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Our favourite compact SUV is now available in the sportiest ST form, with 197hp.
Alloy wheels, LED signature headlights, front foglights and LED rear fog lights, power/foldable door mirrors, body-coloured bumpers and door handles, gloss black roof, mirror caps and rear spoiler, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free system, Ford Sync 3 communications and entertainment system, DAB/AM/FM radio, wireless phone charging pad, Quickclear heated windscreen, front and rear parking sensors.
We already know what a great car the Ford Puma is, given it walked away with our coveted 'Company Car of The Year' award at last year's Business Car Awards.
A keen drive as standard, we always knew that Ford were going to turn up the Puma's performance wick, as we were shown an early prototype ST at the international launch last year. Due to the pandemic, however, the car wasn't launched until late 2020, in between lockdowns.
Spotting the hottest Puma isn't difficult, especially if like our test car, it's finished in mean green, a metallic green that was previously unique to this ST, but will soon also be rolled out to the facelifted Fiesta ST (see page 30-31). Elsewhere, there's a reworked front air dam, with a chunky 'Ford Performance' embossed splitter that's supposed to give 80% more downforce according to Ford. There are also new front grilles to improve engine breathing, a rear roof spoiler, rear diffuser, roof, and mirrors finished in gloss black, plus specific 19in 'ST' alloy wheels.
The inside of this Puma gets a similar makeover with supportive, heated Recaro front seats, a flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel, Ford Performance skid plates and even ST-branded floor mats. Other standard comfort and convenience equipment includes a wireless phone charging pad, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensitive wipers, and Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system.
Despite the sporty makeover, the Puma ST still offers a best-in-class load space of 456 litres, plus there is the same innovative Megabox underneath, giving another 80-litres of hidden stowage.
The Puma ST is powered by the 197hp, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo engine as is its Fiesta ST sister car. Yet, despite this performance, the Puma ST has a 41.5mpg combined WLTP fuel figure and emits 155g/km of emissions, equalling 35% BIK tax. This Puma is more likely to appeal to user-choosers or those who opt out of company car schemes.
As you'd expect, the Puma ST's underpinnings have received a work over, too. Our car was fitted with the Performance Pack (£950 extra), which includes a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) and Launch Control. Elsewhere, there's a quicker steering rack, reworked front suspension and stiffer torsion beam suspension plus front and rear anti-roll bars. All of this works together brilliantly, despite its taller stance. The steering is precise and communicative, the turn-in is impressively sharp, body roll is kept well under control, grip levels are high, and the brakes have plenty of feel.
There are 'Normal', 'Eco', 'Sport' and 'Track' modes to alter the way the Puma ST drives. 'Normal' is the best for everyday use, with 'Sport' and 'Track' a bit much, as the ST can struggle for tarmac.
The only Puma ST compromise is in the way this car rides. Out of town or on country roads, this Ford can feel a bit skitty and is perhaps too hard.
As a package, the Puma ST shouldn't work as well as it does, but it demonstrates the talent of Ford's engineers as this car must be the most fun to drive small crossover on-sale right now.