EQUIPPED with one of my favourite engines, blessed with a touch of genius in the luggage department, given unrivalled driving dynamics in its class and loaded with some very clever hybrid technology, the Ford Puma is probably the best small SUV money can buy.

The sharp handling that comes with its Fiesta-based build combines with a mix of practicality and stylish, fun-to-drive motoring that marks it out as the leader.

You might remember the Puma name from the 1990s, when Ford used it on a small coupe. This new incarnation is a different beast, charged with taking on the likes of the excellent Nissan Juke and Volkswagen T-Roc in the family SUV class.

And it comes as no surprise to see that the Puma has already become an established top-ten seller in the UK alongside the Fiesta and Focus.

You get the feeling that Ford has hit the sweet spot with the Puma almost immediately on settling in behind the wheel and pulling off.

The 1.0-litre 155PS Ecoboost engine, assisted by the 48-volt mild hybrid system, accelerates with urgency and just keeps on giving as you press on towards 70mph.

That hybrid system closes the engine as you come to a stop, yet maintains the power supply to the brakes and steering. As soon as you engage a gear from standstill, the engine bursts back into action and the electric motor comes on board.

Those of you who have driven the Fiesta will know just how well it handles. The same can be said for the Puma, which – despite its raised height – is remarkably agile. You will be sitting 6cm higher off the road than in a regular Fiesta, and this means your view and the ease of access and exit is that much better.

There’s a firmness about the ride that will not be to everyone’s taste but there’s nothing in its class to match its performance on bending country lanes. If you are looking for a dynamic drive in the small SUV class, then look no further than the Puma.

In addition, the ST-Line version comes with a selection of driving modes - normal, eco, sport, slippery and trail – so you should have most situations covered.

Behind the wheel the seats are very supportive, and the standard digital dials are a big plus point.

The interior is generally of a good quality, although both the T-Roc and Juke have a more upmarket feel. The wheelbase is nearly 10cm longer, providing an acceptable amount of room for rear seat passengers, while the track and body width are both greater than the Fiesta’s to maintain the dynamics on cornering.

The boot space is a revelation.There’s a generous 401 litres to start with, but lift the boot floor and you will find a well big enough to accommodate a couple more suitcases.

Initially offered with a choice of 1.0-litre petrol engines in 123bhp, 123bhp plus mild hybrid and 153bhp plus mild hybrid forms, there’s now even a 1.5-litre ST version and an automatic option alongside Titanium, St-Line X and ST-Line X Vignale models.

Titanium trim comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, power folding mirrors, navigation via an eight-inch central touchscreen display, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a wireless charging pad.

ST-Line models get a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, automatic headlamps and some attractive touches such as different alloy wheels. It’s the one I would choose.


Ford Puma mHEV 155 ST-Line

Price: from £21,365 (Titanium from £20,415, ST-Line X from £23,435)

Engine: Turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0 litre petrol

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 9.0 seconds; top speed 124mph

Economy: 50.4mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 99g/km


Performance: *****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: *****

Space/Practicality: *****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****