By Ken Fletcher

Despite the lack of a glittering live event, Scottish motoring journalist have selected the Ford Puma as the Scottish Car of the Year for 2020.

The winning car revives the name of a favourite Ford of yesteryear, in a handsome compact crossover package that reflected the trends of today’s car buyers.

%image('11977943', type='article-full', caption='Ford's award-winning Puma is the epitome of a small crossover and handles well on the road - this is the ST-Line version', alt='Ford's award-winning Puma is the epitome of a small crossover and handles well on the road - this is the ST-Line version')

The award marks the first time Ford has lifted the trophy in more than a decade and is its fourth Scottish Car of the Year title. The original Focus was the event’s inaugural winner in 1998 and the Mondeo, and Fiesta, won in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

The coveted award is given out annually by the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers – with yours truly as one of the selection panel.

The ASMW’s 14 full members nominated their favourite cars of 2020, before whittling them down to a shortlist and voting for a winner.

ASMW president, Jack McKeown, said: “Some years the vote is razor thin but 2020 saw a clear winner. Our members voted overwhelmingly for the Puma as Scottish Car of the Year.

%image('12167544', type='article-full', caption='The Ford Puma and ASMW president, Jack McKeown, outside V and A Dundee, the city’s iconic new design museum, with the Scottish Car of the Year trophy', alt='The Ford Puma and ASMW president, Jack McKeown, outside V and A Dundee, the city’s iconic new design museum, with the Scottish Car of the Year trophy')

“It’s a terrific looking car that packs plenty of space for the growing family into a compact shape. A refined ride, zesty engines, a well laid out interior and competitive pricing are among its many attributes.

“What clinched it for our members is just how fun to drive it is. Sharing a chassis with the sharp-handling Fiesta means it grips beautifully through corners and shows small SUVs can put a smile on keen drivers’ faces.”

Lisa Brankin, managing director of Ford of Britain and Ireland, commented: “For the Ford Puma to end its first year on sale as Scottish Car of the Year is testimony to the vehicle and the team behind its launch. Ford Puma has already appeared as one of Scotland’s top 10 best-selling cars.

"Buyers are recognising its mix of style, connectivity, practicality and hybridisation. Thanks to the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers for adding its influential endorsement.”

Two very different cars were joint SCOTY runners up – Honda’s latest Jazz Hybrid and Land Rover’s new Defender both tied for second place.

Land Rover had an almost impossible task in replacing perhaps its most iconic model, with the original Defender reaching the end of the line after nearly 70 years of continuous production.

Remarkably, the newcomer exceeded all expectations. Not only is the new Defender Land Rover’s most capable ever vehicle off road, it is also supremely comfortable on road. "The new design looks fantastic and Land Rover has succeeded in modernising the car without sacrificing its go-anywhere ability or its rugged spirit," said Mr McKeown.

Jaguar Land Rover's UK marketing director, Anthony Bradbury, added: “Scotland is a hugely important market for Land Rover, and we are very proud of the relationship we have built with those customers who are seeking the ultimate in all-wheel drive capability.

"The new Defender continues to hold the character and authenticity of the original Defender, while providing advanced connected technologies and functional safety both on and off-road.”

The Jazz Hybrid was praised as being a return to form for Honda’s small, but spacious hatchback. The fourth generation model combines the brand’s legendary reliability with an efficient petrol-electric engine, state of the art technology, and an interior that feels more spacious than the car’s modest dimensions can possibly account for.

Rebecca Stead, head of automobiles for Honda UK, said: “We are delighted that the Jazz Hybrid has been recognised by the ASMW as the runner up for this year’s Scottish Car of the Year. The all-new Jazz Hybrid appeared on British roads for the first time earlier this year, with its new features including anti-fatigue seats, panoramic view and a comprehensive suite of safety and driver-assist features.

"Scotland has always been an important market place for Honda, so it truly is a fantastic achievement to end the year on.”

The SCOTY Hall of Fame:

1998: Ford Focus;

1999: Jaguar S-Type;

2000: Audi A2;

2001: Jaguar X-Type;

2002: Mazda6;

2003: Volvo XC90;

2004: Peugeot 407;

2005: BMW 3 Series;

2006: Jaguar XK;

2007: Ford Mondeo;

2008: Ford Fiesta;

2009: Land Rover Discovery 4;

2010: Kia Sportage;

2011: Range Rover Evoque;

2012: Dacia Duster;

2013: Volkswagen Golf;

2014: Hyundai i10;

2015: Vauxhall Astra;

2016: Volvo V90;

2017: Land Rover Discovery;

2018: Jaguar I-PACE;

2019: Mazda 3;

2020: Ford Puma.

Here's what we thought of the new Ford Puma

In the dim and distant past there was a wee coupe from Ford called the Puma – but it was so tiny, it was more like a regular tabby cat capable of a meow, rather than a roar.

It did look the part, but lacked the claws to race to the top of the tree. So, it didn't last that long and it's a name that's been missing from the blue oval's cattery for more than 20 years.

But now, the name has been resurrected for another paw at the market and this time it looks like it might get a claw hold – especially now that it comes with one of those ever so green mild PHEV configurations.

At least it's now the size of a Puma – not quite a lion-sized Edge – but a handy-sized SUV-style none-the-less. That makes it a four door, rather than the two-door coupe it once was.

It's quite an indication of how engine technology has come along as it is now the much used and vaunted one-litre Ecoboost turbo petrol that lies under the hood producing the purring noises. That comes in two guises, either a 125 or 153 bhp (as tested) motor and both have the 48-volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology built in to add some extra bite.

Don't expect electricity to operate it on its own, though, but it does cut the tax bill down.

It's also clear that Ford is putting a bit of muscle into producing the Puma – spending €200m in a production facility in Romania to make it – and it already has a fair following, with more than 7000 sold this year.

The model on test was the ST-Line X with a six-speed auto box, but more recently a new seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission can be had carrying Ford's luxury Vignale nomenclature.

The tested model was fairly nifty, doing the timed 0-62mph run in 8.9 seconds and it was very able at handling that performance. It's not a bad performance considering owning one of these starts at just around £20,000, though with options tagged on to the test car and its X spec' meant that it was more than £27k that would stream out of your bank account.

Ford has made much of the practicalities of this as a useful family/leisure style vehicle and one of its literal hidden gems is the ‘megabox’-equipped boot. This is built in to where you'd expect the spare wheel to be – remember those!

Total luggage room is 456 litres but the megabox adds an extra 68 litres of space ideal for the wettest of wet weather gear, given that it even has a drain hole in the bottom.

As for how much it costs to run, the book said it would average more than 50 mpg, but as usual the book doesn't live in Scotland and so probably mid-40s is a better assumption to make.

For the driver, there's not too much to scare you in the way of fussiness in the dash and as is usual, there is also a fuss-free hook-up for telephones using the touch-screen. This vehicle also had the optional panoramic roof (add £950 just for that) and it's great for when the weather is good (again, if you can remember that!) plus a 10-speaker Band and Olufsen stereo to drown out any rain thundering on the roof!

All in all and enjoyable little SUV that sits well just below Ford's Kuga, but above the EcoSport in that sector of the market.