On the prowl
Wheels Australia Magazine|December 2020
FORD OZ DESPERATELY NEEDS NEW SUVs, BUT HAS THE ODD-LOOKING, THREE-POT PUMA GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN THE COMPACT-SUV FIGHT?
TIM ROBSON

HERE’S A HOME truth: if it weren’t for the Ranger, Ford Australia really would be in a world of trouble right now. If not for its ever-widening range of Thai-made pick-ups, in fact, it would very likely join Holden in the ranks of benched car companies in Australia. Sobering, but true.

A quick glance at its current roster provides plenty of supporting evidence. Just over 700 Ford-badged SUVs sold in September 2020, in a market that snapped up more than 32,000 of them. The Ranger? It found more than 3400 homes, which equated to nearly 30 percent of the sales in that sector – and for more than 70 percent of the company’s total volume.

Even Holden sold more Acadias in September than Ford sold Enduras.

Ford’s journey along the SUV superhighway has also been a pretty patchy one. There are success stories – the Everest is the second-best seller in the local roster – but they are few and far between. Most recently, the Indian-sourced EcoSport was, let’s be honest, a hard fail. It simply wasn’t a very good car, and Australian buyers stayed away in droves. Small and mid-sized SUVs are now bread-and-butter products for all serious players in the Australian game, and the buyer profile has changed forever; it’s no longer good enough to have a known badge.

In short, Ford needs another hit-maker on the books – and it needs it quickly.

So, then, there’s a lot riding on not only the incoming mid-sized Escape, but the car we’re testing here, the Puma. Based on the latest Fiesta, the Puma is a five-door, five-seat light SUV that breaks few conventions. An entry-level car simply named Puma starts at $31,990 driveaway, before stepping up to the ST-Line as tested here for $33,990 driveaway. Capping off the three-strong range is the ST-Line V that costs $36,990 driveaway.

Our ST Line tester wears $650 of Lucid Red paint (Desert Island blue pictured, also a $650 option) and a Parking Pack that, at $1500, includes adaptive cruise control with stop/go start, evasive steer assistance and lane centring, active park assist, front parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring, for a total ticket of $36,140 driveaway.

Ford’s small/mid SUV product manager Lionel Santaso told Wheels that the driveway pricing would be offered until the end of 2020. “We have every intention of remaining competitive as long as we can,” he said. “We’re always monitoring the market and we’ll react accordingly.”

The Puma really needs to set itself apart from the Mazda CX-3 and the Nissan Juke in a space where price isn’t necessarily the last word. In such a fiercely contested segment, there is absolutely no room for error.

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