Motorists in Europe are pivoting toward crossovers, too, so the definition of a hot hatch is evolving. Ford illustrated this shift with the new Puma ST, a city-friendly soft-roader that combines an evolution of the Fiesta ST's punchy engine with the high seating position buyers crave. It was developed primarily for the European market.
Power for the Puma ST comes from a turbocharged, 1.5-liter three-cylinder that sends 200 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Ford quotes a 6.7-second zero-to-60-mph time, and an autobahn-friendly top speed of 137 mph. Alternatively, cylinder deactivation technology takes 14 milliseconds to turn the triple into a humble 1.0-liter twin in order to keep fuel economy in check.
Numerous chassis modifications make the Puma worthy of wearing the ST badge, according to the Blue Oval. Its steering is 25% quicker than that of the standard model, its front rotors are 17% bigger, and a mechanical limited-slip differential is offered at an extra cost. Engineers chose not to give it an independent rear suspension, but they made the regular Puma's torsion beam 50% stiffer after installing thicker roll bars on both ends. There's even a driving mode named Track that disables the traction control system, and a launch control function is optional.
Spotting the Puma ST in a crowded parking lot is relatively easy thanks in part to a front splitter, a model-specific grille, a sprinkling of ST emblems, and a roof-mounted spoiler. It rides on 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the front passengers travel on heated Recaro sport seats, and the driver faces a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Ford dealers across Europe will begin receiving the Puma ST in the coming months. It will not be sold in the United States, where the standard model is not available due in part to its small dimensions. While some enthusiasts will undoubtedly rail against Ford's decision to keep the Puma ST away from American shores, it's very much a matter of perspective. Off-roaders on the Old Continent would happily trade this front-wheel drive pocket rocket for the opportunity to explore the great outdoors in the 2021 Bronco, which is not Europe-bound.
Americans who want to put a tall, ST-badged Ford in their driveway have two options: the 335-horsepower Edge ST, and the 400-horsepower Explorer ST. We wouldn't be surprised if the Escape gets ST-ified, too.
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