Why Is the Ford Puma ST Forbidden Fruit for the US?

With the death of the Fusion, the smallest car Ford offers in the US—apart from the Mustang—is the EcoSport crossover. And it’s not exactly Ford’s strongest offering. However, in Europe, the Blue Oval offers another subcompact crossover: the Puma. And like the Explorer and Edge before it, there’s now a Ford Puma ST available. But why isn’t it available in the SUV- and crossover-crazy US?

The 2021 Ford Puma ST is a better EcoSport

A red 2020 Ford EcoSport Titanium drives through a snowy forest
2020 Ford EcoSport Titanium | Ford

While the Ford EcoSport has a few strengths, Motor Trend and Autotrader report, overall, the subcompact crossover falls behind its rivals.

Consumer Reports says it’s “neither Eco nor Sport.” Car and Driver reports that neither the 123-hp 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder nor the 166-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes for good acceleration. They’re also not as fuel-efficient as their size suggests. Plus, the Ford EcoSport’s ride quality and handling trail behind the competition. And while it’s cheaper than some of its competitors, such as the Hyundai Tucson, it’s not worth those savings.

In contrast, the Ford Puma handles and rides noticeably better than the EcoSport, Top Gear reports. The ride’s a bit stiff, Car reports, but it’s well-dampened. With the optional mild-hybrid powertrain, the Puma’s 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder puts out a combined 153 hp. And it even offers optional massaging front seats, MT reports.

A green 2021 Ford Puma ST
2021 Ford Puma ST | Ford

Then there’s the newly-announced 2021 Ford Puma ST. It’s front-wheel-drive-only, Hagerty reports, unlike the EcoSport, which offers AWD. But it’s noticeably more powerful, with a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine rated at 197 hp and 236 lb-ft. It’s linked to a 6-speed manual and a limited-slip differential and can go 0-62 in 6.7 seconds. That’s just over 3 seconds faster than an AWD Ford EcoSport with the 2.0-liter engine, Car and Driver reports.

The rest of the Ford Puma ST has also been tweaked to handle the extra power, MT reports. It has stiffer rear suspension, with new springs and dampers at all 4 wheels. The subcompact crossover also has a quicker steering rack, adjustable driving modes, and bolstered sport seats. Plus, it rides on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires designed specifically for it.

Why isn’t the Ford Puma ST sold in the US?

On paper at least, the Ford Puma ST seems a lot more appealing than the EcoSport. So why isn’t it sold here?

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That question becomes even more striking when you consider the platforms the Puma and EcoSport ride on. Both are based on the Ford Fiesta; the Puma ST even uses the European Fiesta ST’s engine. But while the Ford Fiesta and Fiesta ST were sold in the US for a time, we never received the updated model. It launched in 2018, Road & Track reports, while the old model soldiered on in the US until 2019.

2019 Ford Fiesta ST
2019 Ford Fiesta ST | Ford

However, while the Puma is based on the new Fiesta’s platform, the EcoSport rides on the outgoing model’s platform. And this generation of EcoSport actually dates back to 2012, Car and Driver reports, when it launched in Brazil. So, it’s not a matter of the Fiesta not being sold in the US that’s keeping Ford from selling the Puma here.

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But that’s also likely the reason why Ford won’t offer the current-gen Puma in the US. The previous-gen Fiesta was planned as a global car, with the US included in that ‘global’ statement. But Ford wasn’t planning on selling the updated Fiesta here; ‘global’ in this case excludes the US, MT explains. Since the Puma’s underpinnings and the ST’s powertrain aren’t US-certified, Ford can’t sell the crossover here. And indeed, Ford Authority confirms the current-gen Puma won’t be sold in the US.

Could it make it over here in the future?

2020 Ford Ranger driving in the forest with lush green grass
2020 Ford Ranger | Ford

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However, that doesn’t mean Ford couldn’t offer the Puma in the US in the future. That’s what happened with the Ranger after all. After it was canceled in the US, it continued being made for overseas markets. And after about a decade and a half, it returned.

2021 Hyundai Kona N Line teaser
2021 Hyundai Kona N Line teaser | Hyundai

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Plus, as Motor Authority points out, Ford isn’t the only manufacturer offering a sporty subcompact crossover. Hyundai is planning on a Kona N Line, and may even sell a full-on Kona N. Maybe if that does well, the Blue Oval will reconsider keeping the Puma ST as forbidden fruit.

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