BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN Ford Ireland brought in the new Puma model in February, they were resurrecting memories of the nameplate with some of us.
The original car carrying the name was launched in 1997, and was a sweet small sporty car built on the underpinnings of the hatchback Fiesta. Not engined or meant for out-and-out sports driving, it was just an affordable stylish car for those who wanted something a little different.
That Puma only lasted four years, discontinued when the hatchback was totally revised. But those who bought it loved it. The fact that you still see the occasional one spinning around is a testament to just how good a car it was.
Resurrecting the model name as a small crossover won’t have created much confusion, because very few of today’s buyers will remember the original. I think, though, that the new one will attract a quite similar level of affection, and probably a much broader buyer cohort.
Because of the coronavirus situation, I was only able to get a brief encounter with the new cat on the block. But it made an unexpectedly good impression in a short time.
Comparatively, it is at least as sexy looking as was that first Puma. The lines are feline and you get an impression of a wild — OK, garden household, even — cat ready to spring. That might sound a little over the top, but in the crowded small crossover field, Puma does offer a decent degree of standout.
Though a crossover, the designers made no attempt to have it look like an SUV. The lines instead are of a sporty coupé, but one with the practicalities of a good-sized compact hatchback. There’s enough sculpting of the sheetmetal to make it interesting, without being OTT and quickly dated.
Inside, the space is more than you might expect. The cabin height is perfect for lanky types like me, both front and back. The style of the dashboard emphasises width, and the main instruments cluster is a new generation design for Ford that brings things further along in dynamic looks.
As a luggage hauler, the Puma will win plaudits. A deep box the width of the boot is hidden under the standard floor, and this will allow a brace of full golf bags to be carried vertically. Means nothing to me, but very clever for all those families where golf is a thing that sometimes means they buy bigger cars.
The powertrain is a mild hybrid. It doesn’t work like a full hybrid, but recovers energy while on over-run or braking and then uses that to boost acceleration and run ancillary electrics. In simple terms, this is effected by a unit that acts both as a starter/generator and as a power-on electric motor.
There are three options available, different only in equipment. Titanium, ST-Line, and ST-Line X, all are powered by the same 125hp 1.0 turbo petrol, all with the same 127g/km CO2 rating under WLTP rules.
All have the same safety technologies which include auto high beam and autonomous emergency braking. They all feature air-conditioning, wireless phone charging, and cruise control. The main changes in upper grades are cosmetic outside and in, and larger alloys in the ST-Line X, which also comes with a B&O premium sound system and leather detailing.
As long a drive as I’d like will of necessity have to wait. But my brief encounter did show promise of a very competent car that makes you feel it can go well and handle most driving situations with aplomb.It doesn’t replace the old Puma. It’s designed to be better, to provide family car practicality in a seriously sporty style.
When the country is back on the road, I reckon this is going to become a firm Ford favourite.
What I like: Style and a promise of substance Price: From €24,465