Introduced as an intriguing first step in reestablishing Ford‘s passenger car footprint in South Africa, the Puma compact crossover offers boutique styling and plenty of substance. Is this enough to carry its steep price tag?
Ford Puma 1,0 EcoBoost Titanium:
- Price: R569 900
- Engine: 1,0-litre, three-cylinder, turbopetrol
- Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch
- Power: 92 kW @ 6 000 r/min
- Torque: 170 N.m @ 1 400 – 4 500 r/min
- Driven wheels: Front
- Fuel consumption: 5,3 L/100km
- CO2 emissions: 121 g/km
- Rivals: Volkswagen T-Roc; Hyundai Kona
What are we driving?
The eagerly awaited new Ford Puma arrives in South Africa to revive its maker’s local passenger car offering. Sharing its platform with the since-discontinued modern Fiesta hatch, the introduction of Puma allows Ford Motor Company South Africa to have a presence within the compact crossover segment, a section of the market that in 2022 accounted for 18% of sales.
Rather than a replacement for the also-discontinued EcoSport, the modern Puma introduces more boutique styling and updated comfort and convenience compared with the nevertheless popular EcoSport.
Available in two specification levels, Titanium and ST Vignale, the Puma is powered exclusively by Ford’s venerable 1,0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost motor that when paired in this application with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission delivers 92 kW and 170 N.m of torque to the car’s front wheels. Interestingly, Puma’s B2 platform can support hybrid powertrains, a fact that Ford South Africa is likely to exploit in the future.
Why is the Ford Puma significant?
In the absence of EcoSport, Fiesta and Fiesta Figo, Ford will be looking to Puma to reinvigorate a local passenger car line-up that is already confirmed to include a new Territory package in the coming year.
As mentioned, the Puma range will likely be expanded in time to introduce both a mild- and plug-in hybrid derivative, technology that Ford will be banking on (including in the Ranger) as it shifts towards a zero-emissions future.
What’s new on the Ford Puma?
I was intrigued to learn that Ford South Africa sees Puma as a rival for the likes of the VW T-Roc and Hyundai Kona, as opposed to the more mainstream T-Cross and Renault Captur. Indeed, with exterior dimensions that fit in between the two Volkswagen compact SUV offerings – Puma is 4 207 mm long, 1 805 mm wide and 1 537 mm tall – both by its pricing and packaging, Ford appears to be targeting an altogether more niche tier of the compact SUV segment than we initially suspected.
A distinct-looking vehicle that in both specification levels includes colour-coding and alloy wheels (17-inch and 18-inch, respectively), Puma offers comfortable seating up front and a large, configurable luggage area. Much like the T-Roc, though, the Ford forsakes rear passenger legroom for the cause.
Titanium specification includes high-quality cloth upholstery with a leather-covered steering wheel, climate control, auto headlamps and wipers, parking sensors with a reverse camera, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display with smartphone mirroring technology and wireless charging.
ST Vignale trim adds leather upholstery, a power tailgate, digital instrumentation, an upgraded audio system, a roof spoiler and the aforementioned larger-size wheels. An optional (R17 300) Styling Package on this model adds a sunroof and height adjustment on the passenger seat.
Called the MegaBox, the Puma’s luggage compartment is able to be configured to accommodate large parcels, including golf bags, in an upright position. To do this, the owner needs to remove the luggage floor and space-saver spare wheel.
What does the new Ford Puma cost?
In Titanium specification, Puma is available from R569 900. The ST Vignale, in turn, is priced from R613 900. Offered on both packages an optional Driver Assistance Pack (R21 100) adds active safety features like blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control and front parking sensors.
In case you missed it: What are the Differences Between the Entry-Level and Top-Spec Ford Puma?
As with the rest of its modern portfolio, Ford South Africa has unbundled its service plans from the asking price. A 6-year/90 000 km service plan on Puma is priced at R17 692, 75.
What are the new Ford Puma’s rivals?
Accepting that on price and packaging, Puma is up against the likes of the VW T-Roc and Hyundai Kona, it would be remiss not to mention rivals like the 145 kW/290 N.m Omoda C5 GT at R589 000, the entry-level Nissan Qashqai (R568 200) and the Opel Mokka in this mix. Each offers similarly distinct boutique exterior styling with accepted ceding of interior space (either in the form of rear passenger comfort or boot space).
What is the Ford Puma like to drive?
Beginning in the Titanium, I was immediately impressed with both the default ride quality and just how well-insulated the Puma’s cabin is. I was happy to be able to find a comfortable driving position and, as ever, the presence of a leather-bound steering wheel added a welcome premium first touch point to this package.
Ford’s proven 1,0 EcoBoost powertrain is a strong performer and on my varied conditions stint with Puma, I averaged 6,2 L/100 km.
The car’s switchgear is easy to operate and despite the relatively small (by modern standards) dimensions of the infotainment display, there’s welcome familiarity with Ford’s Sync3 software.
I would have liked to have dedicated rest for my left foot in the otherwise tight driver’s footwell.
Switching to the ST Vignale, I welcomed the inclusion of steering wheel-mounted transmission paddles that allow you to pre-empt a downshift. The notably firmer ride quality in this flagship derivative is a result of lower profile tyres, but also what Ford describes as a sports suspension setup for this model.
While rearward visibility is somewhat compromised by the slope of the car’s profile towards its tailgate, overall the Puma is easy to place on the road and nippy enough to continue Ford’s established reputation for producing passenger cars with more than a modicum of driver engagement – including in the modern Fiesta.
I remain somewhat surprised that Ford isn’t targeting an altogether broader compact crossover audience with Puma (a listed rival like the T-Roc, for example, remains niche when compared with the T-Cross) but, as a first step in re-establishing its local passenger car footprint, Puma should appease fans of this blue oval brand.
It’s interesting to note, too, that despite an updated Puma scheduled for Europe in the coming months, based on emissions regulations, it will be some time before this package potentially arrives in South Africa. Instead, and as mentioned, Ford will likely look to introduce alternative powertrain options within this Puma setup.