- Extensive range of powertrains and trim levels
- Easy to drive with impressive ride and handling
- Available as a hatchback or estate
- The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine gets quite vocal under heavy acceleration
- Some hard plastic within the cabin lowers the standard
- Pricey especially if you start adding options
Month after month the Ford Focus features in the top five best sellers list in the UK sales charts and the latest fourth-generation model brought the car bang up to date with fresh styling and a new-look cabin packed with kit.
Since then Ford has introduced a beefed-up model called the Focus Active and now mild hybrid technology has been added to the mix.
The car has a higher ground clearance and some rugged styling cues to help it stand out in the Focus family and it does just that.
However, on the downside – the price. The test car in high-end Vignale Edition was almost £30k and that is a lot of cash to splash out on a family car.
On The Road
The Ford Focus has gained mild hybrid technology to boost efficiency and help reduce carbon emissions in the process too. It adds a new dimension to the already extensive Focus line-up which starts at £22,210 for the entry-level Zetec model and rises to £30,250 for the ST version.
The Focus Active model was launched to offer customers the option of a higher riding, SUV styled Focus with extra ground clearance, larger wheels and chunkier design cues.
The latest news is the introduction of mild hybrid technology combining Ford’s award-winning three-cylinder, 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with a 48-volt battery. Our Focus Active X in Vignale trim, delivered 153hp and 240Nm of torque and could complete the 0-62mph dash in a respectable 9.5 seconds, topping out at 129mph.
The three-pot engine had ample firepower to drive the five-door Focus Active with sharp acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox. There was always plenty of power on tap for quick bursts of acceleration to overtake slower cars and the vehicle cruised comfortably at 70mph on motorways.
The engine does scream a little if pushed too hard and for too long, but it’s not that bad. It is worth noting we were driving the higher powered version – there is a 125hp version which would prove slightly less eager to please.
The front-wheel drive Ford Focus has always been viewed as a fun car to drive so the extra height that the Active model brings, along with the added weight of the hybrid system, could have had a detrimental effect on the car’s handling. Thankfully it hasn’t.
The car is still agile and delivers a comfortable ride for all occupants even though the test car was riding high on 18-inch alloy wheels. It feels balanced out on the open road with ample grip, meaning sharp bends can be attacked with confidence. And despite being slightly higher, there was no sign of body sway whatsoever. It doesn’t feel quite as sharp on the B roads as its sibling models, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for the plus-points the Active styling brings.
There are Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes that alter the way the Focus responds with Sport delivering sharper throttle and steering reactions.
There are also Slippery and Trail modes which means the car can easily travel across a boggy track or muddy field, but it’s not a 4x4 by any means.
The perfectly weighted steering offers plenty of driver feedback and the car is happy cruising on motorways, firing through the country lanes or weaving through the busy city centre traffic. In addition, the handy Park Assist system makes light work of squeezing into a tight space.
The Ford Focus Active model looks great from all angles and boasts a more beefed up, rugged appearance than standard Focus models. There are special Active bumpers, a unique upper and lower grille, branded scuff plates, skid plates, side rocker mouldings, body coloured power-folding door mirrors with puddle lamps, a panoramic roof, 18-inch black painted alloys and twin tail pipes. The raised ground clearance – an increase of 30mm – gives the car a more upright, SUV-stance.
The interior is quality through and through with Vignale full leather heated front seats, a Vignale leather heated steering wheel, rear privacy glass, ambient lighting and a wealth of on-board technology to explore.
While the Ford Active is more capable on wet grass or gravel tracks with extra grip, the ride quality is slightly bumpier than on standard Focus cars and there is more tyre rumble noise on motorways. But this is only really noticeable if you drive the Focus models back to back to compare sound levels.
The highly efficient suspension system helps to smooth out the roughest of road surfaces and noise levels within the cabin only become annoying when the three-cylinder engine is under very heavy acceleration.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
With a powered front driver’s seat and ample steering wheel adjustment, getting a comfortable driving position in the Focus Active is a simple process. The all-round visibility is excellent and all dials, controls and readouts are easy to operate and digest on the fly.
