You might remember the MK1 Ford Puma, a compact and affordable sports coupé that was exciting to drive. Fast forward 15 years and the MK2 Ford Puma has arrived. The new version is not the coupe we remember but a compact crossover – perhaps the most desirable model of the moment, in part thanks to increased ride height providing greater accessibility. Ford have one more surprise with their new big cat, its EcoBoost mild hybrid engine which is working its efficient wonders across the Ford Range. So, what better way to test this wider, taller and not-so-sporty Puma than taking it to the challenging terrain on the Isle of Skye?
Checking the forecast to get ourselves prepared for the 184-mile journey ahead, we found that winter was in full swing and the weather would be not just wet, but torrential, with gale force winds to boot! Normally this would be a slight concern in my usual car – a Fiesta ST-Line – but I was feeling confident with the Puma’s ground clearance and overall road presence. We drove through flood after flood every time the Puma happily handled all that was put in its path.
The next test involved 100mph crosswinds through Rannoch Moor near Glen Coe. Unsurprisingly, we were blown across the road as the weather prevailed. This is where you realise the Puma is a crossover and doesn’t have quite the same road holding presence as an SUV. And although conditions outside the car were incredibly gusty, inside the Puma was warm, comfortable and rather pleasant even if the cabin was a little noisy. We were happily using Apple CarPlay for the whole journey and enjoying the B&O sound system in the car, perfect for blasting the customised road-trip playlist all the way to Skye.
The forecast said the weather would be typically Scottish – hail showers, blue skies and 70mph winds – so we decided it would be a great idea to head to Talisker Bay to get some air. Not long into the walk we retreated with our tails between our legs after nearly being blown off our feet. When we got back to the car, we threw our wellies and waterproofs into the Puma’s Megabox – an innovative new feature from Ford which provides an extra 80 litres of waterproof storage space under the boot. Later, we released the plug and drained the excess water out! If it wasn’t for this extra space, the Puma would have the same boot space as a small hatchback so you definitely wouldn’t think about trying to fit a medium to large dog in there.
After our walk we headed down to Elgol to try and catch the sunset. Not only a beautiful place to visit but a great place to drive to with twisty single-track roads – the perfect test for the Puma and one that it passed with flying colours. The steering is direct, ideal for winding roads and although it feels a little stiff at slower speeds, particularly on rough highland roads, the ride smooths out as you gather speed – it feels more natural and nimble. A spirited journey to and from Elgol made us smile as the Puma never once lost its composure.
On Sunday it was time to head home. But first, a we took a drive up and over the famous Quiraing – a beauty spot that has a very steep incline and everchanging weather. Of course, as we reached the top, a huge hail shower came in. We decided to head back down the hill before it turned to snow, a likely outcome given we were 500m above sea level. The road has several hairpins and the conditions made it pretty slippery. We took it easy but the Puma was more than capable of getting us down safely.
Going downhill in these conditions was meant that we got to see the Puma’s regenerative braking in action. This is an energy recovery system that transforms the kinetic energy of the moving car into stored energy in the battery when you apply the brakes to be used later by the electric motor. For those who like to physically see when this system is working, the Puma displays when the battery is charging on its digital display. It also shows you when the electric motor is assisting the engine with the energy you have already converted. It’s rather satisfying to look at… if you like that sort of thing.
And if you opt for Ford’s ‘Driver Assistance Pack’ you’ll get a range of extra features to improve your drive. At an extra cost of £900, it may seem steep but it’s certainly worth it. At this point we had 170 miles left to get home so we thought we’d explore the driver assistance technologies. The Adaptive Cruise Control makes a huge difference to your drive. Just like standard cruise control, this allows you to set your speed limit, but in addition it automatically adjusts your speed to match the car in front of you meaning that if they slow down or speed up, you don’t need to adjust your speed – the Puma does it all for you. It's perfect for those journeys that can involve a lot of inconsistent speeds. Another goodie is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) that keeps you aware of your surroundings by keeping those blind spots a little less blind. These, along with Speed Sign Recognition, Lane Keep Assist, Active Park Assist, reversing camera and parking sensors make the whole driving experience less demanding, safer and more comfortable.
Is it anything like the previous Puma? No. But it isn’t supposed to be like its predecessor. Ford have done a fantastic job of making this crossover stand on its own. It’s nimble, responsive and the MegaBox with its extra space is perfect for those who enjoy the great outdoors. It is a great small SUV and a welcome addition to the Ford line-up.
We achieved 370 miles to a tank and an average of 51.6mpg on a journey that featured plenty of thirsty single-track roads. It may not be ground-breaking but it does everything you’d expect from it . The Puma also benefits from three different driving modes – Normal, Sport and Eco. So whether you’re looking for fuel-efficiency or perkier performance, you can set up the car to suit your journey.
Having spent well over 15 hours in the car over the weekend, one thing you can’t fault is the interior. The seating position is comfortable and spacious with both front seats benefitting from lumbar support. The overall quality of materials is good and there are nice little touches like a full digital driving display, red trim stitching and an 8-inch central touchscreen.
Perhaps the only controversial issue is its looks. It’s a crossover. And looks just like a crossover. But when you consider the handling, the hybrid engine and the solid technology package, it’s certainly one that should be on your test-drive list.
The Ford Puma range starts from £19,534 for the 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium, and until the end of March 2020, you can save up to £4000 if you have an eligible scrappage car to trade in.