Ford Puma fuel challenge
THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 361 Total mileage 57,385 What’s gone wrong The boot lock’s playing up
DAVID SIMISTER It was just after Corley Services when I reckon that the Puma came closest to conking out. I’d boldly accepted a challenge to see how far it would go on a single tank of fuel – but with just over a quarter of a tank left and another 63 miles still to go, I wasn’t fancying my chances.
It had all seemed like such a good idea back in the office. We’d noticed after our Christmas shopping challenge ( CCW, 14 December 2016), that X147 OBV had not only lost to that pesky MG ZR, but returned a fairly dismal 34mpg in the process.
So it fell to the chap who managed to coax 29mpg out of an S-class (me) to restore the Puma’s reputation. To wit, we found a great road in North Wales that’s within our Ford’s reach, but only just. To make it there and back again – and still have enough left over to enjoy the destination – it would have to return rather a lot more than 34 to the gallon.
Which is why I found myself at Peterborough Services at the crack of dawn, checking the Ford’s tyre pressures and making sure that there was no junk in the boot to weigh the car down. I honestly thought that our Puma could stick its fingers up at its critics, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
Eking those extra miles from the Puma’s range demands focus, resisting the urge to overtake and steering clear of all the rev-happy stuff it normally thrives on. Making the most of one tank meant staying at a steady 60mph, keeping it below 3000rpm, leaving the windows closed and the air con switched off. Oh, and avoiding traffic – the M6 Toll might be pricier than crawling through Birmingham, but it does wonders for your mpg.
By the time we reached the picturesque town of Llangollen in North Wales, the Puma had only sipped its way through a third of a tank, which meant that I could finally let the Puma off its leash after hours of steady-as-she-goes stuff. The Horseshoe Pass wiggles its way 1368ft up into the Denbighshire hills – and the café at the top, the Ponderosa, has long been a hit with bikers and classic fans alike. Up there it felt superb – but the wonderful Zetec engine would have to be on its best behaviour if it was going to make it home in one hit.
Conditions weren’t helping, either – roadworks on the A483 created tailback after tailback and it was the hottest day of the year to date. So it was a case of either slowly melting, or jeopardising the fuel economy game by lowering the windows. As the temperature soared past 22 degrees, I went for the latter. So by the time I’d reached Corley the Puma’s fuel gauge needle had taken a tumble, and there was a very real chance that it wouldn’t make it back to Peterborough. Naturally I’d taken precautions and brought an emergency fuel can with me – but the Puma’s boot lock had decided to play up, locking it in the boot with no other way of reaching it.
Yet the Puma just kept going – in fact I began to wonder whether there was a pixie behind the dashboard holding the fuel gauge needle in place. As it finally sauntered back into Peterborough Services without so much as a cough or misfire, it still had an eighth of a tank left.
The real shock came when I whipped the calculator out and did the maths. I reckoned I could bring our Ford’s fuel economy into the early forties, but in fact it managed a staggering 51mpg average, with petrol to spare.
There is a serious point to all this – changing your driving style might not persuade a sporty coupé to pull out diesel-esque fuel economy figures, but just might make Triumph Stag or V12 Jaguar ownership affordable.
In fact, I’d love to see how far I can take an XJ- S on a single tank. Anyone fancy lending us one?
Made it! The £500 Challenge Puma arrives at bikers’ favourite, The Ponderosa café.