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A charming package but perhaps too expensive

REVIEW | Ford’s likeable Puma marred by lofty pricing

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
The Puma evinces a glamorous character.
The Puma evinces a glamorous character.
Image: Supplied

Oftentimes, a car can end up being far more than the sum of its parts.

There are many examples to cite in a market like ours, where we are committed motorists and lovers of all things four-wheeled. Just consider something like the humble Volkswagen Citi Golf, for example.

Born out of a need for economical motoring, the box-shaped hatchback cemented an iconic reputation that reached further than the practical original mandate. It has cult-like devotion from fans young and old.

The Citi continues to serve as a canvass for all manner of fantasies, from VR6-swapped cruisers, to low-slung show pieces on pneumatic suspension that would have cost its owner the same price of another Citi Golf to procure.

So, maybe one can understand what Ford was aiming for with its Puma – a B-segment compact crossover just like any other, but with a spirit vying for more glamour than usually associated with the humble blue oval. Seriously, from some angles you could easily mistake the Puma for a Jaguar E-Pace (there’s a cat family link) or Maserati Grecale.

Some mistook it for a Maserati Grecale or Jaguar E-Pace.
Some mistook it for a Maserati Grecale or Jaguar E-Pace.
Image: Supplied

The amount of double-takes, pointed fingers and people outright approaching to ask, “what is it?” was totally unexpected during our time with the newest Ford member. And you have to admit, it is an utterly charming thing to look at. Note the gaping grille, large eyes, slinky proportions and tapering rear.

So it looks the part – no doubt. But what about that elephant in the room? When the Puma was launched late last year, eyebrows were raised by the ambitious pricing.

It starts off at R569,900 for the Titanium model, while the range-topping ST-Line Vignale goes for R613,900. So, let’s talk about some of its B-segment rivals and what they go for. Volkswagen charges upwards of R482,100 for the Taigo. An Opel Mokka starts at R495,900. What about something different from a fast-growing Chinese brand, like Omoda with its C5?

Interior is identical to previous Fiesta.
Interior is identical to previous Fiesta.
Image: Supplied

That starts off at R447,900. There are many alternatives to be had in the category, all with basic pricing undercutting the Ford by a considerable margin. To be fair, there are other high-grade crossovers that match or exceed the ST-Line Vignale on pricing. The range-topping Toyota CH-R Luxury costs R612,000.

The Hyundai Kona 1.6T N-Line comes in at R657,900 – but it has a bigger engine of course. Sensible thoughts around value and pricing were forgotten for a bit on opening the door to the ST-Line Vignale tester, on seeing the cute projection of a crouching Puma on the floor. Getting behind the wheel, finding a comfortable driving position is easy.

The layout and ergonomics are just about identical to that of the last Fiesta that Ford sold in our market. Not a bad thing at all, as the B-segment hatchback was highly praised. Enhancements specific to the ST-Line Vignale include a 10-speaker B&O sound system, 12.3-inch fully configurable digital instrument cluster, a full-length opening panoramic roof, partial leather upholstery and front seats with massaging function.

Under the attractive front-end of the Ford is the familiar 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged-petrol EcoBoost unit. That produces 92kW and 170Nm, paired with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Drive is to the front wheels. On the road, the Puma feels plucky, all while emitting the characterful growl typical of three-cylinder motors, under hard acceleration. Handling is nimble, sitting on 215/50/18 wheels.

A useful 456l of space is offered.
A useful 456l of space is offered.
Image: Supplied

Overall, the Puma proved pleasant in town and on the freeway, but driving over poorer road surfaces amplified various cabin rattles emanating from the rear of the vehicle. The worst fuel economy we saw was 9.6l/100km, while the long-term average over 713km indicated 7.9l/100km.

This is reasonable, if not impressive, particularly since the motor is purported to have cylinder deactivation technology. Buyers can specify a driver assistance package as an option, comprising adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a front camera and a semi-autonomous parking function.

Puma cat projection is a cute touch.
Puma cat projection is a cute touch.
Image: Supplied

Another option is the Ford Mega Box storage solution, which offers a capacity of 80l in a space 763mm wide, 752mm long and 305mm deep, which can house unstable items up to approximately 115 cm tall in an upright position.

Apparently, this is handy if you plan to transport houseplants. Ford quotes a luggage compartment capacity of 456l with the seats up, including the presence of a 16-inch spare wheel under-floor.

Though the Puma is not likely to become a volume seller, it does at least expand Ford fans’ options beyond the local, limited model portfolio of Ranger, Everest and Mustang.


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