With its sporty looks, nippy acceleration and nimble handling, the Ford Puma is a likeable small SUV.

It’s based on the Fiesta, but sits 30mm higher, is longer, wider and looks very different – so it’s much more than just a jacked-up version of its stablemate.

Happily, the Puma’s closest likeness to the Fiesta is its sharp handling, notably the precision and agility it offers on twisty roads.

The Puma’s rivals include the likes of the Nissan Juke, Skoda Kamiq and VW’s T-Roc.

Halesowen News: The Puma catches the sunlight in these images in rural Kirlees (left and top left) and is seen during a trip to Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield (top right)

There are several different options for buyers, but the test car came in sporty ST-Line X spec with a 155PS (114kW) petrol-hybrid engine mated with a six-speed manual gearbox.

It’s the most powerful Puma available apart from the Puma ST – and certainly provides a satisfying drive.

The mild hybrid system works well and provides a nice balance between performance and economy.

The hybrid boost makes the three-cylinder engine feel nippy, with the sprint from 0-62mph possible in nine seconds - far faster than many more expensive SUVs.

The Puma pulls well from low revs, with swift acceleration aided by the super-slick gearbox. The way the e-boost fills in the turbo lag is particularly impressive.

Halesowen News: The Ford Puma in West Yorkshire surroundings

The clever hybrid system also switches the engine off when the car is coming to a halt, while still providing power to the steering.

Fuel economy comes in at around 47mpg on the official combined cycle - underlining the efficiency of a downsized 1.0-litre engine with 48V assistance.

Handling-wise, it feels agile, grippy and trustworthy.

The firmer set-up prioritises good driving dynamics over comfort, although the ride isn’t so harsh as to cause you any great concern.

The steering is quick and accurate, with excellent turn-in when cornering.

Halesowen News: The Ford Puma in West Yorkshire surroundings

In terms of looks, it has bags of character, with distinctive headlights, a prominent grille, eye-catching curves and a neat rear spoiler.

The finishing touch on this version was the 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels.

Step inside and the interior is clean, crisp and well laid-out.

The cabin isn’t dissimilar to that found in the Fiesta, although the seating position is higher and more upright, plus the car’s larger dimensions translate into more space.

The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 8-inch touchscreen are clear and responsive.

You also get tech such as voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat-nav, Bluetooth, and two USB ports. It’s all pretty straightforward to use and intuitive.

The ST-Line has a number of nice features such as a flat-bottomed ST-Line steering wheel, an aluminium gear lever, and a leather handbrake.

Halesowen News: The Ford Puma in West Yorkshire surroundings

This ST-Line X version also came with a wireless charging pad, and an excellent B&O sound system, and includes luxury features such as partial leather upholstery, and privacy glass in the windows.

As well as having a trick under the bonnet in the form of the hybrid engine, the Puma also has a trick in the boot.

The loadspace incorporates an innovative new MegaBox lower load compartment.

Not only does it provide an extra 80 litres of storage space, and is able to house items up to 115cm tall if needed, the MegaBox also features a waterproof lining and drain plug, making it easy to clean with water.

Halesowen News: The clever boot

That makes it the ideal space for storing wet boots or muddy sports gear, further enhancing the car's practicality.

In conclusion,the Puma will appeal to those who want a practical small SUV that's also fun to drive and won't cost the earth in terms of running costs.

In ticking those boxes, Ford has come up with its best offering yet in this sector. Rivals should look out!

The Lowdown

Ford Puma ST-Line X

ENGINE: 1.0-litre ecoboost petrol/electric hybrid (MHEV)

PRICE: £29,050 with options (list price £24,825)

ECONOMY: 47.1mpg combined

EMISSIONS: 136g/km

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 9 seconds, top speed of 127mph

TRANSMISSION: Six speed manual, front wheel drive