Ford really has excelled in the small SUV market, with its new family-friendly Puma taking top honours in the motor industry ‘Oscars’ this week.
Reborn after two decades’ absence as an SUV (the 1997-2001 original was a sporty coupe) — it has defied early doubters to be crowned Car of the Year 2020 as well as best small SUV in the annual What Car? awards.
Ahead of first deliveries next month, priced from $26,695 to $32,744, judges hailed it as ‘truly outstanding’ thanks to its stylish looks, practicality, sharp handling, gutsy engine and clever mild hybrid technology which promises ‘fun and frugality.’
But these points aside, one of its biggest selling points is its boot. With the second row of seats folded flat, a flexible rear load compartment expands the luggage space to 456 litres and can comfortably accommodate a box 112 cm long, 97 cm wide and 43 cm high.
But the real genius lies under the boot’s flexible floor — with three positions easily adjusted using one hand. Ford calls it the MegaBox, a deep, submerged hidden space (764 x 753 x 306 mm) adding another 80 litres.
This is sufficient to hold two full sets of golf clubs in bags or a foldaway bicycle, or to house unstable items up to 4ft tall, such as plants, upright.
Smart technology means with your hands full you can open the rear tailgate with a kicking motion under the rear bumper.
Based on the Fiesta, and built in Romania, there is a choice of three 1-litre EcoBoost engines — a 125 hp version available with or without a mild hybrid (most buyers will choose to have it), and a 155 hp version.
The 125 hp mild hybrid, costing from £20,845, will do 52.3 mpg with CO2 emissions of 99 g/km, rest to 62 mph in 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 119 mph.
The more powerful 155 hp, in mild hybrid only, does rest to 62 mph in 8.9 seconds up to 127 mph but still manages 51.4 mpg and CO2 of 101 g/km.
With the MegaBox’s lid down, you can hide away dirty and smelly sports equipment or muddy Wellington boots. You can even wash it out afterwards because it has a synthetic lining and a drain plug in the bottom to get rid of the water.
The Puma tailgate also features an innovative incorporated parcel shelf which moves in unison with the tailgate and removes the need for side supports, giving unhindered access to the rear load area.
There are three trim levels – Titanium, ST-Line and ST-Line X – plus fully loaded First Edition models costing between £1,500 and £2,300 more than the base price, up to £25,195. A 1.5 litre diesel in the pipeline and a ‘hot hatch’ ST version are expected to follow.
In the small SUV category, the new Puma beat models including the Audi Q2 and Skoda Kamiq.
For the overall ‘Car of the Year’ title it beat models from all categories including the Skoda Scala, Range Rover Evoque and Tesla Model 3.
What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: ‘Thanks to its sharp handling, gutsy engine and clever mild hybrid technology, the new Ford Puma it offers a mix of fun and frugality not previously seen among its competitors. Plus, it’s as practical as it is stylish. In short, the Ford Puma is truly outstanding.’
Land Rover’s new Defender won the public vote to claim the What Car? Reader Award — one of a hat-trick for the UK car maker.
Its Range Rover Velar took the inaugural Coupe SUV title, with the Evoque named best family SUV.
Audi, BMW, Skoda and VW were also among the most successful manufacturers in the 28 categories at the event in Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London.
BMW picked up four awards, spearheaded by its new high-tech 3 Series winning a hat-trick for best executive car, best plug-in hybrid and the safety award, while its larger sibling 5 Series was named best luxury car.
Audi’s Q7 was named best luxury SUV, while its sporty two-seater TT was named best coupe. Skoda’s Scala was named best family car and the Skoda Superb the best estate.