Ford Puma ST Mountune M260 2021 UK review

Get under way and you instantly feel the extra mid-range muscle, that 269lb ft helping to shake off the subtle sense of inertia that afflicts the standard Puma. In fact, there is so much twist above 2000rpm that in the damp conditions we set out in, those track-biased Cup 2s can easily be made to spin away their traction in first, second and third gear.

As the roads dry out, it’s possible to more fully exploit the upgraded engine, the thick seam of torque giving the Puma a genuinely startling turn of cross-country speed. Of course it will rev happily, and the extra power at the top end can be felt in a more concerted rush for the redline and a nicely understated rasp from that exhaust, but it does its best work between 2000rpm and 4500rpm, where you can short-shift up the nicely mechanical six-speed box (the smoothly contoured £59 Mountune gearknob feeling better in your hand than the standard item). 

If you want, there’s a ‘flat-shift’ tuning option that allows whip-crack gearchanges without lifting the throttle, or you can go for what the engineers grinningly refer to as the ASMO (Anti-Social Mountune Overrun) map that gives the same power and torque but ditches the full-bore gearchange function for more pops, farts and bangs from the exhaust (apparently this is the option favoured by its younger clientele). It’s not subtle, but the sensation of being chased down the road by distant gunfire isn’t without its appeal.

Our car is based on the Performance Pack upgrade, which means a limited-slip diff that boosts traction but also enjoys an energetic game of ‘hunt the camber’. With all that extra torque being channelled through the front axle, the Puma can get very lively over uneven surfaces, the steering twitching this way and that as you come on and off the power. It’s not wayward as such, but on a bumpy road you’ll need your wits about you.

The rest of the car is, unsurprisingly, very like the standard ST – meaning it’s huge fun but not without its flaws. You sit high behind the wheel, which gives you a great view out on unfamiliar roads, but also means you feel perched on rather than ensconced in the car. The steering is fast and accurate and there’s plenty of turn-in bite (particularly when those sticky Michelins are up to temperature), yet there’s enough adjustability to get a surprising degree of mid-corner rotation (although the ESP never fully disengages). It’s not as expressive and entertaining as the Fiesta, but then it’s higher and heavier.


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