In a nutshell:
- New Ford Puma ST delivers 200PS, 6.7-second 0-62mph acceleration.
- Limited-slip diff (LSD) option is unique-in-segment and theres drive modes from Eco to Track for ultimate versatility.
- New chassis means 40 per cent stiffer twist-beam than Fiesta ST.
- Mean Green paintwork, 19-inch alloys and Recaro seats.
- Prices start at £28,495; Performance Pack with limited-slip differential (LSD) costs £950 extra.
How do you improve on the undisputed What Car? Car of the Year - the acclaimed new Ford Puma?
Give it the Ford ST treatment, thats how, adding a burst of pace and seriously head-turning looks to a vehicle thats already been praised for its winning mix of practicality, affordability, handling and ride quality.
The compact crossover SUV Puma - a complete overhauling of the old 90s car - first went on sale in the UK at the back end of last year, and was the fourth best-selling car in the UK this past August.
Now the Puma package has got a whole lot more eye-catching - while also under-cutting the £40,000 VW T-Roc R when it comes to price.
The Puma ST is powered by a 200PS(197bhp) 1.5 litre EcoBoost engine delivering 0 62mph acceleration in 6.7 seconds. Unlike the standard Puma, theres no mild-hybrid tech here.
An optimised chassis features bespoke twist-beam, anti-roll bar and damper configurations while steering responses are 25 per cent faster, and brakes 17 per cent larger, than the base Puma. And for a shade under a grand extra, you can also opt for the limited-slip diff (LSD) - with the Puma ST proud to be the only small performance SUV in Europe to be offered with one.
An LSD works to limit the difference in the wheels' rotational speeds, which ultimately aids front-end traction and gives the ST greater cornering agility, particularly when youre powering out of exits.
The LSD option also works alongside Torque Vectoring Control, which improves road-holding and reduces understeer by applying brake force to the inside front wheel when cornering. What youre left with is oodles of grip, even on wet surfaces. But dont be mistaken for thinking the ST is all about performance, because Ford hasnt skimped on the practicality either.
You get the brilliantly-named MegaBox - an 80 litre chunk of storage beneath the boot floor that can swallow golf bags - and the engine can also be sensible if you want it to be.
Ford has used cylinder deactivation technology which can automatically stop fuel delivery and valve operation for one of the engines three cylinders in conditions where full capacity is not needed - like when youre cruising at a steady pace. That saves you fuel, and gives you economy of 40.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 155g/km WLTP - not bad at all for an ST model.
When it comes to the gearbox, you get the same proven, smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission as the Fiesta ST. That equates to an acceleration time of 0-62mph in 6.7-seconds - just a shade slower than the Audi e-Tron Sportback.
Then theres the way the Puma ST looks.
Above and beyond the standard Puma, you get a slop sloping roofline silhouette, bulging wheel arches, 19 inch alloys, and a rear roof spoiler.
Inside the cabin there are heated Recaro sports seats, a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and ST gear knob, wireless charging pad, front and rear parking sensors and Fords SYNC 3 infotainment system, which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and boasts an 8-inch touchscreen.
Even standard models get a top-spec Bang & Olufsen sound system.
And yet theres still a 456 litre loadspace in the back - making the Puma ST a much roomier alternative to the Fiesta ST.
Stefan Muenzinger, Ford Performance manager, comments: Real driving enthusiasts arent going to settle for less excitement just because life demands a more sensible car, so our number one priority was that the Puma ST had to be as exhilarating and capable as every ST model, without sacrificing any of Pumas practicality. We believe that we have the best-handling small SUV in its segment. It really does feel connected and has the true ST feel. It is a joy to drive.
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