Late last year, Ford introduced an ST version of its Fiesta-based Puma small crossover in Europe. The Puma ST has the same engine as the Fiesta ST and offers the same amount of power but in a slightly larger, higher-riding hatch. And it looks great, it must be said — totally preferable to the miserable EcoSport we get over here. It’s a neat little thing, and it turns out Ford CEO Jim Farley is also quite fond of it, too.
It’s so encouraging to see someone inside Ford show enthusiasm for a small performance car, even if it’s just a crossover. That’s exactly the kind of attitude we need! If we’re lucky, perhaps Farley could run this up the chain so the CEO knows about it, and they’ll get to talking, and they’ll see to getting the Puma to the U.S. Just get it in front of someone with real decision-making power in the company, you know?
Look, I’m sure even as CEO, Farley would like to bring many cars over that there’s no business sense in importing. I understand it’s not that easy. But the Puma is technically a crossover — not a hatchback, coupe or sedan. It’s exactly the kind of car Ford has staked its claim behind in North America.
And again, the EcoSport is so very sad. It’s hardly a category leader, but then there have been similarly sized crossovers that have performed worse in the market, which should signal to Ford there’s room and cause for it to improve in the segment. The Puma might be the right car for the job.
Of course, I can’t deny that the Puma’s pedigree is skewing my interest. About 20 years ago, the Puma name was given to a quirky front-wheel-drive compact coupe that made its bones on rally special stages. It had a really memorable design, striking right at the height of Ford’s New Edge phase. I drove it often in Colin McRae Rally 3. I know the new Puma is not that Puma, though it’s got the familiar bright disposition and vertical shape to its headlights, and I’m just going to chalk that design cue up to a little inspiration from the past.
What’s more, I don’t see the Puma ST as an unworthy recipient of the ST badge, like, say, the Edge ST. The Puma ST hits 60 mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds, which is about the same as the previous-gen Fiesta ST and a shade slower than the newer one we don’t get in the U.S. The Puma ST has a stiffer chassis than the Fiesta, to counteract its taller center of gravity. It comes with larger front brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and can even be optioned with a Quaife limited-slip differential — the only SUV in its class that can be, according to Ford. And, crucially, you can get it with a manual if you so desire.
The Puma genuinely seems like the crossover best suited to bridge that gap between the fun cars Ford used to sell in North America and the crossovers and SUVs it’s now obsessed with. You should know that better than anyone, Jim. Have a word with yourself and do the dang thing!