Here's a Ford Focus with a bit of Crossover attitude. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the Focus Active.
Ten Second Review
The Focus Active is the car you buy if you like the idea of a mid-sized SUV but can't quite bring yourself to buy one. In this lifestyle-orientated Focus derivative, you get a higher ride height and a bit of fashionable bling but you don't have to join the crossover crowd to get it. In fact, there are hardly any compromises to make in buying this trendy Focus derivative. And of course you get all the design improvements that Ford has painstakingly built into the current version of this design.
The rise and rise of the SUV market shows no sign of slowing down. But not everyone is convinced by the idea of the Crossover class of car. Do you really need something with Jeep-like styling to complete the school run or commute through the suburbs to work? Probably not. It's difficult though, not to be attracted by the idea of a car that sits you a little higher than the traffic around you. And one that looks as if it might occasionally venture from the beaten track.
The concept of delivering this for customers who don't want to make a complete switch to a fully-fledged SUV is what has driven Ford to create its range of 'Active' Fiesta and Focus models. We're going to check out what the Focus Active has to offer here.
It's easy to dismiss cars like this as purely marketing packaging exercises - and some of them are. At least with the Focus Active though, Ford has made some sort of effort to provide drive dynamics that, to some extent anyway, deliver on the promises of the 'hatchback with a backpack' styling approach. The Focus Active chassis features unique springs, dampers, stabiliser bars, and front and rear knuckle geometries, alongside a ride height raised 30mm front and 34mm rear over the standard model.
The SLA system aims to optimise comfort and response, and features an isolated sub frame that delivers better compliance over larger bumps in the road, for smoother journeys. There's also a selectable drive mode system, with two settings; a 'Slippery' mode which adjusts ESC and traction control settings for increased confidence on surfaces with reduced grip such as mud, snow and ice. And a 'Trail' mode, which helps maintain momentum on soft surfaces such as sand. Engine-wise, there are various options. Petrol people choose between a 125PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder engine in standard or mHEV forms - plus there's an mHEV 155PS version of that 1.0T unit. Or a 1.5-litre 150PS EcoBoost engine. Plus there's also a 120PS 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel. An 8-speed auto gearbox is optional.
Design and Build
Buyers choose between five-door hatch or estate body styles. Either way, you'll recognise this Active model by its 30mm raised ride height. And maybe also by its black painted finish for the roof and mirror caps. Black roof rails are standard and the base models get 17-inch 5-spoke 'Foundry Black' painted alloy wheels. Plusher 'Active X' derivatives swap these for 18-inch 5x2-spoke 'Absolute Black' painted rims. Rear privacy glass, along with unique skid plates and side rocker mouldings also feature as do twin exhaust pipes. So there's plenty of pavement theatre to suggest an active lifestyle.
Inside, there are fewer changes with these Active variants, though you do get blue-stitched upholstery and branded door scuff plates. Otherwise, you'll appreciate the higher quality interior delivered by this much improved Focus design. Up-front, it all feels of really decent quality and shoulder room is impressive. There's plenty of space in the back too and little touches help; the rear doors for instance have been specially profiled so that back passengers can see out more easily. There's very reasonable levels of boot space too. In the estate version, there's a class-leading 1.14m of width between the wheel arches and 1,700mm of load length with the rear seats folded. That means 1,650-litres of carriage capacity.
Market and Model
'Active' versions of this Focus are priced at the same level as the sporty 'ST-Line' derivatives, which means that prices start from around £24,000. That's for the five-door hatch version: as usual with Ford, there's an £1,100 premium to pay if you want an estate. And you can have an 8-speed auto gearbox for £1,450 more with the non-hybrid engines.
As well as all the features we've mentioned in our 'Design & Build' section, standard 'Active' variants get LED front fog lamps, selectable drive modes with 'Slippery' and 'Trail' settings and a navigation system built into the 'SYNC3' centre-dash infotainment screen. Anything that can't tell you will probably be covered off by the 4.2-inch colour screen provided in the instrument cluster. There's also keyless start and all-round parking sensors are an affordable option. To this tally, the plusher 'Active X' models add a panorama glass roof, power-folding mirrors, all-round parking sensors, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers. Inside, there's partial-leather upholstery, an auto-dipping rear view mirror, dual zone climate control, heated front seats and power adjustment for the driver's chair.
