New Focus Estate offers decent space, and the latest 98g/km 1.5-litre diesel engine is as frugal as it is flexible

What is it?

This is our first chance to get behind the wheel of Ford's recently facelifted Focus Estate on UK roads. Specifically we’re driving the newly introduced 1.5-litre diesel in 118bhp form, which is replacing the now defunct 1.6 TDCi as the motor of choice for anyone with a careful eye on their fuel bills.

This engine is likely to be a strong seller – with a share of around 45 per cent of sales – and it’s easy to see why. Although it has gained power and torque over the previous model’s equivalent unit, it’s actually more frugal and now has CO2 emissions of just 98g/km.

That will please private and company car buyers alike, but, as ever, the Focus faces fierce competition from Volkswagen Group rivals such as the Golf estate and Skoda Octavia estate.

What's it like?

The drop in capacity shouldn't be any concern. This new engine may have lost 61cc, but the 1.5-litre unit pulls perfectly well from around 1500rpm and continues to do so over a usefully wide rev band. It’s not outright fast, no, but it certainly feels comfortable in and out of town.

It’s pleasingly refined, too. It remains quiet even when revved hard and sends next to no vibration back through any of the controls. Ford’s usual snappy gearchange is also present and correct, and the only disturbance on the motorway is some road noise through the wheel arches.

Changes to the new Focus’s steering means it's now less nervous on the motorway, but the new system retains all that was good about the previous car’s set-up. If anything, the new rack feels even more alert, because the revised car’s stiffer front end means turning into corners is every bit as quick and precise as it was before.

Ride quality hasn’t suffered, either. The Focus has long led this class when it comes to offering a sophisticated, supple ride, and it's still a superbly composed car over the sort of lumps and bumps you’ll find on a typical UK high street. Venture out of town and its body stays nicely settled over cambers and crests, and even motorway expansion joints pass by without any undue drama.

Inside, cabin quality has been given a subtle lift, but what's most noticable is the Focus's infotainment system, which was a standout weakness on the previous model. Titanium and Titanium X models come with an eight-inch touchscreen as standard, which is a massive improvement over what was included before.

Okay, so it's not the most responsive system on sale, nor the best laid-out, but it's still big and bold. Connecting your smartphone takes seconds, and it's nice to be able to jump between the main functions like nav and climate control with a single press, even though most of the time you'll defer to the physical controls for the latter.

Standard equipment on this Titanium model is generous: 16-inch alloy wheels, that eight-inch touchscreen, automatic city stop technology, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, cruise control and keyless start are all included.

Space for four adults is good, but if you want to squeeze three across the rear bench then the accommodation becomes less civilised. The boot is a respectable 490 litres without a spare wheel included, which is likely to be more than enough for anyone looking to haul a family and their luggage. Ultimately, though, you'll have more space to fill in both the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia Estates. 

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Should I buy one?

The Focus has always done a brilliant job of blending a genuinely fun set of handling characteristics with an impressively supple ride no matter which variant it comes in.

Happily, despite changes to both areas, it remains the benchmark for ride and handling in this class. As an estate, the Focus does a decent job, too. It's spacious and has a boot that'll deal with the majority of families' needs. 

However, rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf estate, while not as refined as the Ford (in 1.6-litre diesel form at least) do offer more space and a higher-quality cabin together with similarly low CO2 emission and fuel consumption figures.

For its sheer size, the Skoda Octavia estate is worth considering, too. It can't match the Focus to drive but it's hard to fault for practicality.

Even so, the Ford deserves credit for delivering a more grown-up package that's still fun to drive in a class dominated by roomy but ultimately rather forgettable load-luggers.

Ford Focus Estate 1.5 TDCi 120 Titanium

Price £20,995 (from); 0-62mph 12.2sec; Top speed 111mph; Economy 74.3mpg; CO2 98g/km; Kerb weight 1564kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 3600rpm; Torque 199lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

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Carmad3 17 December 2014

Focus estate

The Peugeot 308 SW looks smarter, drives even better, and has the build quality that Ford need to achieve. It is also cheaper for the equivalent trim and more economical. Why buy Ford?
Oilburner 12 December 2014

Another shout up for handling

It's one of the things that I love best about my Mondeo Mk4. And I'm a long way past 20...

In fact, the idea that new Mondeo doesn't handle quite as sweetly puts me right off, despite it being an otherwise very component car in every other respect.

I had a Focus as a courtesy car a couple of years back, What struck me the most was not the cheap interior or the noisy engine, it was the divine handling. It made when fall in love with it and I only had it a few days.

AddyT 12 December 2014

Benchmark for ride....

I am sure it has the slightly sharper steer but I would doubt it has a better ride than the Golf (this very mag have said this in the past). Autocar's reviews are pretty inconsistent these days it seems....and written badly like the RS3 review posted today.