Remember when the ST badge was reserved for the Focus? Then it migrated to the Fiesta, the Explorer, and Edge. Well, now it’s the Puma’s turn. The cutesy little crossover we don’t get in the States—which by itself is curious, given America’s hankering for SUVs—just received the ST treatment. It’s the first performance SUV Ford has given Europe, and even though the upgrades are standard ST fare, it adds up to yet another sporty compact from Ford we want but can’t have. But it’s awesome and still worth knowing about, so away we go.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think “Ford ST” is probably power. To that end, the Puma gets a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine (assuredly the same unit from the current and also Euro-only Fiesta ST) that makes 197 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 rpm and 3,500 rpm. That power is sent exclusively through a six-speed manual to the front wheels. Ford has also added a Quaife limited-slip differential up front to help improve traction should you find yourself on a twisty bit of road. And you should endeavor to always fond yourself on a twisty bit of road.
Ford also beefs up the rest of the Puma to cope with the extra power. The torsion-beam rear suspension has been stiffened by more than 50 percent compared to the standard model’s, there are new springs and dampers are all four corners, and there are a host of drive modes—Normal, Eco, Sport, and Track—so the Puma ST can suit just about any driving situation. Even though the dampers are nonadjustable, they’ve been stiffened, and that—along with a 25-percent-quicker steering rack—should give the Puma the extra agility you’d expect from an ST.
Ford worked with Michelin to create a bespoke tire for the Puma ST. Ford says the new, Puma ST–specific Pilot Sport 4S tires should take full advantage of the upgraded chassis without sacrificing ride quality. Putting 19-inch wheels on a small vehicle like the Puma—and it does indeed have 19s—can dramatically change the way it rides thanks to added unsprung mass and less sidewall to cope with lumps and bumps, so hopefully the Puma’s suspension can shoulder its extra responsibilities.
Inside, the Puma gets a set of sporty-looking seats with big bolsters to keep you in place, and has added nice touches like an ST-specific gear knob and ST badging on the steering wheel. All in all, it’s a sharp and fun-looking package. There’s no word about an on-sale date, but that hardly matters for us Yanks. At the moment, we won’t get the Puma in any guise, let alone this sporty ST variant, but trust us when we say we wouldn’t be mad if Ford dropped the uninspiring EcoSport and sold the Puma in all its guises—including the ST—here instead.
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