Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Petrol-only
  • Mild hybrid tech boosts efficiency
  • Automatic gearbox available

Petrol engines

If you’re buying a Puma you’ll have to choose a 1.0-litre petrol. There are two versions to pick from, one with 125hp and one with 155hp.

Technically there is a third option, a 1.5-litre petrol, called the Puma ST. This is a standalone model, but in a nutshell it’s an incredibly satisfying small SUV to drive. Just like the smaller Fiesta ST, it’s powerful, pliable, adjustable and great fun.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available as an option on the base engine, but all Pumas are front-wheel drive.

All models come with mild-hybrid technology. Unlike a full hybrid, which is capable of driving on electric power alone, mild-hybrids essentially consist of a small battery pack and electric motor that can boost the petrol engine – rather than taking over from it.

The 48-volt system captures energy that would otherwise be lost when the Puma is slowing down or braking. It deploys that in a few ways – the most noticeable being the engine stop-start technology, which cuts out while you’re still moving instead of waiting for the car to be at a total standstill.

Both engines feel very capable. Even the 125hp model is fast enough in everyday driving, with plenty of poke in town and more than enough in reserve when you’re pulling onto a sliproad and need to get up to speed quickly.

The 155hp unit has an assertive amount of extra power which while not exactly necessary is very nice to have – it makes progress even more relaxing. Both engines have plenty of shove in the low range of the rev band as well, so you don’t need to keep stirring the gearshift to make good headway.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Based on the Fiesta
  • More weight higher up, though
  • The best small SUV to drive

The Ford Fiesta is one of the best small cars to drive, so the larger Puma certainly has a strong basis to build upon. However, while this car is only 60kg heavier than the hatchback, it has to deal with a higher centre of gravity, which can have an adverse effect on the way a car handles.

Changes have been made to the Fiesta’s underpinnings to compensate of course – stiffer rear suspension plus larger shock absorbers, and a wider footprint thanks to an elongated track width (effectively the length of the axle) which adds stability while cornering.

It’s worked, thankfully, and the Puma is the best small SUV if you enjoy driving, thanks to its ability to corner without the body rolling too much.

The six-speed manual has a positive and mechanical feel and an easily modulated clutch. Most drivers will find the Puma incredibly easy to take command of and drive smoothly, something that can be said about many Fords.

A seven-speed automatic gearbox is available if you need it. Though it’s perhaps not quite as responsive as the Volkswagen Group’s DSG or quite as smooth as the Peugeot 2008’s EAT8, it still performs well.

All models come with drive modes, which allow you to tailor the Puma’s throttle response, ESC, traction control and gearshift timing (for automatic models) to match the car’s performance to your driving style. The modes are Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail. In practice, you might use Slippery in very poor conditions, or Sport if you want a bit of fun – but Normal is the best place to leave it for the most part.