Inside, it’s pretty much pure Fiesta, particularly the dashboard, with the protruding 8.0in touchscreen being carried over practically unchanged. The Puma does get a fully digital 12.3in instrument cluster in place of the Fiesta’s analogue dials and small info screen, though. There are also some new trim inserts, including a wood-effect applique on the Titanium that clearly plays homage to the 1985 Ford Granada Ghia.
Quality is good, with soft-touch plastics on top of the dash, plus some nice fabric inserts in the doors. Yet there are also some hard materials lower down in the cabin, taking the wind out of Ford’s premium aspirations for the car. Still, everything works with slick precision, while the slightly raised (next to the Fiesta) driving position places you at the centre of the action. It’s roomy enough, too, although it’s worth bearing in mind that boot capacity shrinks from 456 to 401 litres on the hybrid models (well, that battery has to go somewhere).
The really good news, however, is that the Puma uses its Fiesta roots very effectively indeed; combined with the car’s relative width and wheel-at-each-corner stance, it delivers a properly engaging driving experience. Makers often sell these types of machines as being fun, but in the case of the Puma it really is. Not as much fun as the Fiesta on which it’s based, but certainly it’s a whole lot more enjoyable than its immediate rivals.
Of course, it’s the chassis that shines the brightest, with the Puma slicing through corners with accuracy and poise. In fact, in the slightly softer Titanium, you get that same feeling of fluidity that used to mark out the best mainstream French cars, the damping doing an excellent job of blending control and comfort. Broken asphalt can reveal a touch of brittleness, but the rest of the time the Puma flows down the road, the suspension isolating you both physically and aurally from the topography.
The steering is light in its normal setting, while Sport brings a little extra heft. Regardless of setting, it’s got a lovely rate of response off the straight ahead, allowing you to pick a neat line through any corner, while there’s just enough feel. Front-end bite is strong, although push a little too hard and you can feel the torque vectoring nibbling away at the brakes to keep you on track. And while there’s some lean initially, the dampers quickly have everything under control.
Once you’re turned in, the Puma is much like a Fiesta, and that’s a good thing. There’s the same sense that the car is pivoting around your hips, while shutting down the throttle mid-corner helps to usefully tighten your line. This is a compact crossover that gives you options, and one that’s diverting enough that you wouldn’t feel short-changed after a romp over some testing roads.
The engine feels much like the more powerful version, meaning you get the same characterfully thrummy exhaust note and the extra boost of energy from that small electric motor, with an overboot facility that raises torque from 125lb ft to 148lb ft. It’s not a seamlessly integrated operation, but with the car in Sport mode, the sharper throttle helps mitigate some of the very low-speed off-boost and off-electricity lethargy that can occur, such as when rolling onto a roundabout in second gear at walking pace and suddenly demanding acceleration. This mode also gives an extra-extra torque overboost function, briefly putting 155lb ft at the disposal of your right foot. As ever, the six-speed manual gearbox has a slick and precise action, as does the clutch, making it easier to make the most of the Puma’s modest power delivery.