UK CAR 
Used car review

Ford Puma 
1.7 Zetec Coupe

Ford Puma:

 2000 in the year

1.7 Zetec engine. 

123bhp.

61,000 miles

Coupés may not be the most practical of cars, with just two doors and for the most part a cramped interior, but they remain very popular for their sporty image. Most coupes from the main stream manufactures are restyled lesser models. It is of course the only realistically agreeable way for them to be produced in a financially economical manner. When they get the image side right they are a great success, witness the legendary Capri, A Ford Cortina in drag that sold like hot cakes. The world has moved on and Hot Hatches replaced the coupe in the eyes of the discerning public, but there has long been a hankering for a really good reasonably priced Coupe. After a few abortive attempts, and short lived successes from the big boys, It is only really fitting that Ford should finally get the mix just right with a car that is easy (read cheap) to engineer from their point of view, but still manages to cloak its origins deep enough within its nouveau ford styling to raise the pulse of Joe Public.

Launched In 1997 with an advertising campaign built around the "Bullitt" chase scene. McQueen's digitally imposed image backs a Puma into the garage with a look of satisfaction. So okay lets admit its going a bit far to compare the little Puma with the venomous Shelby Mustang, but you get the point. A car built to satisfy that burning desire within not to be sat in a boring eurobox clone.

 



For the first time in decades Ford seem to have got everything right from day one, despite the fact that all the acclaim is being heaped on a car that is really far from new, and even further from cutting edge.

Having a great name certainly helps, just say it PhewWWMaaaAAA, it comes out of the mouth promising latent performance.


Good styling is something that is difficult to quantify, as it is a very personal thing. One man’s meat etc....

The Puma is another of Ford Europe’s exercises in ‘new edge’ styling. Most people seem to like it, I’m a little agnostic about it personally, but it is way beyond the terrible Ka. I've not met anyone who is stridently against the styling, which I guess would be Fords aim most people find it kind of cute.

Styling alone is not going to get me to buy a Puma, in my eyes it has a hint of older Vauxhall crossed with a Fiat. For me it looks a bit humpty backed but then you can only build so much style on to a Fiesta basic floor pan.

The Puma comes with semi attractive alloy wheels, not the prettiest items available but passable, I’m sure the after market wheel business will do very well out of the Puma, Looking at the price of a set of Alloys I could live with them.

The Puma, like the Ka, is based on Fords Uncle Fiesta platform, so it is no surprise then that the interior styling should be based on that of the Fiesta. It’s a shame the designers didn’t go a bit more radical on the inside, but I guess that would push up the cost beyond the level Ford was prepared to pay. Personally I would have liked my special car to feel just a little more special.

The Fascia and instrument panel is finished in mock aluminium to give a sporty effect. (Mock being plastic of course real aluminium sheet must cost a fortune if they had to leave this out.)

 

To reinforce the sporty image the instruments have white faces and red needles. Sporty for you maybe tacky to me.

Some love the interior, some hate it some don’t care, is it in the class of the Fiat Coupe, I think not.

 

The gear lever knob is solid aluminium, I don’t know where this piece of icon comes from its probably hard wearing looks nice and is lovely in the summer but in the grip of the British winter it feels like an 'Ice cube' (or should that be snow ball ball) My eyes choose the aluminium my hand chooses a nice leather covered item.

Sport cars should have sporty seats The front seats are superb from this perspective, They are comfortable which is a must, and supportive which many are not, and have nicely curved sides which hold you firmly in position.

The passenger cockpit reminds me of the Alfa 146 range with the dash shape seating position and glove box. Copied I doubt it but indeed very similar.

The two rear seats are really only for use by children and dogs, as any serious buyer with a plethora of these will of course also have a Volvo estate or a Discovery it matter little.

The Puma, is not the easiest car to get in and out of knees catching all sorts of large lumps on the way through.

The lack of an adjustable steering column does not help and shows up the cars heritage a little, still the young and agile should have little trouble, the old and infirm trying to relive their Capri laden youth should grow old gracefully instead or stop complaining, its probably good practise for all those middle aged men with teenage girlfriends anyway.

The rear window seems fairly big, but inside a look in the rear view mirror affords you a view only of a rather narrow little slit. The exterior mirrors are small too, but hey who cares what's behind you buyers of this car will only be concerned with hunting out the next series of bends anyway. The rear quarter windows are almost unusable giving any vision anywhere but forward very inapt.

Sound a bit to radical for you; buy a FOCUS you will be much happier.

 


This is not a car aimed at penny pinching family men or reps on a tight budget, its market is the affluent buyers out there probably as a second car. Hence you expect them to come with lots of luxury equipment. And most of what you expect is fitted No sunroof is a bit of a blow for me though the Air Con will please the majority of mines got more than yours buyers. There are dual airbags just in case you take the fun a bit too far. Standard there is of course the electric windows and mirrors, with central locking. These features are now standard on most small hatches never mind a sporty coupe.

