The Ford Puma is a brand-new model in South Africa that was introduced in Europe in 2019. The vehicle falls under the compact SUV segment and expands on Ford’s consumer portfolio locally, which is largely bakkies and the Mustang.

The Ford Puma is based on the Fiesta with a similar architecture, but is not a replacement to it and may not necessarily draw the same audience. Recharged was in attendance of the Ford Puma launch in Cape Town, as a guest of Ford South Africa.

Ford Puma: Who is it aimed at?

The Puma is being targeted to an age group of around 30 years old and upwards says Ford. It falls in the same category as the VW Taigo, T-Cross and Hyundai Kona, and the Audi Q2. It’s a car that will suit single people, couples or small families who are looking to transition to a compact SUV. It has a bunch of cool tech in it as standard, which is also suited to the savvy driver.

Puma engine and line-up

The Puma is equipped with Ford’s award-winning 1.0L EcoBoost engine, which is great for efficiency. The 1.0L three cylinder EcoBoost engine produces 92kW of power and 179Nm of torque.

It has a seven-speed automatic transmission and supports five driving modes: normal, eco, sport, trail and slippery. There is support for adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go, Evasive Steer Assist, and optional Lane Centering.

Driver assistance features include ABS with electronic brake assist; hill launch assist; lane keeping aid & alert; lane keeping system with lane departure warning; collision mitigation system; and collision assist with pedestrian detection.

The Puma is available in two versions: the Titanium and ST-Line Vignale.

Puma Titanium – R569 900

The base Titanium spec has power-folding heated mirrors with puddle lamps; automatic headlights with high-beam and rain-sensing wipers; LED lights and day time running lights; front fog lamps with cornering lights; rear parking sensors and rearview camera; and 17″ 10-spoke alloy wheels. It has an 8″ touchscreen with SYNC 3 on the infotainment system, has 2 USB-A ports, wireless charging, supports Android Auto and CarPlay, FordPass Connect support and has electronic climate controls. There’s also a 6 speaker sound system, leather steering wheel and LED ambient lights.

Puma ST-Line Vignale – R613 900

The Vignale has the same spec as above but differentiates by puddle lamps with the Puma logo; front parking sensors; ST-Line grille; sports-tuned suspension; rear spoiler; and 18″ alloy wheels. On the inside you have a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 10 speakers; massaging seats in the front; flat sports steering wheel with paddle shifters; a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster; acoustic windscreen; an auto-dimming windscreen; and rear privacy glass. It also has a hands-free powered tailgate.

Ford Puma

First impressions

The Puma feels unassuming but lives up to its category title of “compact SUV”. I like that it’s on the small side, you do get Fiesta vibes, but it gives you options of an SUV, especially if you want to do road-trips and drive in different terrains, when living in a city. The front lights make it look a little aggressive. I like the Puma touches on the Vignale; when you start it up on the welcome screen, the puddle lamps and the styling on the front; it is a bit subtle but I prefer it.

I enjoyed the launch drive in Cape Town, though I was driving in traffic for the bulk of it. The button for the drive modes was not obvious to me but I eventually found it. It did fairly well when I overtook trucks, for a 1.0L engine. The drive was comfortable. I personally prefer smaller compact sized cars, so this one appeals for that reason. It supports various modes, which is great for South Africa, where this category of car does well.

The boot is large for its size, and it has reclining seats. it has a 456L capacity. This is what our hand luggage and laptop bags looked like for two in the trunk.

Let’s talk tech

The car is kitted out with loads of tech as standard, which does appeal to the technophiles, no matter what the age group. I also think largely because of the price that this is why, though it’s a pity it does not support SYNC 4, but rather the previous-gen SYNC 3.

It has two USB-A ports, so if you’re on iPhone that moved to USB-C, you will need a cable to support that as Apple cables are USB-C to USB-C, whereas Android cables tend to be USB-A to USB-C. Wireless charging is a nice touch only if you forget your cable.

My driving partner and I got a bit lost so we relied on his Android cable and my iPhone to use Google Maps via CarPlay to get back; always handy. And for the rest of the trip he connected music from Spotify on Android Auto. We seamlessly switched between phones using the infotainment screen.

Other bits of driving tech and comforts included massaging seats on the Vignale for both driver and front passenger, and other safety features like collision warnings, which I found to be extra sensitive, which beeped loudly when I didn’t think it was necessary. But, rather safe than sorry.

Final thoughts

The new Ford Puma is a fantastic car to drive, has a bunch of tech, and nice touches on the Vignale, and comes in a range of colours like two shades of blue, white, grey, red, black, magnetic, and silver. But, it’s also quite a pricey car.

It starts at R570k and goes up to around R614k. The price does not include the service plan, which is optional at R17 692.75 for 6 years/90 000km. It does come with a standard 4 year/120 000km warranty, 5 year/unlimited km corrosion warranty.

According to Ford South Africa, via BusinessTech, the higher pricing is mainly related to the exchange rate – “The Puma is sourced from Romania, and its pricing is thereby also influenced by exchange rates.”

At this price point, you may want to compare other compact SUVs to see what works for you. These include the likes of the VW Taigo and T-Cross, the Hyundai Kona, Peugeot 2008, Audi Q2, and Nissan Qashqai. It is a very competitive segment.