Cost of Ownership
Ford has managed to create the Active package in a way that has very little effect on running cost efficiency. So the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine in this car manages up to 55.4mpg on the combined cycle and 116g/km of CO2 in manual form. The 150PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol unit manages 44.8mpg and 142g/km as a manual. And the 1.5-litre EcoBlue 120PS diesel variant manages 62.8mpg and 119g/km in manual form. All the stats we've just given you are based on a five-door hatch standard-spec variant (you'll do marginally worse with the estate). And are WLTP-cycle figures.
The relatively light platform this generation Focus rides upon helps these stats. As does the standard 'Active Grille Shutter' system that closes a flap in the front gill to reduce drag at speed. Plus there's clever 'Air Curtain' technology that guides airflow across the front wheels in a way that reduces turbulence. What else? Well we'll tell you about servicing, which on all engines is required every two years or 18,000 miles - whichever comes first. Two pre-paid servicing plans are available; one that costs £340 and covers you for two years and two services; and another that costs £550, is transferrable to future owners and covers three years and three services. Maintenance bookings can be done online through the 'My Ford' portal.
If what you really want is an SUV, you'll dismiss the Focus Active as a piece of marketing frippery. But if you're looking for a family hatch, but you'd actually like a slightly more adventurous-looking one, it may be right up your street. OK, so you don't get 4WD - but then hardly any small or mid-sized SUV provides that either. The same could be said of a requirement for a raised driving position - though this car's 30mm ride height increase does provide a little of what you might look for in that regard.
Overall, it depends what you want. If what you really want is a Focus, this is one that'll give you a bit of extra peace of mind the next time a snowy or icy snap strikes, thanks to the extra traction afforded by its 'Slippery' and 'Trail' driving modes. And it'll fit in nicely on the school run too.
Ford's Focus is best known as a family hatch, but if you need a little added practicality, look at the estate version before you get drawn into the SUV marketing spiel. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Ford Focus Estate has been given a proper working over in MK4 form, with more boot space, sleeker looks, a more user-friendly interior, more efficient engines and some suspension tweaks that aim to remind us what made the Focus great in the first place. It's not the biggest or the cheapest estate in its sector, but it might just be the most appealing all-rounder.
Such is the pull of small SUVs that the estate car seems to have had its last rites read time and again, yet still they struggle on. The reason why they refuse to die? They're a good idea. What's more, if people were honest about why they really needed a vehicle, an estate car would make more practical sense. They carry just as much as many SUVs, yet they're better to drive, they're lighter and more aerodynamic which means better efficiency - and they're usually cheaper to buy too.
Ford's brought us some brilliant estates down the years but as much as customers have warmed to the Focus hatch, the five-door estate has never occupied a huge slice of the overall Focus sales pie chart. Perhaps this current version can formulate a more convincing argument.
This fourth generation Focus estate, like its predecessors, has a reputation as a family station wagon with the ability to entertain at the wheel - and if you enjoy your driving, that's something you'll appreciate pretty early on the first time you try one. Twenty years ago, the original version of this model achieved much the same thing by standardising advanced multi-link rear suspension across its model line-up. Today, you get that too - in contrast to the hatch body shape which restricts this more advanced damping set-up to its most powerful 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol and 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel variants.
To give you the engine line-up in full, things kick off with the brand's familiar three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol powerplant, available in a 125PS variant that features cylinder deactivation, plus it can also be had in mHEV mild hybrid form in 125 or 155PS forms. Next up for petrol people is the 1.5-litre four cylinder EcoBoost engine with 150PS, borrowed from the Fiesta ST hot hatch, this unit also available with 182PS. The Focus ST gets a 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol unit with 280PS. As for diesels, well there are 90 and 120PS versions of Ford's 1.5-litre EcoBlue powerplant, then 150 and 190PS versions of the company's 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel.
The ride isn't overly firm, but body control through the bends is exemplary, allowing you at the wheel to make the most of the stiff new C2 platform, the feelsome power steering and the torque vectoring control system that helps you get the power down through the bends. It all combines to create a car that really can still reward at the wheel, even in its most affordable forms: there's still nothing else in this segment that feels quite the same. Yet it still does the sensible stuff well too, being decently refined, with confident braking and a lovely tactile gearshift.
