Ford is readying an ST performance version of its new Puma SUV, and our spy photographers have caught it completely undisguised for the first time.
The new images confirm that the Hyundai Kona N rival will feature a trapezoidal lower grille design, large-diameter performance-inspired alloy wheels shod in low-profile tyres, and the same wing-mounted headlight clusters as the standard model.
The big clue as to this prototype’s performance ambitions is a prominent lower bodykit that extends around the car from the splitter-style front bumper to a new rear bumper designed around a twin exhaust tailpipe – the same as that fitted to the Fiesta ST.
Official details of the model’s drivetrain and chassis set-up are still yet to be confirmed, but previous images of the prototype raising a rear wheel under hard cornering show it will feature a stiffer suspension set-up in the same vein as the Fiesta ST. The big wheels appear to hide larger-diameter front brakes, too, while the Puma seems lower to the ground than the stock model.
Ford global development boss Hau Thai-Tang told Autocar last year that the Puma “would be a good place for us to look” in expanding the ST range beyond the Fiesta and Focus in Europe. The Puma ST is expected to share its key running gear, including a 197bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, with the Fiesta ST.
As confirmed by the latest photos, the ST version of the Puma will not vary drastically from the ST Line version of the car, which was revealed back in April 2019. But we can expect a bespoke chassis set-up, possibly including an optional limited-slip differential, selectable drive modes and a launch control function.
Thai-Tang said Ford is keen to continue leveraging its Ford Performance arm for road car development, but the company would not simply look to create an ST version of each car. In addition to its two European hot hatches, Ford also makes ST versions of its Edge and Explorer large SUVs.
“We look at creating STs by very objective measures to make sure it is credible as an ST,” said Thai-Tang. “Do we have the right building blocks [on which to base it]?”
A new Focus RS is also understood to be in development, but hinges on its engineers creating a high-output, full-hybrid powertrain that fits in with the new EU regime for average fleet CO2 emissions
“We have nothing to announce but we recognise the importance of that car,” said Thai-Tang.
“We’ll see where we go,” Ford’s automotive president Joe Hinrichs said. “The world is changing on powertrain and propulsion. No hints, but there’s a lot to talk through.”