Ford Puma ST Review 2024

Written by Ivan Aistrop

heycar ratingFast and dynamic little SUV
  • 2020
  • Small SUV
  • Petrol, Mild hybrid

Quick overview


  • Terrific fun to drive
  • Amazingly practical boot
  • Affordable to buy and run


  • Most rivals have more power
  • Ride is rather firm
  • Some features that you’d expect as standard are optional

Overall verdict on the Ford Puma ST

"The Ford Puma ST may not technically be a hot hatch, but it does exactly what the best hot hatches have traditionally done. It provides enough practicality for everyday transport duties in a package that’s fast and fun for those occasions when the kids aren’t on board, all in a package that’s affordable to buy and run."

Ford Puma ST Review 2024: Dynamic

Society constantly reminds us about the merits of recycling, and the Ford Puma ST is a great example of how recycling can work wonders. 

The Puma name is recycled for a start, first applied to a small sports coupe way back in the late ‘90s and now used for Ford’s entrant in the small SUV market.

The Puma ST’s mechanicals have also been recycled, and thankfully, they’ve come from just about the best source there is: the amazing – and sadly now defunct – Fiesta ST hot hatch. They’ve had to be adapted slightly to cope with the Puma’s extra bulk – this is a bigger, heavier, taller car that is considerably more family-friendly – but happily, very, very little of the Fiesta’s dynamic magic has been lost in the transformation.

Fire up the turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, and you’ll find that it not only makes a great noise, but it also feels strong enough and eager enough to have you grinning right from the get-go. The sweet shift action of the six-speed manual gearbox remains, as does the lightning-fast reaction of the pedals and the steering. All this combines with the wonderfully balanced chassis and super-tight body control to make this the best-handling and most entertaining car of its type, and by some distance. Yes, other fast SUVs are faster, but none are as much fun. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you can live with the firm ride, which some will find too harsh for everyday use, but if you can put up with that, then you’ll adore the thrills it provides in compensation.

There’s one caveat: in 2023 Ford introduced an additional version of the ST with a less powerful mild-hybrid drivetrain and an automatic gearbox, and because we haven’t yet tried it, we don’t know if it’s as much fun. We’ll let you know once we’ve had a go. Stick with the original recipe, though, and you’ll be getting a supremely enjoyable driver’s car for a super-competitive price.

It’s not just on the road where the ST dazzles. While passenger space is entirely adequate for a small family, the enormous boot – complete with some fiendishly clever touches – makes the Ford Puma ST a terrifically practical family car. The cabin looks and feels every bit as posh and as pleasant as those of most other cars in the sector, and most of the kit you’d expect is provided, although a few items you might expect as standard feature only on the options list.

Chuck in the excellent ergonomics, decent safety and a very compelling financial case, and you have an all-round package that’s strong in every area, and positively scintillating in all the most important ones. Thoroughly recommended.

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If you need the space and practicality of a family SUV but still want something that’s fast and fun to drive, then yes, the Ford Puma ST most certainly is right for you. It’s not the most powerful sporty SUV out there, and it’s not as fast as some as a result. However, it’ll be plenty brisk enough to have you grinning from ear to ear on every journey, and despite the performance deficit, it’s still more enjoyable and more engaging to drive than any rival. It’s a sight cheaper to buy, too.

The Ford Puma ST is offered with a choice of two powertrains: a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol mild hybrid with 170PS and an automatic gearbox, or a more powerful 1.5 turbo petrol with 200PS and a six-speed manual gearbox.

Now, we love the latter. The frenetic character of the engine in terms of both the performance it gives and the noise it makes suits the ST’s up-and-at-’em nature perfectly. The manual gearbox is a pleasure to use and lends the car an extra layer of interaction. We haven’t yet tried the less powerful model, so we don’t know what it feels like to drive, but we fear that with less power, less pace and the loss of that gearshift, it might well lose something when it comes to driving involvement. It’s barely any cheaper to buy or run, either.

The Ford Puma ST is something of a rarity; virtually every manufacturer offers a small SUV of some variety, but not too many make a sporty one. Those that do tend to pack them with as much power as possible, much more than the Puma’s still very considerable 200PS. Those options include the Hyundai Kona N, the Volkswagen T-Roc R, the Audi SQ2 and the BMW X1 M35i, and they’re all way more expensive than the Ford. So, if you’re looking for something fast and fun, but still affordable, the Ford Puma ST has few peers.

