Ford Puma ST review: is a hybrid 3-cylinder a worthy Ford Performance model?

David Linklater
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It's a mild hybrid, but there's little else that's mild about the Puma ST.


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Base price
Body type
sport utility vehicle
Fuel Consumption (l/100km)
Maximum power kW
Maximum torque Nm
0-100 km/h
  • Endlessly entertaining powertrain
  • Still very thrifty
  • We love the MegaBox
  • Ride too firm for town
  • Puma cabin is pretty prosaic
  • No 147kW/manual option for NZ

Looking at it on paper, you could easily argue the Ford Puma ST is not a real Ford Performance machine. Although technically, it really is a real Ford Performance machine; from the division that brings you the Mustang GT and Ranger Raptor.

Ford Puma ST.
It's an ST, not an 'ST-Line', and don't you forget it.

The Puma compact-SUV is based on the dear-departed Fiesta hatchback. So the Puma ST is based on the even more dearly departed Fiesta ST. You might remember that one from the time before it was discontinued last year: it had a hilarious 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo with 147kW, manual only. One of the warm-hatch greats.

You can have the same powertrain in the Puma ST in the UK and Europe, but we only get the automatic version in New Zealand. It has a smaller-capacity 1.0-litre triple with mild hybrid technology and less power: 125kW/248Nm. So you can see our initial scepticism.

Know what? Forget that. This ST (not to be confused with the much more prosaic Puma ST-Line) is still brilliant. While we’d love a crack at that Puma ST manual, this one is still a hoot from start to finish.

Ford Puma ST.
Lowered suspension does have an impact on the low-speed ride. A negative one.

The 1.0-litre (pumped up another 33kW from the same base engine in the ST-Line) has a brilliantly aggressive soundtrack, especially in Sport mode when those little exhaust flaps open. And while it’s billed as an “automatic”, the gearbox is actually is an automated dual-clutch that shifts fast and gets quite feral at full throttle.

No, it’s not especially fast: 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds. But when it’s this much fun, who cares?

You even get a few cute racecar cues: like shift lights on the dash that track green, then orange, then flash red as the car grabs the next ratio. Or as you grab the next ratio, because there are shift paddles on the steering wheel.

Ford Puma ST.
Puma ST is from the same Ford Performance family as Mustang and Ranger Raptor.

No, it’s not especially fast: 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds (only 0.7sec slower than the manual, though). But when it’s this much fun, who cares? It’s all harmless fun, actually, even though it feels performance-car dramatic.

So yes, this is a proper Ford Performance model and feels it. At $6500 more than the mainstream Puma ST-Line it’s even temptingly good value.

It’s also economical, thanks to (a) help from the mild hybrid system and (b) the fact that the engine is minuscule. We easily achieved sub-5.0l/100km driving on the motorway, and even when we went silly on the best backroads we knew, the little ST couldn’t break 8l/100km. On a smiles-per-litre basis, that’s unbeatable.

Ford Puma ST.
Styling is quite subtle, although ride height and those chunky 19in wheels give the game away.

The ST rides on sports suspension that’s way too firm in city driving (honestly, it could be a lot softer and still be a great driver’s car), although it smoothes out the faster you go on the open road. Those fat Michelin tyres on special 19-inch alloys are deliciously grippy, to the point where they rob the steering of feel when you’re charging along. But hey, you can’t have everything.

This is probably not one just for the shopping or school run – for that stick to the ST-Line, which is still one of the most fun-to-drive city SUVs around.

So yes, this is a proper Ford Performance model and feels it. At $6500 more than the very mainstream Puma ST-Line it’s even temptingly good value – especially when you factor in extra goodies like the B&O sound system and seat heating. But don’t rush in and buy it just because of that; try the ST first, because you have to be sure you want to drive an urban SUV with an obnoxious exhaust, semi-slammed chassis and Ford Performance sports seats (trimmed in “Neosuede”) that are very, shall we say, hip-hugging.

Ford Puma ST.
Puma interior is downbeat, but you do get some nice ST enhancements.

We love it, not least because you do still get many of the Puma’s existing virtues. The interior styling is nothing swish, although that’s being addressed in a facelift late this year – at which time the ST manual is being dropped globally, by the way. So this two-pedal model is the future.

But it’s a practical little SUV relative to its 4.2m length and even has a few party tricks. The cargo floor is double-height and when you lift it away completely you’ll find the 80-litre MegaBox underneath: a plastic-lined storage unit that you can use for anything from wet sports gear to drinks-with-ice (so it really is a party trick). There’s a drainage plug at the bottom for when the fun is over.

Ford Puma ST.
Underfloor MegaBox with drainage is the Puma's party piece.

This is probably not one just for the shopping or school run – for that stick to the ST-Line, which is still one of the most fun-to-drive city SUVs around. But for a compact-crossover with a genuine dose of Ford Performance hilarity, this thing is genius. It’ll also serve as a fascinating contrast to the pure-electric Puma coming in 2025.

ENGINE: 1.0-litre turbo-petrol 3-cylinder with 48-volt mild hybrid system POWER: 125kW/248Nm GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual-clutch, FWD 0-100KM/H: 7.4sec CONSUMPTION: 6.2l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $46,490.

How much is the Ford Puma ST?

At $46,490, the Puma ST is $6500 more than the mainstream Puma ST-Line.

What are the key statistics for the Ford Puma ST powertrain?

Same 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and 48-volt mild hybrid system as the ST-Line, but the power has been wound up by 33kW to 125kW. Ford calls the two-pedal transmission an automatic, but it's actually a dual-clutch automated manual - like Volkswagen Group's DSGs.

Is the Ford Puma ST efficient?

We couldn't believe how thrifty the ST was given its raucous behaviour. The official figure is 6.2l/100km, but we did much better than that in motorway running, dropping down into the 5s.

Is the Ford Puma ST good to drive?

We love it. The powertrain is full of fizz and the gearbox shifts quickly when you're in Sport mode. But it's not for everybody: it's noisy and the ride is really firm in town.

Is the Ford Puma ST practical?

As practical as any other Puma, as long as you remember this is a baby SUV. It's spacious enough in the back, although the high waistline (which looks great) does make the back seat feels a little confined. We love the 80l MegaBox under the boot floor: a plastic-lined storage unit with a drainhole in the bottom that makes the Puma a welcome addition to any picnic.

What do we like about the Ford Puma ST?

It brings genuine Ford Performance (Mustang, Ranger Raptor) fun to the compact-SUV segment. It feels really special as a driver's car but you still get outstanding fuel economy and many of the packaging virtues of the standard Puma.

What don’t we like about the Ford Puma ST?

That ride is really stiff on bumpy city streets; really stiff. The Puma cabin is a bit dowdy, although Ford has an updated model coming later this year that will rectify some of that, with nicer materials and a bigger infotainment screen.

What kind of person would the Ford Puma ST suit?

It might be based on a city SUV, but the ST buyer will be somebody who wants something a bit special to drive - and is happy to have the cheeky soundtrack, aggressive suspension and figure-hugging seats that go with it.

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