Ford Puma: The new entry point to Blue Oval motoring

By Miles Downard

As part of a global shift toward larger vehicle segments, Ford has strategically positioned the new Puma as its ‘entry-level’ vehicle, priced between R570k and R614k, exclusive of the service plan. Gone are the days of the Figo, Fiesta and Ecosport that provided a cheap entry point to the Bleu Oval. Despite the initial pricing considerations, the Puma is a compelling choice, showcasing a 1.0T EcoBoost engine that delivers an impressive 92 kW and 170 Nm. This engine, coupled with a responsive 7-speed DCT transmission, propels the vehicle’s performance beyond the typical expectations for its size.

The Puma is available in two models – Titanium and ST-Line Vignale- as a B-segment crossover SUV with refined features. While the exterior design is captivating with its well-proportioned aesthetics, the headlights and the overall non-aggressive yet appealing look are particularly noteworthy. While the ST badge might raise some eyebrows, the Vignale model’s additional features, including a 10-speaker B&O sound system and safety enhancements, make it an enticing choice.

Internally, the Puma offers many features across both models, encompassing wireless charging, drive modes, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and ambient lighting. The cabin reflects a steadfast commitment to quality, with durable and comfortable finishes. Although rear passenger space may be slightly constrained, the generous boot space accommodates practical needs such as two sets of golf clubs.

On the road, the Puma’s ride is engaging, striking a meticulous balance between firmness and comfort. The vehicle’s handling is impressive, with the 3-cylinder motor capable of implementing fuel-saving measures without compromising performance. Ford’s meticulous planning is evident in the Puma’s overall design, offering appeal not just in the present but also with a forward-looking perspective for the next five years.

While the Puma may not match the volume of its predecessor, the EcoSport, owing to its pricing point, it carries the weight of Ford’s esteemed reputation and is poised to exceed expectations. As more Pumas hit the roads, Ford may find pleasantly surprising sales figures for this meticulously crafted and thoughtfully designed SUV.

To delve deeper into the Puma experience, let’s examine the various facets that contribute to its overall appeal.

Design and aesthetics:

The Puma’s exterior design commands attention with its well-balanced proportions. The distinct headlights, reminiscent of the iconic 911 look, sit elegantly over the front grille, adding a touch of sophistication without veering into ostentation. The body exhibits interesting lines over the haunches, sweeping gracefully to the C pillars. The Puma manages to avoid blandness while avoiding an over-the-top, aggressive front ¾ angle. The back end, though unassuming, possesses a timeless quality that is likely to withstand evolving style trends.

However, a mild critique arises with applying the ST badge, a trend seen across various automotive brands. While the ST-Line designation could arguably be omitted, the Vignale model compensates with additional features that elevate it to a more luxurious status. Ford has thrown an impressive array of features into the mix, making the Vignale an enticing option for those seeking an extra touch of refinement.

Interior comfort and features:

Once seated inside the Puma, it becomes evident that Ford has not compromised on interior quality. The cabin exudes a sense of spaciousness and comfort, with meticulous attention to detail. While the driver and front passenger enjoy a well-appointed space, the rear passengers, presumed to be predominantly children, might find their legroom slightly more confined. However, the overall impression is durability, comfort, and sensible design.

The Puma’s specifications leave a lasting impression, boasting an extensive list of features that cater to modern driving needs. Notable inclusions are wireless charging, drive modes, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, ambient lighting, and the convenience of AAACP. The quality of materials used in the cabin underscores the Puma’s commitment to providing a luxurious and durable interior.

Ride and Performance:

On the road, the Puma delivers a pleasantly engaging ride. The 1.0T EcoBoost engine, previously celebrated for its brilliance and award-winning performance, maintains its reputation. Paired with a smooth and responsive 7-speed DCT box, the engine’s 92 kW and 170 Nm output defy expectations for a vehicle in this segment. Despite its quasi-SUV classification, the Puma’s relatively lightweight, under 1500kg, contributes to its nimble handling and performance prowess.

During a launch event through the twisty roads of Cape Town, the Puma demonstrated its prowess with a ride that struck a commendable balance between comfort and performance. While not labelled as quick, the Puma’s speed is sufficient for its B-segment crossover SUV categorization. The 3-cylinder motor’s ability to deactivate a cylinder to conserve fuel, reactivating within 17 milliseconds when needed, highlights Ford’s commitment to efficiency without compromising performance.

Future Outlook:

Looking ahead, the Puma positions itself as a vehicle that transcends the initial impact. The careful consideration of its design, features, and performance suggests that the Puma is not merely a vehicle for the present but a forward-looking investment. The appeal is in the immediate driving experience and the anticipation of enjoying the ride and features over the next five years and beyond.

Despite not aiming to replicate the high sales volume of its predecessor, the EcoSport, due to its pricing point, the Puma is expected to carry the legacy of Ford’s brand reputation. As more Pumas populate the roads, it won’t be surprising if Ford witnesses a commendable response from consumers who recognize the vehicle’s meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful design.

In conclusion, the Ford Puma is a compelling entry in the competitive automotive landscape. While pricing may pose initial considerations, the Puma makes a strong case for itself through its impressive performance, thoughtful design, and extensive features. As Ford continues navigating the evolving automotive market, Puma stands as a testament to its commitment to providing vehicles beyond mere transportation, offering an experience that resonates with drivers for years to come.

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