Long-term report: Understanding the Ford Puma ST

Sales of the Puma have soared in recent months, so Jack Evans has been working out what drives this popularity.

Ford Puma
Ford Puma

Take a look at the monthly new car best-sellers and you’ll see that the Ford Puma is a pretty consistent sight. Now I’ve never been the greatest fan of crossovers – I’d always trump for a conventional hatch – but having spent a fair few weeks and a decent number of miles with our long-term Puma ST, I’m starting to see why people are snapping them up in their droves.

Of course, the Puma is based on the regular Fiesta, which is a car as well-known here in the UK as they come. So why are so many people opting for the Puma instead, leaving the Fiesta in its wake, despite the two being fundamentally the same underneath?

Ford Puma
The Puma has proved popular for Ford

I think it comes down to space or, should I put it more precisely, the MegaBox that the Puma has in its boot. That added 90 litres of load that you just won’t find in the Fiesta completely transforms the appeal of the Puma and means that, on the occasions where I’ve got to make a run to the tip or carry something larger, I’m able to do it – and you just couldn’t in the Fiesta. I also like that the rubber matting surrounding the whole MegaBox can be removed and hosed off or vacuumed, which is very handy if things have got dusty or sandy back there.

Most crossovers offer a more raised-up driving position than a standard hatchback and though the Puma’s is slightly more elevated than the Fiesta’s, it’s not overly lofty. It’s something I appreciate, too, as there’s nothing I find more off-putting in a car than sitting ‘over’ it rather than in it. The seats are pretty comfy too and well-bolstered as well.

Ford Puma
The ST uses a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine

Yes, it is a little firm. On the motorway, it’s not so much of a problem, but at slower speeds, it does have a tendency to drop into potholes with a ‘thwack’. But the more time I’ve spent with the Puma ST, the more I’ve been able to just, well, get along with it. It’s not so uncomfortable as to put you off the car entirely, but I’d be quite interested to try out a Puma on the regular car’s suspension but with the 1.5-litre engine from the ST.

And what an engine it is. Good and boosty, it gives the Puma a frenetic, eager approach to driving and when combined with the well-judged six-speed manual makes it into a really exciting car to drive. Country lanes are an absolute hoot in the ST; but you’re even rewarded on roundabouts and longer curves where the Puma’s excellent body control and plentiful grip shine through. In truth, I haven’t been troubling any of the ‘sport’ modes, either, as it seems pretty well set up as it is.

I’ve even been getting reasonable fuel economy, with longer slogs on the motorway resulting in around 40mpg. A full tank shows around 367 miles, but on a recent journey, I travelled for well over 50 miles before the range began to tick south again.

Ford Puma
A small spoiler gives the ST a performance-orientated look

But there have got to be niggles, surely? Well, I’m not bowled over by the infotainment screen, which is a little bit dated in terms of its design. However, with standard-fit Apple CarPlay (wired, not wireless) I’ve got a pretty decent workaround for that issue. CarPlay also fits the screen really well and the touchscreen itself is pleasantly responsive, so there’s no waiting around for anything to load after you’ve pressed it.

I even like the way it looks. If it were my car, I’d be lopping the ST badges straight off it as, without these, it looks near-identical to the regular Puma and I think that’s pretty cool. Given how many Pumas I see on the road each time I’m driving, I think it would blend in really very well.

To me, the Puma ST is just a very likeable car. Not the most comfortable, for sure, but given how easy it is to use on a daily basis, it’s a commendable daily performance car option. Would I miss the added punch that the ST version brings? Probably a little. But it’s all the factors that you’ll find on the regular Puma that make this car great.

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