Design and Build
The styling has useful evolved but looks a touch conservative in this station wagon guise. The front of the cabin's of much higher quality than before and comes complete with Ford's latest 'SYNC3' infotainment touchscreen in most models. There's space for four adults inside without too much of a squeeze, but levering a third body onto the rear bench will be a bit of a pinch. Since this is an estate though, our emphasis needs to be on the luggage bay, which really is a lot bigger than it is in the hatch. A typically-specified estate model fitted with a mini-spare offers up to 575-litres of capacity - or as much as 728-litres if you load to the roof.
If you need more room and want to push forward the 60:40-split rear bench, then up to 1,620-litres of space is on offer, thanks to 175mm of extra loading length this time round and an extra 43mm of roof height for this generation model, an increase apparently calculated so as to enable owners to comfortably accommodate a dog crate. Go for this station wagon variant and auto-folding 'Easy Fold' rear seat backs come as standard, plus you can have a gesture-controlled powered tailgate if you're prepared to pay extra for it.
Market and Model
This estate body style attracts a premium of £1,100 over the equivalent hatch. The Focus Estate range kicks off with the base 'Zetec' variant priced at around £23,500, before progressing through 'ST-Line', 'ST-Line X', 'Titanium', 'Titanium X' and 'Vignale' variants. An SUV-style 'Active' version and an 'ST' performance variant are also available. Equipment levels reflect the fact that most customers will be paying upwards of £20,000 for this once very affordable family hatch. Even the base Focus 'Zetec' comes as standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, alomng with an 8-inch SYNC3 touchscreen incorporating a DAB digital radio with Bluetooth and Emergency Assist. Plus there's an electronic parking brake, autonomous emergency braking, tyre pressure monitoring, Hill Start Assist and a Lane-Keeping Aid.
If you want the base 100PS version of the 1.0 EcoBoost engine, you have to have 'Zetec' trim. Most will choose this 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine in 125PS form. If you can afford a little more and enjoy your driving, then you can go for one of the more powerful engines that come fitted with more sophisticated 'control blade' multi-link rear suspension package. These include a 150PS 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel and a 1.5-litre three cylinder EcoBoost petrol option, offered with either 150 or 182PS.
Cost of Ownership
Let's get to the figures, which we'll quote using WLTP measurement for fuel and WLTP measurement for CO2. Bear in mind with all the engines that if you choose the optional 8-speed auto gearbox, you'll hit your efficiency readings by around 10% - which isn't the case if you go for a Volkswagen Group model with DSG auto transmission.
The latest version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit that most choose gets increased injection pressure to facilitate efficiency. In mHEV mild hybrid form, this unit gets a lower compression ratio and a larger turbo. And the mHEV version has been embellished by a beefed-up starter/generator driven by a belt at the front of the engine that stores the energy harvested when you brake or decelerate in a tiny 48-volt lithium-ion battery secreted at the back of the car.
That 1.0 EcoBoost petrol unit comes in three forms with 125PS (standard and mHEV) and 155PS, all of which return up to 55.4mpg on the combined cycle with a CO2 reading of 116g/km. For the 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, the figures are up to 44.8mpg and up to 142g/km of CO2. Or 43.5mpg and up to 147g/km of CO2 for this engine in its uprated 182PS state of tune.
What about the diesels? Well, for the 1.5 EcoBlue unit in its base 95PS state of tune, you're looking at up to 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and up to 119g/km of CO2. Or up to 58.9mpg and up to 125g/km with this engine in its 120PS state of tune. For completion, we'll also give you the figures for the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel variant - up to 60.1mpg and up to 125g/km.
The Focus estate has always seemed a bit of an afterthought from Ford. It was neither big enough or buoyed by serious promotion and that hasn't and won't change, for the short term at least. What does seem to be changing, slowly but surely, is customer perceptions of estate cars in general. Maybe it's a backlash against suburban SUVs that once smacked of active lifestyles but now just scream shopping and school run. The estate car is quietly staging a revival.
If you're looking for an estate car of this size, the fact remains that the Focus is one of the very best. It's not the biggest and nor is it the cheapest, but as an all-rounder it takes some beating. The smaller petrol and diesel engines are well worth a trip and in the shape of the sporty ST-Line variants, Ford offers a real Q-car to family buyers. A Focused estate - you might say.