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Ford Australia continues to ride high on new range

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Ford Australia continues to ride high on new range

The baby of the SUV range is as sleek as its name suggests. BRUCE McMAHON reveals the pros and cons of Ford’s Puma.

The Ranger ute, and it’s cousin the Everest wagon, headline Ford Australia’s top five spot in our uber competitive market.  An all-new version of the Ranger due this year again largely designed and developed in Australia _ promises to be better still and doubtless will keep showrooms buzzing.

But while these strong sales numbers rely on commercial vehicles and four-wheel drives there are others in Ford’s current line-up which could do with some closer attention from buyers today.

The Puma is the smallest of Ford’s SUV family and competes in a segment dominated by the likes of Mazda’s CX-3, the Kia Stonic and Toyota’s Yaris Cross; there were 12,873 CX-3s sold last year, compared with 3218 Pumas. Even allowing for supply disruptions, thanks to pandemics, that’s a fair walloping.

And it’s no real indication of the value of this baby Ford. This is a handsome and sporting machine, one loaded with a fair range of comfort, convenience and safety gear.

Sticker prices, before adding on-road costs, start at a reasonable $30,340.  Then there’s ST-Line versions from $32,690. (Starting prices are a tad higher than some rivals but all Pumas arrive with a decent amount of standard features.)

All are good-looking, five-door hatchbacks powered by a one litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine driving the front wheels through a seven-speed automatic. Now while this is a well-sorted, well-equipped cabin, with fit and finish that belie the asking prices, the real delight for drivers here is the Puma’s performance and honourable road manners.

This is not a big car, back seat room is cramped for adults, yet it’s quite a comfortable car for the pair up front. Standard fare includes a wireless charger for mobile phones with a host of Bluetooth connectivity do-dads plus steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for the auto, satellite navigation and rain-sensing wipers. There’s a fair array of safety gear too, from blind-spot monitoring to tyre pressure monitoring; all-in-all this is a premium-style cabin.

Now while the Puma’s 92kW of power and 170Nm of torque may sound a little underdone there’s plenty of character to this powerplant. Best of all, it is well-supported by a top little chassis which aids and abets a sporting run through the twisty bits.

The only quibble here is some drivetrain grumble and hesitation when moving off from standstill, exacerbated to some degree by the engine’s stop-start system (which can be switched off) and perhaps the Ford’s dual clutch. But once the tachometer moves past 2000rpm it’s all go.

Steering is quick and responsive, front wheels aren’t constantly scrabbling for traction and there’s those paddle shifters to make the most of a pretty smooth transmission. It’s a driving package to be enjoyed, whether running down to the shops or off on a weekend drive in the countryside.

Ford reckon average fuel consumption should be 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres; this may well run higher if encouraged by the little Ford’s enthusiasm.

There are some very good small cars in the marketplace these days, the Ford Puma is one that deserves proper consideration if shopping for an urban SUV.

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