New Puma: our verdict
By Andrew English
At a glance
Designed with the US market in mind, there's more than a hint of Americana to the Reflex's styling. Based on a Fiesta platform, the blue oval model would be both compact and cheap to produce.
You wait four years for a Ford Puma replacement and then, just like London buses, two come along at once. Mazda's Kabura is a great-looking compact coupé, but now Ford has built its own Fiesta-based sportster - the Reflex. And in a major exclusive, Auto Express hit the road in the newcomer, first!
With record high fuel prices and a growing appreciation that drivers will have to curb their thirst for gas-guzzlers, reality is hitting home for motorists in the USA. That's what has prompted Ford to turn its attention to building a stylish small coupé once again.
While the Reflex is still a concept at this stage, it has a stunning shape. With a hunched rear and wide, slanted wheelarches - there to disguise the roof height required to give enough headroom for the rear seat - this car is a fitting successor to the original Puma. Designers have concentrated on creating a look that's muscular and expensive.
"You can add perceived value by making the sheet metal properly," said Ford's design chief, Briton Peter Horbury. "The idea is to give the impression that this car is worth more than its rivals, and you can do that for nothing."
The Reflex isn't all visual trickery, however. There's plenty of innovation here, from the solar panels in the lamps, to inflatable seatbelts, to the netting seat fabrics which keep occupants cool and reduce the size of the chairs.
Inside, the cockpit is cosy, but there is more than enough head and legroom for the occupants in the front, even if the rear is a little cramped for more than two young children, or one small adult. The driver can even monitor the integral rear-facing baby seat with a 'baby-cam' video camera! The Reflex is light and airy inside, with large windows and clear roof panels. A space-age centre console floats between the front seats, housing lurid blue switches. Ahead of the driver, the instrument binnacle hinges out of the facia when the ignition is engaged.
Under the bonnet, the Reflex is fitted with a futuristic hybrid diesel powertrain. Employing the gutsy 1.4-litre TDCi oil-burning engine to propel the front wheels, the hybrid system features advanced lithium-ion batteries similar to those in a mobile phone.
These are charged by the engine and over-run braking, and supply power to a small electric motor which drivers the rear wheels. Yet while all this is possible on a production machine, it is also expensive, bulky, heavy - and highly unlikely to make it into Ford showrooms. As it stands, this attractive concept runs on batteries only, and is limited to low speeds at present.
Nevertheless, given its Fiesta underpinnings, the production car is certain to be every bit as entertaining as the Puma. With capable dynamics and jaw-dropping looks, the Reflex offers a tantalising glimpse of the future.
Futuristic display sets cabin apart
Car is spiritual successor to Puma
In the hot seat: Our man English sees how stunning new coupé handles
Headlamps contain solar panels
Front wheels are driven by diesel
Reflex looks most muscular from the rear, with wide haunches and wild tail-lights. As part of hi-tech hybrid drivetrain, battery powers back wheels