The Ford Puma is here on South African shores to fill the shoes of left behind by the Fiesta, but how does it all stack up? Here are our first impressions.
This writer remembers once upon a time when compact hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta ruled the roost on our roads, but now things have changed in this landscape. Needless to say, compact crossovers have seen a rise in demand in the car-buying market. The idea of a bigger vehicle with space, practicality and versatility with the best features from each vehicle style seems like a good idea. It’s why you see vehicles like the Volkswagen Taigo, Hyundai Kona, and now Ford Puma competing in this hotly contested vehicle segment.
The Puma nameplate was originally a peppy compact coupe from the late 90s sold in Europe. The nameplate evolved in 2019 into what you’re seeing now: a compact crossover. As of writing this now, the Puma has reached our shores and is pitched as a replacement for the coveted Ford Fiesta, which is sadly stopping global production. Based on the seventh generation Ford Fiesta, the Puma aims to keep the playful nature of the Fiesta but evolve it too. On this launch, we sampled the Titanium and ST Line Vignale derivatives in the Western Cape, where you’ll find Ané Albertse tackling a Winelands road or two.
When looking at the dimensions of the Puma, it’s quite close to the seventh-generation Fiesta but grows slightly in a few areas. The Puma design references a Puma prepping to pounce. A low sweeping roofline, shoulders and rear flared, and an overall muscular appearance is how the Puma presents itself. It doesn’t come off as aggressive but does have a presence. What softens these features are the cat’s eye-shaped projector headlamps and welcoming front fascia. The sleek side profile connects to the rear end well with the oblong LED tail lights. The ST Line Vignale dials up the sports aesthetic with body-coloured plastic cladding, sportier front and rear bumpers, 18-inch wheels and a larger boot spoiler. It’s stylish European Ford, and we quite like the ST Vignale looks. This vehicle fits right in on the Cape Town roads.
Interior and Technology
The interior of the Puma is similar to the seventh-generation Fiesta. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s a lovely interior that is easy to interact with and has a pleasing design. Even in Titanium trim, the Puma doesn’t feel sparse. The materials have a good quality feel, and the multiple buttons and switchgear are alright to the touch. The Ebony cloth trim in the Titanium is breathable and is gentle to the touch, whilst the ST Line receives partial leather seats with a soft feel to them. Both derivatives come with leather-wrapped steering wheels, but the ST Line utilises a flat bottom wheel. The dimensions of the interior are similar to the Fiesta, but rear occupants may lack some headroom and legroom, depending on your height. In terms of boot space, though, the Puma will surprise you with its deep 456 litres of capacity thanks to the aptly named Ford MegaBox System, which should make loading larger suitcases in an upright orientation a breeze.
The Puma range comes with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen. The system is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-enabled. During our drive, it performed just fine and didn’t have any issues. The ST Line uses the same infotainment system but is paired with a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, whereas the Titanium uses a 6-speaker system. Interestingly, the ST Line comes equipped with front massage seats, something we didn’t expect to see.
Drive and Handling
Powering both Puma derivatives is the tried and trusted award-winning EcoBoost 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, churning out 92kW and 170 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 7-speed DCT gearbox. The EcoBoost motor is spry as ever, and it’s always fun to play within the torque curve of this engine. The DCT gearbox is fine but could benefit from a manual mode and potentially steering wheel-mounted paddles. Overseas there is a 6-speed manual available but is not destined for our market. Since this vehicle’s underpinnings are based on the seventh-generation Fiesta, you’d expect it to be fun to throw around. Although marginally more significant, the Puma felt poised on the winding Capetonian roads, but just as luck would have it, we were caught in some unfortunate congestion, and we wanted to feel more of what the Puma could do.
Nevertheless, this isn’t a case of a Fiesta on stilts. The Puma soaks up undulations with an assuring firmness, even with the ST Line’s sports-tuned suspension. The steering feel is light, as you’d expect in a compact crossover, but isn’t devoid of weight when you want to carve up a road.
You’ll find the following standard safety items in the Puma range:
- 6 Airbags (Front, side and curtain)
- Electronic Brake Assist
- Hill Start Assist
- Cruise control with speed limiter
- Lane-Keeping System and Aid
- Lane Departure Warning
- Rear Parking Sensors
- Collision Mitigation System
- ISOFIX Childseat Anchors
Optionally, you can add the Driver Assistance Pack, which consists of a Blind Spot Information System, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Impairment Monitor, Front Parking Sensors, Active Park Assist and Rear View Camera.
|Ford Puma 1.0T Titanium
|from R569 900
|Ford Puma 1.0T ST Line Titanium
|from R613 900
The purchase price of the Ford Puma includes a 4 year /120 000km Warranty, 4 year /Unlimited km Roadside Assistance, 5 year /Unlimited km Corrosion Warranty. Optionally, you can opt for the following:
- 6 year /90 000km Service Plan (R17 692.75 excl VAT), which is available up to 8 years /165 000km.
- 8 year /165 000km Maintenance Plan
- 7 year /200 000km Warranty
- Additional 1-2 year Roadside Assistance
*Pricing stated here was correct at the time of publishing and is subject to change without any prior notice.
The Ford Puma slots itself nicely into the compact crossover market with the likes of the Volkswagen Taigo, Hyundai Kona and more in this hotly contested segment. The sense of familiarity with its underpinnings makes it welcoming. It may be slightly late to the party since its rivals have cemented themselves firmly in the South African market for longer. We would like to spend more time with it and see how it fairs on a daily basis.
Keyword: Ford Puma (2023) - First Drive Review - A Curious Cat