There’s one thing that’s always been popular and relatively inexpensive to do for Ford (Europe), and that’s to create a fun-looking new coupe based on the body of a mainstream car. With the 1997 Ford Puma, the company returned to its winning design, in grand style. It was based on the 1996 Ford Fiesta, which had been widely praised for its ‘unexpected’ excellent handling, and was one of the first cars designed almost entirely electronically, straight on the screen, and then modeled in clay, again with the help of a computer. If anything, the Puma handled even better that the Fiesta, and the result was a superbly-handling mini-coupe that could hold its head high to anything on the road.
The Puma was powered by a 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing, that developed 123 horsepower. The engine was developed in collaboration with Yamaha, known for their superb engines (remember the Taurus SHO V6?), and could pull the little coupe to a top speed of 124 miles per hour, and accelerate to 60 in an honest 8.9 seconds. A Racing Puma was also developed and offered; it produced 155 horsepower from a superbly tuned 1.7-liter engine, and could accelerate to 60 in 7.9 seconds.
The 1997 Ford Puma was a well-priced coupe with impressive performance, particularly in the handling department, and with a smooth and powerful engine that was simply a joy to drive. It helped that the Puma looked so good, too!