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Ford have taken a name from the past to adorn their latest crossover – Puma. The original was a sport compact coupe built by Ford Europe and it was in production from 1997 to 2002. The Puma was built exclusively at a Ford plant in Cologne and it followed the common design cues with other Ford cars at the time, which placed it in the New Edge family of vehicles. Front-engined, front-wheel-drive was the order of the day and included in the range the Racing Puma which looked the part riding on 17 inch wheels and it made a real track sound.

The modern Puma is a very different set of wheels. Gone are the strong coupe lines of the original replaced by a very smart eye-catching body. SUV-inspired, the newcomer delivers best-in-class luggage capacity and flexibility;  48-volt mild-hybrid power train technology and unlike its ancestor, it is built in Romania.

Stepping onboard the Puma ( my test example was in ST-Line X trim), eyes are drawn to racey a flat-bottomed steering wheel and signature stitching, while alloy pedals etc further add to the package and of course you get all the infotainment you are likely to need, along with music on the move courtesy of B&O, it does not get much better than that. During my week with the new Puma it did attract a lot of attention with its significant styling cues including distinctive wing-top mounted headlamps and athletic, seductive, aerodynamic lines, alongside compact crossover proportions that support raised ride-height for a confidence-enhancing driving experience.

Despite its modest dimensions, clever design means that the innovative rear stowage area provides a deep, versatile storage compartment which can take two golf bags in an upright position. The use of Ford EcoBoost Hybrid technology optimises fuel-efficiency and the capability of delivering powerful, responsive performance up to 155PS. A belt-driven integrated starter/generator enables recovery and storage of energy usually lost during braking and coasting to charge the 48 volt lithium-ion air-cooled battery pack. Throughout the range there are a number of comfort and safety technology packs including Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear View Camera, Heated Seats and Heated Steering Wheel.

Power choices include a 1.0l EcoBoost Hybrid 125PS mHEV and the more powerful 1.01 155PS. My test car featured the latter and I must admit that not only was I surprised, but delighted with the output of such a small engine. In a manner, my thoughts flowed back to an earlier age when I drove the original Racing Puma, the new model delivered part of that feel and while the engine did not gush forth the same sporty roar, it did have a rather distinctive sound, amplified of course when pushed hard. Rest to 100kph (62mph) comes up in around nine seconds; the less powerful version is about one second slower, not a lot.

Recently, the majority of my test cars have featured automatic transmissions, however this time round I had a six speed manual, no disappointment in this area and once again Ford has come up with a good manual transmission. With sporty looks you would expect equally sporty handling and the Ford engineers certainly have come up with the goods, altogether a very satisfying package. A sports suspension set up with specially tuned springs and shock absorbers are the key ingredients. The current line-up of small Fords with the likes of the Fiesta, Focus and now the Puma is one of the best in the market and the Puma gets a lot of stars from me.

Ian Lynas

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