Hot stuff up north
Chris takes our bargain Puma on a 500-mile jaunt. But we forgot to tell him that the aircon’s broken
CHRIS HOPE I’ve been itching for a go in our £500 Challenge Puma. The rest of the CCW team have given our resident Ford coupé plenty of positive reviews, but so far all I’ve been tasked with is the trouble of replacing its windscreen. So when my wife and I needed to visit the in-laws three hours up the road in Gateshead I did the sensible thing, nabbing the keys when no-one was looking. X147 OBV was fuelled up and ready to hit the A1 but there was dissappointment as I’d settled into the driver’s seat. It was a hot summer afternoon with temperatures were up past 20 degrees in many parts of the UK, but the air conditioning wasn’t working. It’s a fault which I’ve since discovered has been mentioned in
CCW before but which hasn’t as yet been resolved ( Sorry about that - Ed).
This left me mindful of news editor Murray Scullion’s warning that the driver’s side electric window occasionally takes the day off, especially as my in-laws opt not to use their garage for its intended purpose. Thankfully the electrics behaved as impeccably as the car itself handled the task of ferrying us there and back.
The Puma’s fuel economy is impressive, too. I’m not one to work out mpg figures accurate to the nearest single decimal place, but having left Peterborough with a full tank, it made it to Gateshead with the gauge reading just over a quarter of a tank. Refilling it again cost less than £25. Try doing that in our S280!
The journey itself, aside from alternating between being either noisy (with the windows down) or sticky (windows up, blowers blasting us with warm air) was delightfully uneventful. The ride’s come in for some criticism when things become twisty, bumpy, choppy or all of the above, but there was no sense of that on the smooth dual-carriageways and motorway sections I was using.
It gives a good account of itself at cruising speeds, too. I’d assumed that there was a 1.7-litre VCT engine under the bonnet – it wasn’t until Murray and I compared notes back in the office that I discovered that it was actually a 1.4-litre Zetec. It says something for this smaller engine’s gusto that it does a good job of masking the 33bhp deficit.
As a way of documenting our trip, we decided to nip into Newcastle for a wander and a coffee by the city’s famous Quayside, now sadly minus the infamous Tuxedo Princess –a former car ferry converted into a floating nightclub, complete with rotating dancefloor – but we did at least get to cross the Tyne via the Grade II-listed Swing Bridge. It would seem that the Puma, which has now been out of production for 15 years, has become a rare enough sight in these parts to grab the attention of passers-by as I took photos of it beneath the Tyne Bridge. That said, more than 90 per cent of its production total has been taken off the road according to howmanyleft.co.uk. Or maybe those who spotted it while out were merely disgusted by the sight of the Puma’s orange-orange
fl ecked rear wheelarches. I’m pleased to add that the Puma’s windscreen hasn’t been christened with its first stone chip either. I know I’ll hit the roof when that day comes…
Wind noise at 70mph or slowly cook? Poor Chris curses us for not fixing the aircon. Some timeless design here – and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. The Tyne Bridge is rather more solid than our £500 Puma.