The Ford Puma is not the prettiest coupÃ© you can buy, nor the most powerful. And the fact that it sits on Fiesta underpinnings does not sound glamorous. But get behind the wheel, find a twisty road, and few cars give you as much fun for your money, thanks to an agile chassis, precise steering and sharp suspension.
Introduced to the UK in June 1997 the Ford Puma was initially available only with a 1.7 litre engine. Developed with Yamaha the free-revving and torquey engine uses variable camshaft timing to produce 123bhp.
A smaller 1.4 litre unit producing 89bhp arrived the following January and despite being a full two seconds slower to 60mph than the 1.7 litre it never feels sluggish.
Weighing approximately 1,040 kg (2,293 lb), the relatively decent amount of power was sufficient to give the car decent performance. The most popular version accelerated from 0 to 62 mph (0 to 99 km/h) in 8.6 seconds, and could accelerate from 30 to 70 mph (48 to 112 km/h) in 8.8 seconds.
Get inside the Puma and you’ll recognise the Fiesta in its dashboard, although Ford livens it up with chromed plastic trim and a polished aluminium gearshift. The standard sports seats are supportive and necessary — push a Puma hard and it corners with the aplomb of cars costing twice as much.
The Ford Puma was only sold in Europe and was supposedly replaced by the Ford StreetKa, which is based on the Fiesta just as the Puma was. The StreetKa also borrowed the Puma’s transmission and suspension. The discontinuation of the Puma seemed to herald the end of the small coupe market in Europe, with the Vauxhall Tigra entering a short hiatus later on, as well as similar models from other manufacturers.