The new Ford Puma ST-Line X Gold Edition guarantees exclusivity, but is it worth the extra cash?
3.5 out of 5
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We rate the Puma quite highly, and all of the best things about the standard car – the packaging, the handling and the punchy engine – are present here. But the compact SUV doesn’t work so well in this guise. It’s expensive, the aesthetic changes are questionable, and the automatic gearbox is clumsy. If you’re really sold on the looks, spec the manual, but otherwise, go for a lower trim level.
Earlier this year, Ford launched the Puma ST Gold Edition, a particularly interesting car since its spec – which included racing stripes and, as implied by the name, lots of gold touches – was ‘crowd sourced’. Ford fans could vote in online polls to determine how the car looked, but thankfully had no part in its name, otherwise it might have ended up being called ‘Crossy McCrossover Face’ or similar.
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It has since inspired a trim line available on the regular Puma, called ST-Line X Gold Edition. This becomes the range-topping Puma trim level, giving extra equipment on top of what you get in an ST-Line X and some aesthetic upgrades, although whether you’d describe them thusly depends entirely on your tastes.
There’s Grey Matter paint, normally a £775 option, white and gold racing stripes on the bonnet and roof, and 18-inch wheels that are supposedly gold-finished, but look a little more like bronze, especially once they get dirty. Is this all a little too much for a compact SUV with a modest amount of power? We’ll let you decide that one, but what we will say is one of the stripes on the bonnet already had a little hole in it, presumably from a wayward stone, and the white finish was looking slightly strained in places. Inside, there’s less to distinguish this Puma from other versions, although the sporty seats do get gold stitching.
Other than the changes to trim and equipment levels, the ST-Line X Gold Edition is the same as any other ST-Line Puma with this powertrain. That means there’s a reasonably roomy interior for a relatively compact footprint and a flexible boot with a boot floor which can be set at two different heights or removed entirely. Underneath is the ‘Megabox’, which is truly mega – it’s massive, and has a drain plug at the bottom should you ever need to hose it out, for instance, if used to house some muddy walking boots. The boot itself offers 456 litres of space.
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On the powertrain front, there’s a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder mild-hybrid engine powering the front wheels via either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
It’s one of the better three-pot engines out there – it’s not too bad for vibrations at lower revs, it doesn’t feel lethargic like some competing powerplants, and it even emits a nice, fizzy noise which isn’t too far away from the soundtrack provided by the Puma ST.
The 0-62mph time is 8.7 seconds, which sounds fairly average, but the punchy nature of the engine’s mid-range means the Puma feels quicker than that figure might suggest. Unfortunately for this particular Gold Edition, it’s fitted with the automatic gearbox rather than the manual, largely to its undoing.
It’s surprisingly clunky in its operation at low speeds, and disconcertingly, it will allow the car to roll back slightly when in drive. The transmission also takes a long time to engage when swiftly pulling away from a standstill, so what seems like a good gap to enter a roundabout or pull out of a side turning ends up being tighter than it ought. Finally, the shifts themselves just don’t feel that snappy for a DCT – if we hadn’t known otherwise, we’d have had it pegged for a conventional automatic, and not a particularly good one at that.
All of this is a shame not just because it hampers appreciation of the strong engine, but also the fine chassis. Although some will always take umbrage with this car’s name, the truth is it lives up to its predecessor’s reputation for fun – it’s a chuckable little car, particularly in ST-Line guise with its lower, stiffer suspension.
It changes direction with enthusiasm, barely rolls, and offers up a decent helping of front-end grip and traction. The steering feels quick, has a good weight to it, and feels reasonably consistent through the lock, if not giving a huge amount of feedback.
All of this could be appreciated much more with the manual gearbox, so we’d recommend avoiding the auto. But how about this new trim level? Well, we’re not completely convinced by that, either.
The normal ST-Line X is already something of a tough sell. When it was available with the 153bhp engine and an auto ‘box it cost £29,495, and as part of a recent product simplification, that combination is now only available in this new Gold trim for £30,725. A £650 handsfree electric tailgate ups the total on-the-road price to £31,375, which is a little more than the base price of the Puma ST. A non-ST Puma doesn’t feel like enough of a premium product to justify such a figure.
Additional equipment other than the aforementioned Grey Matter paint comprises heated seats and a heated steering wheel (normally £300 together as the ‘winter pack’) and a blindspot warning system bundled with autonomous emergency braking (normally £900 as part of the Driver Assistance Pack).
The base ST-Line seems like a better bet than either the ST-Line X or ST-Line X Gold. It’s still well-equipped, and crucially, you still get the comprehensive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the responsive and easy-to-navigate eight-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system.
|Model:||Ford Puma ST-Line X Gold Edition|
|Engine:||1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder, mild-hybrid|
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