The subject of this week’s road test will be a vastly more common sight than its namesake ever was.

Although the original Ford Racing Puma of the late 1990s was an interesting and much-loved hot hatch, only 500 examples were ever built. And with a price of £23,000 at the time (nearly £41,000 in today’s money), they didn’t exactly f ly off the production line into the hands of owners. In fact, that price proved so prohibitive that many Racing Pumas had to be sold off internally.

With prices starting at £28,495, the new Puma ST is a considerably more accessible, usable and versatile kind of compact performance car than Ford’s last fast Puma ever was. It’s the latest addition to a portfolio of Ford Performance vehicles that has kept hot hatchbacks such as the Focus ST and Fiesta ST at its core, but that also needs to branch out and move with the times.

This, then, is the first of the Blue Oval’s European-market SUVs to be given the significant performance overhaul typically denoted by ST badges.

And if the standard modern-day Puma is anything to go by, this ST version should have plenty of driver appeal. The base car has already proved itself to be the keen driver’s choice in a segment populated by dynamically bland compact crossover hatchbacks and, as we’ll explain in a moment, the modifications Ford Performance has made aren’t exactly small fry.

The Puma line-up at a glance

The Puma range has four trim levels, not including the new ST performance version, starting with Titanium and extending upwards through ST Line, ST Line X and ST Line Vignale.