Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Ford Puma makes strong statement in defence of its lofty price

New compact SUV not an EcoSport replacement, but rather a ''Fiesta that has grown up''.

After an uncharacteristic lean spell, the Blue Oval has bolstered its local line-up with the introduction of the compact crossover/SUV the Ford Puma.

The Puma breathes much-needed life into the Blue Oval’s passenger car line-up. This once-booming portfolio had whittled significantly in recent times after the discontinuation of the Fiesta hatchback and its Figo sibling and the SUV pair – the EcoSport and Kuga.

The Puma is the first of a whole host of models Ford plans to roll out over the next year or so, which includes the reintroduction of the Territory nameplate as a medium SUV to slot in between the Puma and Everest.

ALSO READ: Puma pounces as Ford reveals EcoSport replacement’s price

Fiesta that has grown up

Despite the Puma occupying the compact segment left vacant by the EcoSport, it is not a direct replacement for the latter. The Puma is positioned as a more premium and better specced – and pricier – offering than the EcoSport was. The Puma has been a sales success in Europe since its introduction in 2019, even outselling the Fiesta in 2021 to become the best-selling Ford product in the United Kingdom.

“Think of the Puma as a Fiesta that has grown up,” says Neale Hill, president of Ford Motor Company Africa.

“It’s selling points are its styling and driver experience and it fills the gap in our portfolio left by the Fiesta.”

The growing up part is justified by the its dimensions. At 4 207 mm the Puma is 33 mm longer than the Fiesta, it is 22 mm wider at 1 805 mm and 62 mm higher at 1 537 mm. The Puma has a 33 mm higher ground clearance than the Fiesta.

Ford Puma rear
In ST-Line Vignale guise the Ford Puma rides on 18-inch alloys. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

ALSO READ: Ford boss: Justifying business in South Africa becoming harder

Two Ford Puma derivatives

The Puma enters the local market in two trim levels, the R569 900 Titanium and the R613 900 ST-Line Vignale. Both feature the tried and trusted three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine that also did duty in the Fiesta and EcoSport. It sends 92 kW of power and 170 Nm to the front wheels via seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with a choice of five driving modes, Normal, Sport, Trail, Slippery and Eco.

While Hill dismissed the chances of the 147 kW/320 Nm 1.5-litre Pumas ST being added to the range, he did indicate that new energy powertrains could be introduced in due course. A hybrid version is already offered in some markets, with the first all-electric version set to be rolled out next year.

ALSO READ: Green with envy? Ford Puma ST pounces on Europe

Ford describes the Puma’s design as being “stylish, sporty and seductive” with “head-turning SUV proportions”. The Titanium comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights with cornering lights, LED taillights and LED daytime running lights and power folding heated mirrors with puddle lights. The ST-Line Vignale gets a bespoke front grille, 18-inch alloy wheels and adaptive Led headlights.

Ford Puma cabin
The Ford Puma ST-Line Vignale comes standard with digital instrument cluster. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Specced to the brim

Standard features inside include an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with SYNC 3, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED ambient lighting and leathers steering wheel. The ST-Line Vignale benefits from lumbar massage front sports seats, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10-speaker B&O sound system, sports steering with paddle shifters, partial leather trim with grey stitching and acoustic laminated windscreen.

ALSO READ: LISTEN: Is Ford Puma’s price justified as EcoSport replacement?

Having earned a Euro NCAP five-star pedigree, the Puma boasts an impressive array of safety systems. These include six airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control, hill launch assist and lane-keeping system. A driver’s assistance pack including additional safety systems is available at an additional R21 100.

Things The Citizen Motoring really like are the 456-litre boot in which two golf bags can stand upright. Plus the hands-free electronic tailgate and Puma logo projected in the puddle lamps under the side mirrors.

The launch drive around the Cape Peninsula last week afforded us a great opportunity to get acquainted with the Puma. It’s punchy powertrain, nifty handling and plush suspension made for great driving pleasure along a scenic backdrop.

Ford Puma badge
The ST-Line Vignale derivative comes at a premium. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Ford Puma has tough task

We can sing the Ford Puma’s praises in terms of styling, specification levels and driveability until the cows come home. But we can’t shy away from what is bound to be the biggest talking point; the price. On paper it will seem exuberant compared to the EcoSport which flagship fetched more that R100k less than the entry-level Ford Puma Titanium. It is justified by its built quality, specification levels and safety rating which all helped in building its European pedigree.

Ford sees the VW T-Roc 1.4, VW Taigo and Hyundai Kona 1.6 as the Puma’s biggest rivals, but other stylish crossovers like the Renault Captur, Opel Mokka and Peugeot 2008 also pose threats. Not to mention the ever-growing Chinese brigade, who is changing the landscape by swinging buyers in favour of price over driveability.

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