Ford’s baby cat is getting ready to pounce

17 Jul, 2009 6:36pm Paul Bailey

Much-loved coupé set to return to road while sporty model to use latest Fiesta platform

One of the most-loved Ford sports cars in history is making a comeback: it’s the return of the Puma! Hot on the heels of the hugely successful Fiesta, Auto Express can bring you news that a stunning coupé version is in the pipeline.

Reviving memories of the popular Puma, production of which ended in 2001, the new Fiesta Coupé would be a hugely desirable addition to the blue oval’s line-up. It will pack stunning looks, a great drive and low running costs into an affordable package.

The stage is firmly set for the Puma’s return: Honda has confirmed that a replacement for its CR-X sports car will go on sale next year, in the shape of the hybrid CR-Z. Meanwhile, Hyundai has given the green light to the Veloster concept and there are rumours of an upcoming Polo Coupé from Volkswagen. 

As our images show, it’s a real head-turner – just like the original. It builds on the well received Fiesta shape that’s the work of Ford’s chief designer, Martin Smith, and his team. 

At the front is that car’s stylish large trapezoidal grille and rakish headlamps, but the coupé also gets sporty spotlights and a lower splitter. Towards the rear, though, the new model’s design really takes off with a dramatically sloping tail that looks simply sensational.

Details such as the slash which runs from the front wheelarch to the bootlid, where it blends into a pronounced rear deck, the sporty lower venturi and the classy roof spoiler all fuse together very neatly indeed. Lowered side skirts and smart alloy wheels finish things off.

Inside, expect the cabin to be carried over from the Fiesta, but with sports seats and a chunky wheel. In the back there will be space for two small adults, along with a decent boot. Under the skin, the new Puma will share its chassis with the much-praised Fiesta. The supermini is already the best-handling model in its class, with a mix of steering feel, grip and agility that rivals just can’t match, so the Puma has a great base to build upon.

Engineers will further stiffen the suspension in the search for even greater agility and a hot hatch-style driving experience – after all, the original model was famed for its exciting dynamics and the new car will be no different. 

The Fiesta’s wide range of engines will be available, with a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit for the base version along with a 118bhp 1.6. Diesels will also be produced in 1.4 and 1.6-litre TDCi form. 

However, given the car’s sporty status, there could be room for a hot flagship with power from Ford’s eagerly anticipated EcoBoost direct-injection turbocharged engines. A new 178bhp 1.6-litre unit will make its debut in the fresh C-MAX and third-generation Focus next year – and it’s this motor that could provide a real dynamite experience.

Boasting nearly 180bhp, the hot Puma would be able to do 0-60mph in around six seconds and accelerate on to a 140mph top speed. Allied to a even sharper chassis with a subtle ST-style bodykit, uprated brakes and figure-hugging Recaro seats, it could be a successor to the revered Racing Puma. This boasted a 155bhp 1.7-litre engine, Sparco competition seats, an uprated chassis and an RS-style bodykit. Produced by specialist coachbuilder Tickford, only 500 were sold in the UK – and each carried an enormous price tag of more than £22,000 when new.

The revived Puma won’t be that expensive, though. Key to its appeal will be its affordability, and the range could start at around £14,000. The new car is some way off yet, as Ford has a raft of launches planned over the next few years. The second-generation C-MAX is due to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, while the third-generation Focus will be revealed next year. 

After that, it’s the turn of a much-needed replacement for the Fusion in the shape of the Vauxhall Meriva-rivalling B-MAX mini-MPV, then a new Capri, Kuga Coupé and Mondeo Coupé. One thing is for sure – the new Puma would slot neatly into that upcoming range.