REVIEW: Puma brings back the tradition of small fun Fords, but at a price

Published Jun 28, 2024


Ford has a long tradition of producing compact cars that are fun and even a bit spicy.

Think back to the Escort 1600 Sport of the seventies, that wedge-shaped XR3 of the eighties and many of the early millennium Fiesta models from RSi to ST and many in between.

We thought that tradition had all but died in recent years as products like the Focus, Fiesta and Figo got discontinued and Ford seemed hell bent on becoming a bakkie and large SUV company.

But with the local introduction of the Puma late last year, it’s encouraging to see that a bit of that fizz has returned. Sadly it comes at a price.

Priced from R570,400 in Titanium trim to R614,400 in ST-Line Vignale guise, at the time of writing in June 2024, the Puma is prohibitively expensive. In fact, the far larger and more practical new Territory can be had for similar money.

But whereas the latter is a fully blown family car, the Puma is something of a ‘boutique’ crossover that goes up against other funky pavement hoppers like the Opel Mokka (R499,900 to R554,900), Honda HR-V (R520,900 to R622,900) and Volkswagen Taigo (R482,600 to R545,700).

But if you are looking for a modern Ford that’s both compact and fun then the Puma is still a very enticing option right now.

The spirit of the recently discontinued Fiesta lives on in this little crossover vehicle. Its chassis set-up is somewhat similar and power comes from Ford’s familiar 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol that pelts out 92kW and 170Nm.

All of this came to mind when I hit the road for a mini breakaway near the Vredefort Dome in the Parys area recently. With the Puma 1.0T ST-Line Vignale on test for the weekend, I got off the N1 as quickly as possible to enjoy some narrow and occasionally twisty back roads en route to our bush destination.

Although the steering is a little on the light side I thoroughly enjoyed this little crossover with its surefooted handling and communicative steering.

The turbo engine is quite spirited and it’s unlikely that many owners are ever going to want more performance than what’s on offer here. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox feels responsive in most instances, although there are no steering-mounted shifting paddles. Is anyone really going to miss them?

There is a slight firmness to the ride quality in typical European fashion but it’s comfortable nonetheless. In the good old Ford tradition this vehicle feels surefooted on the open road and even a little entertaining. What’s more, Ford has also provided five drive modes, including a sporty one and a setting for slippery roads.

Economy proved more than acceptable, at 6.5 litres per 100km on our open road journey, although that figure will rise somewhat if most of your driving is in town.

Practical, or not?

The cabin is very much on the same page as the Fiesta, with a cockpit area that closely resembles its now discontinued hatch cousin. The range-topper that we had on test boasts a digital instrument cluster and infotainment is via Ford’s Sync system, which is perhaps a little dated but effective nonetheless and thankfully there are still physical controls for the climate system and essential functions like volume.

The cabin is a little grey and sombre, but it is well equipped. Picture: Ford SA.

Practicality is a mixed bag as rear legroom and headroom is a little on the tight side, especially for larger individuals. But the 456 litre split level boot is quite generous and there’s an optional ‘Mega Box’ below the boot that offers additional stashing space.

The ST-Line Vignale flagship model that we had on test is well stocked, with standard features including quilted leather seats, with massage function upfront, and a 10-speaker premium B&O sound system.

But you do have to pay extra for items like a panoramic sunroof, which comes with the ST-Line Styling Pack, and buyers will need to opt for the Driver Assistance Pack for safety items like Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.


The Ford Puma brings back the tradition of entertaining compact Fords, but with a more luxurious twist, particularly in the ST-Line Vignale flagship model. It is quite pricey at R614,400, but given the import duties and weak rand, there’s probably not much Ford SA can do about that unfortunately.

If more metal for the money is what you’re after, you might want to check out the new Chinese-built Ford Territory.

The bug-eyed Puma has also been facelifted overseas already - click here to read more - so you might want to hold out for that instead.

IOL Motoring

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