I guess the Ford marketing crew deserve credit here as they have indeed sold a Fiesta in a smart suit with the same shoes and underwear. Costs costs costs we hear, disappointing the puma is not exceedingly well specked considering the £14,475 price tag when new in 2000.

This is all of course incidental to the next bit if the next bit is done right of course, that being namely how it goes.

Everyone and their dog waxes lyrical about the handling and performance, I've often heard this about other cars of the moment only to be avidly disappointed by the reality. I remember getting a quick whizz of a then Brand new XR3I and being completely under whelmed.

But this time its nice to be able to report that the Puma lives up to the hype.

The Puma will achieve a top speed of 122 mph and go from rest to 60mph in about 8.6 seconds.

Under the bonnet lurks a plain and unassuming looking 1.7 litre Zetec engine, its nothing to look at with its cheap plastic covers, so salivating over polished manifolds is not something done in this car, Still in this guise it is a sweet revving unit. You would suspect that 1700cc would be plenty to shift around such a little car. But it lacks a bit of torque at low speed, so it will stall easily moving off from rest if you are a little restrained in the go pedal pressing. I suspect this as much down to a combination of modern emission standards compliance and a lightened flywheel for extra upper range zing. A super chipped or such like version maybe interesting, if not exactly legal.

On the move the engine pulls smoothly and swiftly. The variable valve timing provides both high power kick and mid range torque allegedly. It is smooth and progressive in operation so it’s not really noticeable, unlike a Honda where all hell breaks loose at higher revs. Keep it over 4k and it flies around like a startled cat.

The close five-speed gearbox is well matched to the engine spread of power and the shifts with a lovely light precision, making changes a pleasure.

Electronic traction control makes it easy to get the car moving smartly from rest without too much drama and without being overly obtrusive like some others.

The carefully re-tuned suspension and the fat little low profile tyres provide an excellent level of grip on corners and with the balance of the car allows it to be really chucked hard into corners with nary a twitch. The suspension, which feels hard at slower speeds, joins in allowing the car to really flow through a series of S bends. It feels like a little back endiness. I.e. over steer has been induced into the feel of the car. As it seems to defy the laws of physics at sane speeds it feels a little like a rear wheel driver, though as you push harder the laws of the universe come back into play as it induces a safe amount of under-steer.

The power assisted steering is light enough to not bind when out shopping, and the compact dimensions help squeeze into those parking spaces, though limited vision means you will have to take a little more care than you first think.

 

Anti-lock brakes are of course fitted and stops can be achieved without fuss or drama, which is the least you, would expect.

The Puma has the transponder type immobiliser in the key which will not allow the engine to run unless the correct coded key is used. Air bags and side impact protection are standard. The smallness of the car however will not help it in the event of a Volvo V70 running into it.

If we are being really picky the steering could perhaps be a little better, lacking just a touch of feel, though its probably a trade off to hide the feed back from the front wheel steering. Whether the Hot version will trade even more user friendliness for more aggression remains to be seen.

In reality, this is all probably put in by Ford’s engineers who are smarter than my butt is sensitive, but as a road car it feels fabulous, Its what the XR Luke warm hatches should have been like years ago.

 

The luggage space is suitable for the reality of the car luggage for two; Fold the rear seats and you get lots of luggage for two.

The high rear sill means it’s a fair old lift into the load space, the golf bag will go in, but getting it their wont be quite so easy.

The ICE is located in the centre console above the excellent ventilation controls; it has either a tape with multi disc compatibility or a radio cd. The separate CD player is fitted under the front passenger seat. Not my preferred location in all honesty. Large child style buttons look a little odd but are very easy to use.

 

If your thinking of buying one of these you really cant go to far wrong, decent residuals (for a Ford) suggest most people are quite happy with them Like the Fiesta on which it is based, the Puma has proved reliable. Fords are pretty well built these days, so there really shouldn't be any problems.

In return for your dosh though you will receive Instant cool point. This little coupé would have grabbed the limelight even without the help of the Steve McQueen because after all the ads and hype have gone it really is rather good. Could you have a bigger bucket of laughs for less money, I somehow doubt it. Of course anything so much fun is also going to attract some unwarranted attention a deadlock system makes a break-in via the doors difficult and the immobiliser helps keep the Puma in your hands.

Best of all if you don’t go to hard the little Cat will return decent economy stretching toward 40mpg without needing to become a mobile road obstruction, and that might just help offset the Alarming insurance costs. Anti- Social fun without upsetting the tree huggers what more could you want.

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