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Ford Puma 2021 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Remember the EcoSport? Nope? Good. Well the Ford Puma little SUV hopes to do what the EcoSport couldn't - be memorable and win you over. And it might do that, except there are just one or two things you should know

All cars should have animal names, rather than something with a jumble of silly letters or just numbers. I’ve always felt this way. Think about it. Would you rather drive something called a Honda HR-V or the Honda Penguin? See? A BMW X1 or a BMW Gibbon? You want a Gibbon now, don’t you?

The Puma is a new, little SUV Ford hopes will win over Aussies. The Puma is a new, little SUV Ford hopes will win over Aussies.

So, you can imagine how happy I was to hear that I’d be driving Ford’s completely new, little SUV which is called the Puma.

So, what is a Puma? That I can tell you in this review, because three Pumas came to stay at my place over the course of a week. But here’s a hint – maybe it should have been called the Ford Kitten.  

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

There are three grades in the Puma line-up: the entry-grade is simply called the Puma and lists $29,990; above this is the ST-Line for $32,340 and at the top of the range is the ST-Line V for $35,540.

  • The entry-grade is simply called the Puma and lists $29,990. The entry-grade is simply called the Puma and lists $29,990.
  • The middle of the range is the ST-Line that lists at $32,340. The middle of the range is the ST-Line that lists at $32,340.
  • The top of the range is the ST-Line V which lists for $35,540. The top of the range is the ST-Line V which lists for $35,540.

Coming standard on the entry-grade Puma are 17-inch alloy wheels, a rooftop spoiler, 8.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, wireless phone charger, an embedded modem, climate control, push-button start, lumbar massage seats, 180-degree split-view reversing camera and digital radio.

The ST-Line grade gets fitted with the Ford equivalent of a superhero outfit which you can read about below in the design section, but it also has a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, paddle shifters, metal pedals and an ST-Line flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching.

The ST-Line V grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-studded grille and chrome window surround, privacy glass, keyless entry, leather upholstery, a B&O 10-speaker stereo and a power tailgate.

The Puma is not the most affordable small SUV – the Nissan Juke undercuts it by about $2000. But you’re getting plenty of features for your money. The base grade Puma has the type of equipment not normally found on entry-point cars such as sat nav, push button start and a wireless charger.

If you’re thinking about a Puma also consider the Juke, the Toyota C-HR and the Hyundai Kona.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

There’s something going on. Have you noticed it? Little SUVs are looking pretty quirky these days. There’s the amphibian-like Nissan Juke (which arguably started the trend years ago), the Hyundai Kona which looks like a spider but without all the legs, and the Toyota C-HR that probably looks better as the robot it’s clearly designed to transform into.

Now the Puma is here, and while it too is quirky, it’s not quite as ‘anti-social quirky’ as the others might be. No, the Puma is cute and stylish with hints of a Porsche SUV from the front, thanks to those large headlights, the pontoon-like wheel guards which bulge up into the bonnet and that smiley grille.

  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a cute and stylish exterior (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).

By the way, the French designer who styled the Puma wants you to know that the running lights are modeled to resemble the ones on the Ford GT supercar – and they do, it’s hard to make out in the images and video, but they look great.

Back to the grille. Have a look at the images and check out the difference between the grilles on entry Puma and the ST-Line cars. They have completely different shapes. Do you know how rare that is within a model range? Very rare. To see how Chrissy Teigen is connected to all of this, watch the video above.

  • The grilles on the entry Puma and the ST-Line models have completely different shapes (pictured: 2021 Puma). The grilles on the entry Puma and the ST-Line models have completely different shapes (pictured: 2021 Puma).
  • The grilles on the entry Puma and the ST-Line models have completely different shapes (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line). The grilles on the entry Puma and the ST-Line models have completely different shapes (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line).
  • The grilles on the entry Puma and the ST-Line models have completely different shapes (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). The grilles on the entry Puma and the ST-Line models have completely different shapes (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).

From the rear the Puma looks tiny, because well, it is. See at 4207mm (4186mm for the entry grade) end-to-end, 1930mm wide and 1548mm (1550mm for entry grade) tall the Puma is about the same size as a Nissan Juke but about 180mm shorter in length than a Toyota C-HR.

Apart from the ST-Line having a different face to the entry Puma it comes with the car equivalent of a superhero outfit made up of tough looking ST-Line body enhancements. There’s the ST-Line matt black grille, ST-line front and rear aprons, the side skirts, integrated rear spoiler and those ST-Line 17-inch wheels. That’s all cosmetic, apart from the wheels, but actually improving performance is the sports suspension which is also standard on the ST-Line.

  • The entry-grade Puma’s cabin doesn’t feel as special as the grades above it (pictured: Puma). The entry-grade Puma’s cabin doesn’t feel as special as the grades above it (pictured: Puma).
  • The entry-grade Puma’s cabin doesn’t feel as special as the grades above it (pictured: Puma). The entry-grade Puma’s cabin doesn’t feel as special as the grades above it (pictured: Puma).
  • The ST-Line has a more athletic looking interior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The ST-Line has a more athletic looking interior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • The ST-Line has a more athletic looking interior (pictured: Puma ST-Line). The ST-Line has a more athletic looking interior (pictured: Puma ST-Line).
  • Inside the ST-Line V feels a step above the rest with its leather upholstery (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Inside the ST-Line V feels a step above the rest with its leather upholstery (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • Inside the ST-Line V feels a step above the rest with its leather upholstery (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Inside the ST-Line V feels a step above the rest with its leather upholstery (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).