Comfort and design: Ford Puma ST interior

"Perhaps not the poshest SUV of its type, and not the roomiest, either, but does a very competitive job in both areas. It’s boot space where the Ford Puma really impresses, though, and the extra underfloor storage area is a work of utter genius."

Ford Puma ST Review 2024: interior

It’s easy to get comfortable at the wheel of the Ford Puma ST, thanks to the plentiful adjustment you get for both the steering column and the driver’s seat. Whether your preference is for the typical high-set position of an SUV, or the low-slung position of a hot hatch, the Puma can oblige – just crank your seat up or down to suit. The seats themselves are also very supportive, with heavy bolstering to keep you in place under hard cornering, and adjustable lumbar support as standard. Add the fact that the steering wheel and pedals are perfectly aligned with your seat, and you have a driving position that’s just about spot on.

Visibility could be a bit better, however. Your view at the front quarters of the car is hampered slightly by the steeply angled windscreen pillars, while the thick pillars either side of the back window also mean over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t the clearest. However, front and rear parking sensors are standard, so parking manoeuvres shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

There’s a decent amount of storage in the Ford Puma ST's cabin, with a deep lidded cubby between the front seats, a couple of cup holders, deep door bins and a sizable glovebox. Most of the car’s functions are controlled via the car’s central touchscreen, which we’ll come back to in a moment, but happily, the ventilation system gets its own bank of dedicated physical controls so you don’t have to delve into endless on-screen submenus just to change the direction of the airflow. They’re logically placed and easy to use, and the same goes for the small amount of other switchgear to be found in the Puma’s cabin.

This is an area in which the Ford Puma ST impresses you. Sure, the interior isn’t particularly colourful, but it is pleasant, with some squishy, high-grade materials to be found in important places – like on top of the dashboard and doors – and a leather finish for the steering wheel and gear lever. What’s more, there are a few other carefully chosen trims and textures dotted around to mix things up a bit and keep things interesting.

It is true that as you probe lower down and further back in the cabin, the quality of the materials used does drop off a bit. However, that’s also true of the vast majority of the Ford Puma ST’s small SUV rivals, so it’s utterly forgivable here, especially given the Puma’s competitive price point.

All versions of the Ford Puma ST get the same SYNC3 infotainment system, and the good news is that it’s cracking. It combines a clear and attractive 12.3-inch digital driver’s display with an 8.0-inch central touchscreen, and it works brilliantly thanks to logical menus, large on-screen icons and slick graphics. It also supports all the functionality you expect, including navigation, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get wireless phone charging, as well as a couple of USB ports and a ten-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system as standard, giving crystal-clear sound.

This is definitely an area of strength for the Ford Puma ST, which is important given that most Pumas will be used as family cars. There’s lots of space up front and very competitive space in the back as well. Six-foot adults will fit with relative ease, although you won’t want to squeeze three people across the rear bench on a regular basis. If you’re carrying children, there’ll be space to spare. It’s not class-leading back there for roominess, but it is competitive.

Special praise must be reserved for the Ford Puma ST’s boot. With 456 litres of space, it’s not only one of the biggest load areas in the class, but it also has the measure of many cars from the class above. And it’s not just big, it’s clever, too. Lift up the boot floor, and you’ll find what Ford calls the ‘Megabox’, which is an 80-litre storage space that’s lined with waterproof plastic and has a drain plug in the bottom. That means you can fill it with ice and use it as a drinks cooler, or use it to store muddy wellies safe in the knowledge that you can hose it out later.

With the false floor in place, you also get a stepless load area when you drop the 60/40 split-folding rear seats. What’s more, the backrests lie flat and level, which makes the space even more usable.

Handling and ride quality: What's the Ford Puma ST like to drive?

"The Ford Puma ST is by no means the fastest sporty SUV out there – many rivals outstrip it by quite a distance for pace – but it’s more enjoyable to drive than any of them thanks to its wonderfully crisp handling. Just make sure you can live with the firm ride."

Ford Puma ST Review 2024: Dynamic side profile

Handling is the one area where any small sporty car should excel, and happily, it’s precisely the area in which small sporty Fords have been excelling for years. Even more happily, the Puma is no exception to that rule.

