In the animal kingdom the puma is one of the world’s most intimidating “big cats”, a fast, aggressive predator that that sits near the top of the food chain in its natural habitat.
In the automotive world the Puma is a compact SUV designed and built by Ford of Europe, which has recently been released into the wilds of Australia’s urban jungles to stalk prey including the Nissan Juke and Toyota C-HR.
Unlike other feline-inspired marques, such as Jaguar, the Puma doesn’t boast a growling V8 in its line-up, instead making do with a thrifty 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo.
That’s appropriate considering actual Pumas are renowned for being incapable of roaring, instead purring like an over-sized domestic cat.
Having first gone on sale in Europe earlier this year, the Puma is being billed as a fresh nameplate and product for Australian customers, bringing “a new design and style ethos for an urban Ford SUV”.
It launches into the rapidly growing compact SUV segment where the Blue Oval believes the new model’s combination of cutting-edge style, technology and a recently anointed five-star ANCAP safety rating will make it a hit with the youthful urban segment its targets.
Much was made of the Puma’s styling at the car’s virtual launch, with exterior design manager Thomas Morel citing its stance, proportions and detailing as key attributes intended to lure customers in to experience the rest of the package.
Great styling comes for great proportions and in this case that’s provided by a stretched and teased Fiesta hatch platform.
Compared with the compact Fiesta the Puma is longer, wider and taller, with both a longer wheelbase and a wider track to help give it its bold, muscular shape and great stance.
Despite being bigger than the Fiesta on which it’s based in practically every dimension, the Puma is only 60kg heavier than the little hatch, thanks to a range of weight-saving efforts.
Monsieur Morel and his team have indeed delivered an especially handsome-looking urban SUV, which from certain angles has a hint of Porsche Macan about it; notably in the bulging front guards and vertical orientation of the headlights.
Fortunately, there’s nothing Porsche-like about the Puma’s price, which starts at $29,990 (MRLP) and rises to $35,540 (MRLP) across a three-model line-up comprising the Puma, Puma ST-Line and Puma ST-Line V. That’s broadly competitive with category rivals the Nissan Juke ($27,990 to $36,440) and Toyota C-HR ($30,290 to $37,190).
All three Pumas are powered by the same 1.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost three-cylinder engine, teamed with a seven-speed dual wet clutch automatic transmission, driving the front-wheels.
The engine features high-pressure direct-fuel-injection, twin-independent variable cam timing and fuel-saving cylinder deactivation to make its perky 92kW/170Nm.
This compares favourably with the outputs of the same capacity three-cylinder in the rival Nissan Juke (84kW/180Nm) and the 1.2-litre in the Toyota C-HR (85kW/185Nm).
It’s a thrifty little minx too, with combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.3L/100km, which is 0.5L/100km better than the Nissan and 1.2L/100km better than the Toyota.
The Ford’s claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 10.2-seconds is also 1.6 seconds quicker than the Juke.
So, while it certainly won’t trouble a Ferrari (or a Volkswagen Golf for that matter), owners can take comfort in knowing they at least have the baby Nissan SUV covered.
You’ll need to be in the Puma’s selectable Sport mode to make the best of the engine’s modest performance, but at other times drivers can choose from one of four other drive modes encompassing Normal, Eco, Slippery and Trail. Flicking between the modes brings up a different graphic display in the instrument cluster, which is sure to be a hit with gamers.
You can fit a few of them in, too, gamers that is, thanks to a reasonably generous five-seat interior that boasts decent rear legroom and headspace. Boot space is 410 litres with the second-row seat in place, or 1170 litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seat lowered.
There a couple of nice design features worth pointing out in the impressively wide and deep cargo area, notably the flexible tailgate mounted cargo blind, which lifts with the tailgate and averts the need to fuss with the thing when trying to access the boot; and an underfloor stowage area beneath the boot floor that’s suitable for wetsuits, footy boots and the like.
Ford calls the latter a “Megabox” and in European markets, where spare tyres are no longer considered essential, it provides an additional 80 litres of storage. In this market the spare eats up about half that space.
The entry-level Puma is no poverty pack and comes decently equipped with features like an 8.0-inch full colour centre display, seven-speaker audio system AM/FM/DAB+ radio, push-button start/stop, wireless phone charging, leather-wrap steering wheel with controls for voice-activated satnav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto commands. The audio system also includes Bluetooth-enabled audio streaming and compatibility with apps including Spotify, and Waze.
All three Pumas also get FordPass Connect, which features an embedded modem that, when connected with a compatible smartphone app, provides access to a range of convenience features including roadside assistance, service scheduling, service history and the digital owners’ manual.
Stepping up to the ST-Line ($32,340) adds more sporting character courtesy of a unique front-end treatment, featuring a matte-black grille plus a bunch of specific ST-Line body add-ons, including a larger integrated rear spoiler. The ST-Line also sits a tad lower thanks to 17-inch alloys, and its suspension has been tautened for sportier handling.
Inside the ST-Line’s smartly designed interior there’s red stitching on the gear selector, centre console, doors and dash, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, paddle shifters, metal-faced pedals and a 12.3-inch full colour digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver.
The top-spec ST-Line V ($35,540) is positioned as a premium sports grade, the “V” standing for Vignale – after the renowned Italian automotive coach builder – which Ford now uses on its upscale luxury models as it once did with Ghia. It’s distinguished by splashes of chrome detailing applied on the window surrounds and elsewhere, privacy glass, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The ST-Line V interior boasts leather-accented seating with subtle grey stitching in lieu of the sporty red of the ST-line, which extends to the gear selector, centre console, door trims and dash finish. Electronic climate control is standard, as is a 10-speaker B&O audio with subwoofer, smart keyless entry and a hands-free powered tailgate. The latter is available is available as a $750 option on the other models.
The Puma boasts a comprehensive standard safety package, as befits its five-star ANCAP rating.
In addition to six airbags, 180-degree full colour split-view reverse camera, rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitor, the compact Ford features an impressive array of advanced driver assistance technology (ADAS). This includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and a driver impairment monitor.
However, to get the full suite of available ADAS you need to tick the box for the optional Park Package, available across the range for $1500, which adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane centring, active-park assist with front, side and rear ultrasonic sensors, front parking sensors and blind-spot detection.
The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.