The top-of-the-range ST-Line V doesn’t get the tough body kit. Instead, it has more premium looking enhancements such as the grille studded with chrome buttons, chrome surrounds to the fog lights and windows and chrome bumper inlays. Pssst… none of it is real chrome.

It’s inside that the ST-Line feels a step above the rest with its leather upholstery and B&O stereo. The ST-Line below it has a more athletic looking interior with cloth sports seats with red stitching that’s also found on the steering wheel, shifter and door trims.

The entry-grade Puma’s cabin doesn’t feel as special as the grades above it, but the styling is the same and while there are more hard plastics (those back doors!) as with almost all Ford products which are sourced from Europe the fit and finish appears to be of a high standard.

That reminds me, the Puma is made in Romania.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

All Pumas have the same engine, a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder. That’s a little engine but it makes an impressive 92kW of power and 170Nm of torque.

Shifting gears is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. There’s no manual available.

All Pumas have the same engine, a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). All Pumas have the same engine, a 1.0-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).

All Pumas are front-wheel drive.

The engine is great. I’ve met this three-cylinder many times in other Ford cars such as the Fiesta and loved it when teamed up with manual gearbox. The problem is the Puma only comes with an automatic, and it’s a dual-clutch auto, and the pairing results in a less than smooth driving experience which, I’ll go into below.  

This is why the score is low(ish) here.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Puma is a small even by small SUV sizes but space inside and storage is good.

There are five seats, and obviously the front two are the best and offered me even at 191cm (6'3") tall plenty of head-, shoulder-, elbow- and legroom.

The second row was cramped for me. I could sit behind my driving position, but my knees were up against the seat back. Still, not bad for a little SUV.

  • The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma). The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma).
  • The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma). The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma).
  • The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line). The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line).
  • The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line). The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line).
  • The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).
  • The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). The second row was a bit cramped but not bad for a little SUV (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).

As for cabin storage there are giant front door pockets (small ones in the back), a deep centre console bin and a large hidey hole in front of the shifter which also houses the wireless phone charger which is standard on all Pumas.

There’s also a USB port for media in the dash and a fast-charging mini USB port in that centre console bin.

There are no directional air vents in the second row, which is pretty normal for little, affordable SUVs, but not much fun for kids or people having to ride back there in the height of summer.

  • Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).
  • Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V). Boot space is excellent at 410 litres (pictured: Puma ST-Line V).

Boot space is excellent. The cargo capacity is 410 litres and under the boot floor is another level large enough for me to hide. Seriously, check out the video where I disappear beneath the boot floor like some kind of bad Las Vegas magic trick.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Puma has a comfortable ride and good handling, especially in the ST-Line with its sports suspension. That’s the good news.

The Puma has a comfortable ride and good handling (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). The Puma has a comfortable ride and good handling (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).

The not good news is the Puma isn’t the easiest small SUV to drive, and that’s down to three aspects – the steering, the visibility, and the engine and transmission combination.

First the steering, while accurate and light, it doesn’t provide much feeling of connection to the road.

Next, the visibility out of the car could be better. Much work has gone into the exterior design to create a cute, small SUV, but the view from the inside looking out is hampered by a tall dashboard, high window sills and the curvy shape of the bonnet.

The steering, while accurate and light, doesn’t provide much feeling of connection to the road (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line). The steering, while accurate and light, doesn’t provide much feeling of connection to the road (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line).

I found myself peering over the bonnet to see properly and the lack of front parking sensors made parking and piloting it around tight car parks harder than it should be.

Finally, that engine, while impressively grunty for a 1.0-litre three cylinder, has been paired with a dual-clutch automatic and they seem to bring out the worst in each other. Combine the turbo from the engine and not-so smooth shifts from the transmission and the result is a lurching slingshot effect during city driving at slower speeds. On the motorway at higher speeds the lurching is almost non-existent.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Puma was given the maximum five-star safety rating by ANCAP based on how the SUV performed in its European test in 2019.  

Advanced safety technology onboard includes AEB, lane keeping assistance and traffic sign recognition. It’s a little disappointing that some safety features such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning need to be optioned as part of a package.

A reversing camera with a 180-degree split view is standard within the Puma range (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). A reversing camera with a 180-degree split view is standard within the Puma range (pictured: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).

A reversing camera with a 180-degree split view is also standard, so too are rear parking sensors.

For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.

  • Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel (picture: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel (picture: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).
  • Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel (picture: 2021 Puma ST-Line V). Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel (picture: 2021 Puma ST-Line V).

Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel.

How much fuel does it consume?   9/10

Ford says that after a combination of open and urban roads the Puma will have used 5.3L/100km. I drove 177.3km and needed 10.71 litres of petrol to top the tank back up to full. That works out to be 6.0L/100km. 

That’s outstanding fuel economy.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Puma is covered by Ford’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

The Puma is covered by Ford’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty (pictured: 2021 Puma). The Puma is covered by Ford’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty (pictured: 2021 Puma).

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km and capped at $299 for the first four services.

Verdict

The Ford Puma looks cute and high-end; it’s loaded with good features such as wireless charging on all grades and its practical with good space and storage considering its little dimensions and finally the fuel economy is outstanding. That's lots of boxes ticked and it may be enough for you to forgive the Puma for having a driving feel that could take you time to get used to, but if you can there are many other good things to gain from owning one.

For once the sweetspot in the range is the entry-grade car. Yup, the base-grade Puma is loaded with kit including a wireless charger and sat nav at $29,990. You don't need an auto tailgate, nor a B&O stereo. 

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Engine & trans7
Practicality8
Driving7
Safety8
Fuel consumption9
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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