Our test car was loaded with kit, including a head-up display, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system with 360-degree sound along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
The front seats and steering wheel are heated and there is the Ford SYNC 3 infotainment system with an eight-inch floating touchscreen that introduces a DAB radio, navigation system and Bluetooth. There is also a wireless smartphone charging pad.
A 4.2-inch instrument cluster behind the steering wheel can be modified to suite requirements and the Focus Active also features the latest FordPass Connect system. This app-based service works in tandem with an on-board modem that’s built into the car. Then from your mobile phone you can lock or unlock the car, check fuel levels, find the vehicle’s location, search for parking spaces (with prices), check the car’s tyre pressures, access live traffic reports and connect up to 10 devices via Wi-Fi up to 15 metres from the vehicle.
Space & Practicality
The Ford Focus has always been viewed as a practical family car and the Active model takes this up a notch by delivering compact crossover versatility. And let’s face it – we simply can’t get enough of SUVs these days.
When the fourth generation Focus was launched, Ford was quick to point out that it had grown 18mm in length with a 53mm increase to the wheelbase and those growth spurts resulted in a more spacious cabin.
Two six footers can sit one behind the other provided the front seats are not pushed too far back, or a trio of youngsters can fit snuggly in the back. The panoramic sunroof allows light to flood into the cabin and there are lots of convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the car, including a glovebox, door pockets that are wide enough to hold a bottle, front cup holders that can be adapted according to the size of the cup or bottle, a central cubby box, a compartment by the driver’s right knee, trays and a sunglasses holder.
In the back there are door bins, cup holders in the fold-down armrest and nets in the seat backs.
When it comes to the luggage limits, the Focus Active impresses once again with the same boot capacity as the standard Focus. With all seats in an upright position the limit is 341 litres, but with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat that capacity increases to 1,320 litres. There are also hooks to help keep shopping bags upright and secure. If more space is required the Focus Estate models have boot capacities ranging from 575 to 1,620 litres.
The Ford Focus is very much viewed as a car for the people with a model to suit all tastes and budgets. Our Focus Active X Vignale Edition with hybrid technology and six-speed manual transmission was priced at £28,680. But the addition of some special paint and an advanced safety pack bumped the final cost up to £29,630.
Adding the hybrid technology to the Focus has improved fuel efficiency by about 17 per cent and also reduced the carbon emissions too. According to official figures under stricter WLTP testing, our Focus Active could deliver a combined 51.4mpg with CO2 of 124g/km.
This emissions figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £170 dropping down to the standard £145 after 12 months.
The Ford Pass Connect system, which was introduced on the Focus, is free for the first year. After the initial 12-month free trial, a further subscription can be purchased at £3.99 per month, although this price does not include any Wi-Fi data plans.
Quality & Reliability
The latest generation Focus really raised the bar when it comes to quality with a range of soft touch surfaces and upmarket materials and upholstery.
The Vignale model boasts full leather seats and steering wheel and the quality feels of a high standard. There is still quite a lot of hard plastic, especially around the cup holders and the central console which could prove susceptible to scratching, but all the switch gear feels sturdy and should survive the test of time.
There are all-round door protectors which are a great idea. It’s so easy to bang your door against other cars or walls in narrow parking bays, but when you open any door on the Focus a protective barrier springs out to protect the paintwork on your car and neighbouring ones too.
As the Focus Active model rides 30mm higher than the standard Focus and it boasts additional cladding, there is more protection when driving down uneven roads or gravel tracks.
While, the car lacks the real wow factor found in some rivals such as the VW Golf, it’s a given that these cars will still be clocking up the motorway miles several years down the line.
And the tried and tested 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has proved a winning formula for Ford scooping numerous awards along the way. The Focus comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
Safety & Security
When it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, the Ford Focus was awarded the maximum five stars.
It is packed with safety systems and driver aids, including pre-collision assist with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection, post collision braking, lane keeping aid with lane departure warning, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, a tyre pressure warning system, cruise control with speed limiter and a full suite of airbags.
An optional Driver Assistance Pack on the test car, costing £500, added traffic sign recognition, auto high beam and adaptive cruise control.
The Focus is fitted with a Thatcham Category One alarm system to keep intruders at bay.