Fleet News

Ford Puma 1.7 - 1,000 miles

Ford

Review

##fordpum.jpg --Right##THE phone rings. At last. The line is crackling, the connection distant. The voice is hoarse, desperate. 'It's me.' I knew that. But where was he, and what was he doing? It was a routine job, or should have been. He was going out to photograph the new Puma. He'd be some time. Now he was phoning from Gretna Green. He'd run away with the thing and was going to marry it - or the other way round. Damn!

On the other hand, looking back - never the best of things to do - I could see how it could have been him, it could have been anyone. Park the car for a few minutes and people start sidling up. Looking, talking, asking how it goes ... I broke from my reverie. 'Look, can't you just live together? There's some quite good tax breaks for people living together now, even if it is cohabiting with a car.'

OK, so maybe I've been over-influenced by my son's film noir-style stories that he's taken to writing recently. The mood surrounding the Puma should be far more upbeat. I used to own a Metro. Then I bought a new Peugeot 205GTI. It should be taken as a compliment that driving a Puma felt as different as that.

It actually felt different before the engine was started. The aluminium-like sweep of detail on the dash; the white dials, the tactile springy response of the (real) aluminium gearshift. The sweep of glass that makes up the rear window is transformed into a louch-hooded eye in the back-view mirror. The sweep of the door sills up and back reinforce the organic sense of form which seems inherent in the design.

From switch-on the 1.7-litre Zetec-SE engine responds swiftly and eagerly, and, recalling the first driving impressions, it was noticeable that the road went along a good deal more swiftly than in previous vehicles I had been driving. That bend ahead on a narrow country road transformed itself into a sharpish corner and I had to deploy the ABS rather sooner in the car's life than the driver's manual recommended. That the turn was negotiated without the car turning a hair was a tribute to the braking systems and the elegant but persistent MacPherson suspension as well as the 15in radials' tenacious grip on the surface.

The Puma is so driveable that the required adjustments are quick and easy to make. In a sense, it is a pity this happens so quickly, and so smoothly, because it's only at the start of the driving that you feel the car at its extremities, as it were. The engine response, the sharp acceleration throughout the gears, the sheer fun of driving the car, are all at their most acute early in the test regime.

For a fleet manager, and for a fleet driver, however, there must also be the question: can this car do the job required of it efficiently? Apart from the performance and verve - and limited availability which must make it a user-chooser option rather than a fleet bulk purchase - how will the driver be served by this car? The answer is: well. But here's a hint. It should not be used to drive round the Leicester rugby front row. Not unless you support Northampton. I'll have some long-haul assessments to report next time.

Jerry Connolly

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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