First drive: Ford Puma ST

  • The Puma crossover gets the ST treatment
  • Fiesta ST-matching 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds
  • Priced from £28,495 and available to order now

Welcome to the Puma ST, the latest in a long and distinguished line of ST badged vehicles developed by Ford Performance. The latest addition to the Parkers Car of The Year-winning Puma range joins the Fiesta and Focus STs in combining performance, driving thrills and practicality in a desirable package aimed at families.

The Puma ST is based closely on the Fiesta ST, but starts at a disadvantage as it doesn’t share the all-round visual appeal of the smaller hatchback, being a much more love-it-or-hate-it offering. Bug-eyed from the front but smart from the rear, the Puma's mismatched looks betray its ‘Fiesta-on-stilts’ origins.

Making it into an ST involves adding a diffuser at the rear, Pilot Sport-wrapped 19-inch alloys and extra dollops of gloss black paint. Inside, it gets Recaro seats carried over from the Fiesta and one of the best driving positions you'll find in a family SUV.

Ford Puma (2021) interior view

What's under the skin?

The engine, gearbox and suspension set-up have been carried over from the Fiesta ST, but have been tweaked perfectly for the SUV’s additional size and weight.

The 1.5-litre turbo from the Fiesta is unchanged at 200hp, which is 47hp more than the next most powerful Puma, and continues to drive the front wheels. Ford has squeezed more torque from the three-cylinder engine, so in theory, it should be easier to drive with more pulling power at lower revs. This should also explan why the Puma ST matches the lighter Fiesta’s 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds.

What's it like to drive?

Get the Puma ST on twisty roads, and it's just as much fun as a Fiesta. Thanks to changes made by Ford engineers, the Puma ST does a good job of masking its extra weight to the driver in every phase of the corner.

Steering is more responsive than the standard Puma’s and it makes the ST far easier to play with on country roads. Add 50% stiffer rear suspension and the Puma ST is surprisingly resistant to bodyroll in corners. The good news is that response is as natural feeling as ever. A mechanical limited-slip differential and torque-vectoring do their best to maximise traction under hard acceleration.

The Puma ST gets a six-speed manual gearbox, which is a joy to use. It's slightly notchier than in a Fiesta ST, but arguably more reassuring to use.

Ford Puma (2021) profile view

Regardless of the drive mode you’re in, softer springs make cruising speeds more comfortable, while still providing ample feedback on the road surface. It’s arguably a straight improvement over the Fiesta ST’s skateboard like chassis.

What this means for you

The market is packed with sporty SUVs, so it’s easy to be skeptical of the Puma ST.  By carrying over a working formula – and making a few key changes – Ford has largely recreated the magic of one of its most highly acclaimed superminis – in a 100kg heavier crossover.

The whole car feels just as pliable and adjustable as the supermini on which its based; from the seating position which simply feels a little higher than the Fiesta’s – to the powertrain, which actually improves on the superminis. The result is a rare and brilliant all-rounder. The Ford Puma ST is priced from £28,495 and available to order now.

>> The Parkers guide to SUVs
>> Why the Puma is our Car of The Year 2021

Ford Puma (2021) rear view