hard through the gears when it became busier and keen to please, but with a lighter foot the noise was very much in the background.

Acceleration was respectable, the economy remarkable and the refinement unexpected.

The powertrain’s sharpness matched the brakes and steering, giving it a sports-car-like feeling and not a stand-offish SUV. It provided good feedback on open roads and a neat turning circle in town; you were always aware of which way the wheels pointed with little effort from the driver.

Underfoot, the brakes had excellent progressive and powerful action to bring it rapidly to a halt from high speed and without chilling drama. The electric parking brake securely held it on a slope and instantly released when the throttle was depressed.

Secondary controls on the column and wheel spokes were close to fingers and hands, operated silently and smoothly with some additional rotaries on the lower fascia, a bit out of direct sight.

The central console was dominated by the infotainment screen and its comparatively simple displays with separate comfort controls beneath for driver and passenger, and this is a very convenient and safe arrangement compared to some all-in-one mega displays, which demand attention on them and not the road ahead.

In front of the driver, it’s much the same evident thinking, so you have simple gauges, not marked in detail, but clear and supported by warning lights and mixed with various features to highlight.

The climate controls worked well, with good directional, temperature and output settings backed up by easy-to-adjust fascia outlet vents.

Oddment provision was excellent throughout and the bootspace is one of, if not the deepest, compartments which will hold two golf bags upright or can be extended as the offset split seat backs are dropped. Loading was effortless.

For passengers, however, the rear seats may be short of legroom if tall, but the front pair would not have the same issues, and access to all seats was very easy.

All seats were well shaped and supportive with reasonable adjustment on the front pair and visibility was generally good all around but more manageable with the sensors and reversing camera specified on the test car in the options’ pack.

The wipers did an excellent job, and the LED lights were long-range and widespread at night.

The comfort of the seats compensated for the firmness of the suspension evident at all times but it still admirably coped with tarmac ridges and potholes nevertheless.

Handling was, as suggested, more sports-car-like than family hold-all and I think it strikes the right balance for most users. You could hear the suspension working away.

So the Ford Puma ST Ecoboost doesn’t give shocks but a lot of pleasant surprises, which probably go a long way to explaining why it was Britain’s most popular car last year.

Author Rating 4.5/5

Car reviewed: Ford Puma ST EcoBoost mHEV

on the road price £32,935

  • 0-62mph 7.4secs
  • Top speed 130mph
  • Mechanical 3-cyl EcoBoost petrol-hybrid
  • Fuel Economy Combined 44.8mpg
  • Max Power 170PS
  • Torque 248Nm
  • Dimensions MM 4230 L / 1810 W / 1540 H
  • CO2 emissions 144g/km
  • Transmission 7-Speed automatic
  • Bootspace 456 / 1216 1itres (seats folded)

Robin Roberts

Motoring Journalist

Robin contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.

Robin was the longest serving chairman of The Western Group of Motoring Writers. He specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.

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