It’s not just the strong grip from the front tyres, the rock-solid body control, or the way that the super-fast steering darts the nose of the car quickly into corners. It’s also the predictability and adjustability you get from such a wonderfully balanced chassis, one that it shares with the now-defunct Fiesta ST.

There are differences, and it’s true that the Puma ST isn’t quite the dynamic equal of the Fiesta ST, although the fact that Ford’s engineers have got it so close when faced with the obstacles of physics is something of a miracle in itself. It’s bigger, heavier and taller for a start, which means weight transfer inevitably isn’t as crisp as it is in the Fiesta, but you’d need to drive the two cars back-to-back to detect any difference, and even then, most drivers would struggle to tell. Rest assured, there’s no shortage of fun, and the Puma ST is much more of a hoot to drive than any sporty SUV rival.

The pin-sharp steering, meanwhile, is great when slicing through corners, but it can feel a little oversensitive in other situations, so you have to keep your wits about you to plot a smooth, straight course. It’s the same in the Fiesta, but it’s somehow more forgivable in a smaller, lower car. The same goes for the firm ride you get from the stiffened and lowered suspension. Some people will find it tolerable, but others will find it too jarring for too much of the time. We recommend an extensive test drive before you buy to see which camp you fall into. If you can put up with it, though, you’ll have a car that will make you smile every single day, on every single journey.

For the vast majority of its existence, the Puma ST was available with a single powertrain, the same one found in its hot hatch sibling, the Fiesta ST. The 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox, punts out an identical 200PS, but torque has been increased slightly from 290Nm to 320Nm to account for the Puma’s bulkier bodywork.

As such, the Puma ST matches the Fiesta’s 0-62mph sprint time of 6.7 seconds, and if speed limits weren’t an issue, it would keep going all the way up to a top speed of 137mph. More important than the numbers, though, is the way it feels, and the car feels every bit as fizzy and as eager as you'd hope, building speed quickly and consistently.

It’s not just the power that makes it special. The short, sharp-shifting action of the six-speed manual gearbox makes it an absolute joy to operate and adds a further level of engagement, while the pin-sharp pedal response also adds to the feeling of immediacy. It may not be the fastest car of its type, but it's as enjoyable as anything else when rushing towards the horizon.

In late 2023, a little while after the Fiesta had been discontinued so that Ford could concentrate on production of the Puma, an additional version of the ST was released. It has a tuned-up version of the same 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine found lower down in the Puma range, teamed with mild-hybrid assistance and a Powershift twin-clutch automatic gearbox.

This powertrain has a steady-state power output of 160PS, which can be temporarily hiked to 170PS for short periods by an overboost function. When overboost and the mild-hybrid assistance are both in full effect, torque is hiked from 200Nm to 248Nm. It has a 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 130mph, but we haven’t had a chance to drive it yet, so we can’t tell you how effective it is. Fingers crossed it still feels as frenetic as an ST should.

You want a bit of noise in a sporty car like the ST, provided it comes from the right source, and at the right time. Happily, the Ford obliges. The 1.5-litre engine stays smooth and subdued when you’re just pootling along, but when the revs rise, it gives off a pleasant burble that adds to your excitement levels even further.

Wind noise isn’t at all bad given the Puma’s slightly-taller-than-normal stance, and although the chunky tyres do generate a bit of road noise, it isn’t offensive at any speed.

The Puma has actually been tested by safety experts Euro NCAP twice. In the first test in 2019, it achieved the full five-star rating, but because it’s one of the biggest-selling models around, it was retested in 2022 under the safety body’s more recent, more stringent standards. This time it received only a four-star rating, largely because the car has neither a central airbag nor an eCall emergency response system.

What it does have, however, is automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning, along with a post-collision braking system that locks the anchors on after a smash to minimise the risk of further collisions.

You also have the option of adding a Driver Assistance Pack at extra cost (it’s quite reasonably priced), and this adds active park assist and a rear-view camera, along with adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function in traffic.

MPG fuel costs: What does the Ford Puma ST cost to run?

"The full-fat Puma ST is comparable with its hot-hatch rivals for fuel economy, so probably won’t cost you any more to run overall. However, don’t go expecting the mild-hybrid version to be some sort of fuel-sipping eco-warrior, because it doesn’t actually do that much better.""The original Toyota C-HR delivered respectable economy and the trend looks set to continue with the second-generation car."

