Wheels (Australia)




FEELS a bit ironic, actually... As I sign off on my two-decade-long automotive journalist­ic stint to move into the car industry proper, I’m a little bemused by the fact that the last car I’ll officially drive on the job is Ford’s Puma. It’s a car I had high designs on, too... but personally, despite the relative praise received during our Car of the Year 2021 testing, the little Puma is very much not my cup of tea.

Plopped into the burgeoning small SUV arms race like an unwanted puppy, the turbo three-pot Puma has unfortunat­ely disappoint­ed me at almost every turn – and I’m reminded of that failing every time I pause for the damn door to unlock with a sensor key that won’t actually unlock itself without me having to push a button. That in itself is perfectly okay – but why oh why can the same key then remotely operate the bloody start button inside the cabin?

There is a way around it, and it’s one that the teens in the Robbo household enjoy; the Puma can be unlocked with one’s suitably app-equipped smartphone. Called FordPass, the app requires a mere moment of the car’s time to do its internet-y things before turning into a pseudo keypad for the Fiesta-based Puma. It can give you odometer figures, a fuel reading, the car’s location and its tyre pressures, too, along with a searchable copy of your owner’s manual.

It can also remotely lock and unlock the doors, yes, if you hold the

requisite button down on your phone for quite a long time. It can also start the car from a distance, should you want to cool things down inside – but this is predicated on whether you’ve got the correct level of cooling set up in the car beforehand.

One can’t, sadly, simply drop all four windows by holding the unlock button down – almost my favourite use of a key fob button

ever – to let hot air out, which would have involved, I’m sure, a lot less computer programmin­g.

One can, somewhat disturbing­ly, lock one’s keys inside the car using the smartphone app, though – which seems like a really, really bad idea to me. I’ve tried locking the keys in, and it’s an absolute possibilit­y.

If your next move is to allow your phone to run out of charge or to

accidental­ly drop your device in the sea, you are pretty firmly stuck. And you wouldn’t have been stuck if you hadn’t used the app, right?

I complained at length last month about the brake pedal feel (in short, not great), and I have similar feelings about the steering response and take-off accelerati­on.

These three items put together are the quintessen­tial basics to get right in a small urban crossover. There are no ifs, buts or maybes; it’s what a customer feels on a test drive and it’s what they feel every day.

It’s almost impossible, in fact, to be smooth at the controls of the Puma.

The nothing-then-everything brake pedal ratio, the dragster-like takeoff from rest and imprecise, floaty steering feel from centre... in a class where it needs to match up to cars like the Mazda CX-3 and Kia Stonic, just to name two, the Puma just needs to be better. It’s got a strong engine, sure, and the dual-clutch gearbox is a good match at cruising speeds, but the too-short first gear and often aggressive initial clutch engagement really spoils things.

So I’ll sign off from this, my last ever car review for this august journal, with a recommenda­tion; have a good, hard think about what you’re looking for in a small SUV, and if you do come back around to the Ford Puma, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. Over and out.

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 ??  ?? Puma rides on a stretched version of the Fiesta platform and is a tidy performer in terms of chassis dynamics, but Robbo finds reason to grumble in terms of steering and braking
Puma rides on a stretched version of the Fiesta platform and is a tidy performer in terms of chassis dynamics, but Robbo finds reason to grumble in terms of steering and braking TIM ROBSON

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