The Puma ST’s on-road temperament isn’t as bouncy and tabby as some cars of its ilk may seem, but it still feels like a surprisingly vigorous and very tense thing to drive; moreso, I bet most could expect from any type of crossover vehicle. Using the Fiesta ST’s suspension specs as a starting point, Ford Performance opted for larger wheels, longer, stiffer springs, but notably much stiffer stabilizer bars (even fitting one into the torsion beam rear suspension section of the car). There are also new “frequency responsive” twin tube shocks from Hitachi.
And so, while a Fiesta ST has 17-inch alloy wheels as standard and 18 as an option, the Puma ST gets 19 or nothing. It behaves like a hot hatchback that wears shoes just one size too big for that, to be honest. It’s direct and super responsive to steering controls, even by Ford standards; unusually heavy through the steering rim too, and very keen to get back to center when coming out of a corner. It’s sensitive to camber and bumps and a little too eager to shy away from both, even by fast Ford standards. I guess I’d say Cologne had to put up with more wheel offset and friction radius on the axle before it normally would to accommodate those 19-inch rims, and couldn’t quite mitigate all of them. unwanted consequences with the calibration of the power steering.
Those 19-inch rims also allow for slightly abrupt low-speed driving, but at high speeds the car’s damping starts to smooth out pretty well – more than a Fiesta ST ever manages to do, anyway. If you’re willing to wrestle with it a bit and keep both hands on the wheel, the car has a lot of edge and balance in its handling. It has excellent lateral body control and very sharp turns, gripping a tint more firmly to the rear than the Fiesta ST sometimes does, while still remaining well balanced. With the optional sliding differential adding its own layer of traction and involvement in the driving experience, no one could argue that this car is not skin-absorbent.