Ford Puma ST Review 2024

The more powerful 200PS manual version of the Puma ST has an official fuel-economy figure of 42.8mpg. That’s slightly better than the 40mpg offered by the similarly powered Hyundai i20 N, but it’s some way sort of the 50mpg offered by the Suzuki Swift Sport mild-hybrid, but in fairness, that car is down on power by a considerable amount.

Having said that, the mild hybrid version of the Ford Puma ST is also considerably down on power, with a maximum output of 170PS (but it’s still pokier than the Swift with 129PS) so it might be a little surprising that doesn’t do a little better on fuel economy, with an official figure of 44.8mpg.

Ford didn’t exactly cover itself in glory in the latest Satisfaction Index, being named as the seventh most unreliable manufacturer in the study. The Puma itself didn’t come in for criticism, with most of it being aimed at the bigger Kuga, but the 2017 to 2023 version of the Fiesta hatchback was also named and shamed for its disappointing reliability, and worryingly, the Puma shares its mechanical parts with that very car.

Buy the Ford Puma ST manual with the bigger engine, and your car will sit in group 22 for insurance, while the mild-hybrid version is in group 21. Since the most affordable insurance group is group 1 and the most expensive is group 50, that means you can expect middling premiums for the Puma ST, which is fair enough given its power. 

To be fair, that looks pretty good compared with rivals such as the Hyundai i20 N, which has similar power but sits in group 27. It looks even better compared with the Suzuki Swift Sport, which has considerably less power but inexplicably manages to sit in groups 28 to 35.

You’ll pay the standard flat rate of £180 per year to tax your Puma ST, or £170 for mild-hybrid versions (which qualify for a £10 annual discount for alternative-fuel cars). All versions of the ST cost less than the £40,000 threshold for premium cars, meaning you escape the £390 surcharge between years two and six of the car’s life.

How much should you be paying for a used Ford Puma ST?

"Compared with its performance SUV rivals, the Puma ST already looks like a bargain thanks to its comparatively low prices. However, browse our listings for one that’s a couple of years old with a few thousand miles under its wheels, and you can save another five figures."

Ford Puma ST Review 2024: Dynamic

If you’re looking at buying a Puma ST brand new, then you’ll be looking at an on-the-road price in the region of £32,000 before you add any optional extras. Choosing the mild-hybrid version over the more powerful car only saves you a tenner, so unless you really need an automatic gearbox, the more powerful car looks like much the better value. If you opt to add the Performance Pack, which you can only do with the more powerful 1.5, then you’ll pay an additional £1,400 on top. It adds a mechanical limited-slip differential, launch control and a shift indicator.

Happily, those prices compare extremely well with those of pretty much every performance SUV rival, primarily because most of them have considerably more power. The thing is, not a single one of them is more fun to drive, so the Puma ST looks like something of a bargain.

The even better news is that our listings contain absolutely loads of the things at severely knocked-down prices. There are countless examples of two-year-old cars with between 15,000 and 30,000 miles for around the £20,000 mark. That’s a heck of a lot of fun for the money.

As the sportiest version of the Puma, the ST looks the part with a racy bodykit, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting all round and rear privacy glass. Meanwhile, convenience features include power folding door mirrors with puddle lamps, a Quickclear heated windscreen, keyless entry and start, climate control, sports seats, part-leather-effect upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and manual cruise control.

Pay the extra it costs to add the Driver Assistance Pack, and the manual cruise control is swapped for adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function in traffic, plus the pack also gives you active park assist and a rear-view camera.

You can also opt to add the Performance Pack, which adds a mechanical limited-slip differential, launch control and a shift indicator.

Other optional extras available include a panoramic roof, a powered tailgate, metallic paint  and a detachable towbar, but that’s about it.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

Not only is the Ford Puma ST a good car, it’s the best car of its type. It provides enough space and practicality for a small family, and on those occasions when the kids aren’t on board, it provides all the driving fun you could want. Not only that, and it’s affordable to buy and run.
If you buy brand new, prices start from around £32,000 before you add any options, and that’s regardless of which of the two powertrains you choose. Check out the Heycar classifieds, though, and you’ll find lots of used examples that’ll save you five figures compared to a new one.
Since its launch in 2020, the Puma ST has been offered with a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 200PS and a manual gearbox. In 2023, however, another powertrain was introduced, that being a turbocharged 1.0-litre mild hybrid petrol with 170PS and a dual-clutch automatic.

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