With Lamborghini and Ferrari vying to do ever more interesting things with enormous V12 engines, and the rest of the industry electrifying anything that moves, you could be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t too much room left in the middle for those of us unable to lavish six figures on a car - or unwilling to go battery-powered. Well, this isn’t necessarily going to have you jumping around the room, but Ford has today announced that it will bring together its 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine and ST badge on a new Puma variant.
True enough, the result is not going to trouble a Purosangue owner’s heart rate. Together with the introduction of its seven-speed ‘Powershift’ dual-clutch automatic, the new ST is intended to tickle your parsimonious bone at least as much as your funny one - Ford reckons it’ll average 44.8mpg and emit a kindly 144g/km CO2; a modest improvement on the more powerful, manual-only 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit. Additionally, it earns 48-volt mild-hybrid status, so it ought to be as convenient to drive as a pack of huskies in sight of home. Which, presumably, is what its customers have been asking for.
What it will not be, of course, is neck-troublingly fast. Thanks in part to more efficient energy recovery and a faster charging lithium-ion battery pack that has claimed an additional 10hp from the hybrid gubbings - and to ‘unique software tuning’ on the turbocharged three-pot - this 170hp derivative of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost is the most powerful yet. But at 7.4 seconds to 62mph, it still lags behind the 200hp ST by the better part of a second. Its maker says it has recalibrated the Powershift ‘box to better suit the 183lb ft of torque available at 3,000rpm, although it’s hard to imagine its in-gear performance rivalling the 236lb ft available to the 1.5-litre owner.
Amusingly, Ford points out in the bumf that the ST Powershift ‘produces exactly twice the power-per-litre of a 2002 Focus ST170’ which is an odd claim to fame given that model’s famously anemic performance. The manufacturer is on safer ground when it draws our collective attention to the fact that the Powershift version shares the optimised chassis of the existing ST - which means a 50 per cent stiffer rear twist-beam, Ford’s patented ‘force vectoring’ springs and a steering rack 25 per cent faster than the standard Puma. No mention of the Quaife limited-slip diff that originally came with the Performance Pack (unsurprisingly) but you can likely expect much the same tightly-wound, go-right-at-‘em Puma ST driving experience from the newcomer.
“The Ford Performance team called on all of its experience developing the original Puma ST to deliver ST signature fun-to-drive without losing the practicality of our compact SUV, and our new Powershift derivative is even more versatile,” remarked Stefan Muenzinger, Ford Performance manager, Europe. “The multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is combined with a paddle-shift-operable, seven-speed, dual-clutch Ford Powershift transmission – fusing an energised driving experience and everyday usability.”
Offering an ST-badged Puma with two-pedals was clearly the priority here, and Ford deserves some credit for taking the time to tweak its now venerable Ecoboost motor for the application - it would likely have found buyers with only the pre-existing 155hp to call upon. But the Powershift model is an additional reminder that more power is needed if you hope to live up to the badge when dealing with even small SUVs. The outgoing Fiesta, lest we forget, was still a giggle with just 140hp from the same engine, and didn’t need mild hybrid assistance to average 112g/km CO2. Those were the days.
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