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Driven: Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost 170 MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.

Driven: Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost 170 MHEV Powershift
Will the automatic, 1.0-litre version of the Puma ST be a match for its more powerful manual stablemate?

   



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2023 Ford Puma ST Powershift

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Following the demise of the Fiesta and its high-performance ST derivative, Ford has been busily attempting to add appeal to its Puma equivalent: the Puma ST. The solution, it seems, is the new Puma ST Powershift, which takes a smaller 1.0-litre engine and adds mild-hybrid technology, plus an automatic gearbox. It's a bold addition to the sporty SUV, but will it play well with customers, and is it a match for the 'standard' manual car?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift
Price: £32,245 as tested
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged 'EcoBoost' petrol mild-hybrid
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 170hp
Torque: 248Nm
Emissions: 144g/km
Economy: 44.8mpg
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
Top speed: 130mph
Boot space: 456 litres (including 80-litre underfloor compartment)

Styling

To the casual observer - and indeed to anybody else - the 1.0-litre automatic Puma ST looks much like any other. It gets the same mouthy grille, the same body kit and the same wheels, as well as the same red brake callipers and the same low front bumper. Considering this is supposed to be a compact SUV, it really doesn't have much ground clearance, but that's true of the manual 1.5-litre car too, and it adds to the sporty image. After all, this car has to appeal to those who chose the Fiesta ST in years gone by.

Interior

As with the exterior styling, the Puma ST Powershiftís cabin design is pretty much identical to that of the manual car, with the notable exception of the gear lever. Thereís nothing especially sporty about it, as there is with the manualís gear selector, but there are plenty of sporty touches around the cabin. The steering wheel, seats and dash design are all bespoke to the ST, and the screens have the same ST branding.

Speaking of which, the mild-hybrid ST comes with bespoke displays for the digital instrument cluster, with specific features designed to show you what the hybrid system is up to. But by and large, itís much like that of the manual version, with the same clear, easy-to-interpret panel and the same touchscreen infotainment system. Neither is especially ground-breaking, but both work well and are highly integrated.

Cabin quality is not traditionally a Ford strong suit, and the Puma STís cabin feels built to a price whether you choose the Powershift or not, but while some of the materials feel cheap Ė they will be in a car that only costs just over £30,000 Ė build quality (i.e. the way in which everything fits together) is generally pretty solid. Most of the switchgear feels robust and operates nicely, with only the paddles behind the wheel feeling a little cheap and thin.

Practicality

Because the automatic Puma ST's cabin is much the same as that of the manual car, the practicality credentials are also the same. That means rear passenger space is a little bit tight, although seating four adults is possible without too much trouble, but boot space is reasonably generous. At 456 litres, including an 80-litre underfloor storage space. It's a useful area, with a plug that allows it to be filled with water or ice, then drained later. It's great for storing wet items, but being American, Ford has suggested using it as an ice box for drinks.

Performance

Though the 1.0-litre Puma ST's engine is just two-thirds the size of the manual car's motor, it has almost as much power, at 170hp. As in the standard ST, that goes to the front wheels, but the mild-hybrid version gets the aforementioned seven-speed automatic gearbox, which means it isn't quite as fast in a straight line. Getting from 0-62mph takes 7.4 seconds, and the top speed is 130mph.

But while the speed isn't so impressive, it is at least quick enough. There's no problem keeping up with traffic, and the noise it makes is quite sporting considering the relatively small displacement. And unlike the manual ST, which always feels aggressive whether it's in S mode or not, the automatic is a bit more settled on the motorway. Maybe it's the extra gear or the smaller engine, but the Powershift model is much quieter and more relaxing, which makes it much easier to live with.

And economy is also impressive, achieving 44.8mpg on the official test, but it'll get more like 50mpg on a long run. For something with such a sporty edge, it isn't bad going.

Ride & Handling

While the automatic Puma ST has a different engine and gearbox to the standard manual car, the suspension set-up and driving dynamics are remarkably similar. Of course, without the proper three-pedal, H-gate arrangement, it isnít quite as involving to drive, but drivers can still take over using the wheel-mounted paddles if they so wish.

But whether the driver changes gear or not, the Puma ST still has the same qualities, from its body control, which is pretty solid for an SUV, and its steering, which is precise and well weighted, offering a greater sense of control. The result is a car thatís remarkably enjoyable to drive quickly, in spite of its relatively small engine.

Itís more refined than the manual car, too Ė particularly at motorway speeds Ė but the ride is still on the firm side. It isnít rock-solid, and it only feels really stiff around town, but it is noticeably less comfortable than a conventional Puma, and itís on a par with the manual car. That will limit its long-distance capabilities somewhat, but whereas the manual carís noise makes long journeys borderline unpleasant, the Powershift transmission helps to keep things relatively civilised.

Value

Although manual gearboxes are usually the cheaper option in new cars, the Puma ST breaks the rules. Slightly. You see, whereas the six-speed manual, 200hp Puma ST costs £31,770 before options, the 170hp, seven-speed automatic version comes in at £31,760 Ė £10 cheaper. It might not be a big difference, but itís a difference all the same, and itís better in your pocket than Fordís. Particularly as thereís no discernible difference in specification between the 200hp ST and the 170hp version. Apart from the engine and gearbox, of course.

Verdict

From a sheer driving pleasure point of view, the automatic, 1.0-litre ST isn't quite as engaging as the standard car, but that doesn't mean it's all bad news. For most customers, and for most of the time, the 170hp engine is more than powerful enough, and the smaller capacity and automatic gearbox just makes it more efficient. Day to day, it's an easier car to live with than the 200hp ST, and if all you really need is the image and the handling, we'd grudgingly concede this is the better car.



James Fossdyke - 10 Oct 2023



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2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.

2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.2023 Ford Puma ST 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV Powershift. Image by Ford.







 

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