1997 Ford Puma 1.7 from UK and Ireland
The Puma is the only decent small coupe produced in the last ten years
Thermostat failed after a track day.
Driver's side door latch failed.
Engine developed slight ticking sound (tappets, I think, were the cause).
Great little car; handles really well on both road and track, but could do with a bit more power.
It was an extremely reliable car and only let me down twice; once after a very hot track day, when the thermostat failed, and once when the door latch failed resulting in my being unable to close the driver's door.
There are many myths about the Puma, especially concerning the 1.7 engine and its longevity. Mine did over 115,000 miles, including 12 competitive sprints, and around 100 laps of Castle Combe, and the only fault was a slight noise from the tappets.
For the road, the suspension is spot on, but for track driving it is somewhat soft. I replaced my springs and dampers with Koni adjustables, which gained about 2 seconds a lap at Castle Combe, but made the car a bit too stiff for comfort on back roads. Handling is very neutral with both setups; gentle understeer is the main characteristic, but this can be balanced on the throttle, and the rear end can be made to swing round.
Brakes on the pre-2000 models are not brilliant, although they are just about good enough for road use. For heavier use the best thing to do is to replace them with the bigger discs and calipers from the later model.
The engine needs to be revved, and it could do with a little more power. The 153 BHP version in the Racing Puma would be ideal (although this version weighs more, obviating some of this advantage.)
One thing that did annoy me was the rust. This is supposedly a galvanised bodyshell with zinc coated panels, yet I did have a bit of bubbling on the sills and on the rear bootlid. Nothing too drastic (or structural) but disappointing nonetheless.
Overall it was quite a cheap car to run, and withstood being abused on track.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 15th August, 2007