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Will the new Ford Puma succeed where the EcoSport failed?

Ford is hoping its new Ford Puma will win over Aussie hearts.

Ford’s little EcoSport SUV tried and failed to win Australians over, now the car maker thinks it's got the recipe right with the launch of the new Puma.

Speaking at the Australian launch of the Puma, Ford’s product manager Lionel Santoso said the small SUV market had changed dramatically since the EcoSport went on sale seven years ago.

“I think the Ford EcoSport was certainly a pioneer in the segment,” he said.

“If you cast your mind back to 2013, we were the second in the revitalised small SUV segment – there was the Holden Trax back then, it was the first one, and we came in close second. And at the time the landscape of the small SUV looked very different to what it is today. Back then it was a little bit more utilitarian and, progressively, the segment changed to what it is today which is a sleek crossover and a more urban-based SUV.”

It wasn’t just the Holden Trax the EcoSport had to contend with when it arrived in 2013, there was more than a dozen others including the Subaru XV, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi ASX – all admittedly larger cars than the little Ford which measured around four metresin length.

The EcoSport struggled to gain sales momentum from the outset and in 2019, less than 500 had found homes, compared to almost 15,000 Mazda CX-3s sold during that same year.

Made in India the EcoSport had a boxy design and wore its spare wheel on its tailgate. The spare wheel was removed altogether in the 2019 update, but the tailgate retained the side hinge. Powering the range was a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine and a 1.0-litre three-cylinder – the same engine which is in the new Puma.

“We’ve worked very hard to bring this product into the market and we’re super excited about being the only market along with New Zealand outside of Europe to be able to offer it to customers,” Mr Santoso told CarsGuide.

“We think it’s a very different proposition and it is the right product in 2020 for Australia.”

While the Puma shares the same engine as the EcoSport it replaces, it’s a larger SUV at 4.2m in length. Made in Romania the Puma has a list price of $29,990 for the entry grade – a $7000 increase over the starting price of the EcoSport.

The crossover space has also grown so large since the EcoSport first landed, that it is now split between light and small SUVs.

The Puma competes in the former against models such as the Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Venue and Nissan Juke, while the latter segment consists of the Mitsubishi ASX, Kia Seltos and Subaru XV.