For a while now people have been saying that Ford South Africa has become almost exclusively a Ranger, Everest and Mustang only company with little in the way of alternatives compared to most other manufacturers.
That’s about to change with the recent announcement that the Silverton-based company will be expanding their offering to include the new Territory, new versions of the Tourneo and Transit, the new Mustang and Mustang Mach-E and in this case the Ford Puma.
I first saw it in Barcelona earlier this year, in fact there were many of them in Paris too, and immediately liked the styling with its bug-eyed appearance, sloping roof and funky lines breaking the often rather staid offerings in the compact crossover segment.
Ford were at pains to explain that the Puma is not a replacement for the EcoSport but that it fills the space left by the much-loved Fiesta which has stopped global production.
It’s available in two specification levels, Titanium and ST-Line Vignale, both powered by Ford’s popular and award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine delivering 92kW and 170Nm matched to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission driving the front wheels.
It also features a cylinder deactivation system that automatically switches off one cylinder when it’s not needed to aid fuel consumption and will engage or disengage in 14 milliseconds.
The Titanium stands on 17 inch alloys and the ST-Line 18-inch alloys with a sportier suspension setting.
The Puma is built in Hungary and you can tell by the top class interior fixtures and fittings and ergonomics that are on point.
The Titanium is fitted with breathable Ebony cloth trim and the ST-Line has partial soft leather seats. Both steering wheels are leather wrapped with the more premium variation fitted with a flat-bottomed wheel.
The instrument cluster in the titanium has a familiar Ford analogue look and feel to it while the ST-Line is fully digital.
There’s a large 456-litre boot and if you take out the spare wheel and you and your mate want to play a round of golf it will take your bags standing up.
They come with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-enabled as well as a charge pad. Setting the Titanium apart is an impressive 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and unexpectedly but very welcome front massage seats.
Equally impressive are the driving dynamics in both versions with the ST-Line obviously slightly stiffer but still subtle enough not to be excessively jarring.
It’s based on the seventh generation Fiesta underpinnings but despite the larger shell it has virtually no body roll even when pressed hard around the roads past Cape Point and Kommetjie.
We all raised our eyebrows when three pot engines were first introduced but they've become a staple and this one is a willing little mill that doesn’t mind to play in the upper rev range.
Paddles or a manual mode would be a benefit but it's still a fun drive when you put it in sport mode and play in its torque curve.
Steering is light and direct with satisfying feedback when you take on the twisties.
For a compact crossover the Puma handles road undulations, dips and curves with aplomb.
It’s fitted with six airbags (front, side and curtain), ABS, Electronic Brake Assist, ESC, Hill Start Assist, cruise control with speed limiter, Lane-Keeping System and Aid, Lane Departure Warning, rear parking sensors, Collision Mitigation System and ISOFIX child seat anchors.
There’s also an optional Driver Assistance Pack, which consists of a Blind Spot Information System, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Impairment Monitor, Front Parking Sensors, Active Park Assist and Rear View Camera.
And now we come to the elephant in the room.
Social media and murmurings have been lambasting Ford for the pricing that the Puma has been set at.
Here’s the thing though.
Do people really think that Ford isn’t aware of price sensitivity? Have a look at the locally produced Ranger and tell me they aren’t.
We’ve become accustomed to keenly priced products built in India and China. The Puma is an imported car made in Europe.
As with all imported vehicles, the government insists on a 25 percent surcharge before it’s even loaded off the boat, if it ever manages to do so given the state of Transnet and when a Chinese brand comes in at a similar price no-one bats an eyelid because of its perceived value for money.
If you’re in the market, before you write it off as too expensive, drive the competition back to back, compare specification levels, driving dynamics, safety features, build quality, ergonomics, noise, vibration and harshness levels and then make a call.
It comes with a four-year/120 000km warranty, four-year/unlimited distance Roadside Assistance and five-year/unlimited distance corrosion warranty. An optional service plan (of which 93 percent of customers take up) is offered starting at R17 000
Ford Puma Pricing (December 2023)
Puma Titanium: R569 900
Puma ST-Line Vignale: R613 900