From £17,9308
'SUV-inspired' version of Ford's class-leading hatchback hold broad appeal – with the right engine

Our Verdict

Ford Focus ST-line X 2019 road test review - hero front

Focus retains its position as the best-in-class to drive – spec dependent – while adding extra space, functionality and connectivity

20 February 2019
Ford Focus Active 1.0 Ecoboost 2019

What is it?

The Focus Active is Ford’s attempt to claw back territory for the conventional hatchback – territory lost to an onslaught of SUVs, including its own mid-sized option, the Kuga.

And it might have hit on something, because there are good reasons why you might buy a Focus Active instead of an SUV. Without four-wheel drive, a towering frontal area and beefed-up bodywork, it's respectively less expensive to buy, more fuel efficient and easier to manoeuvre, but a 30mm increase in ride height over the standard Focus still makes it easier to slide into and gives occupants a bit of a perch. Because this is a Focus, it should also be far better to drive than any comparable ‘sports’ utility vehicle. 

To make up for the fact that the Focus Active is ultimately not an SUV are lots of rugged-looking styling additions. Black plastic conspicuously adorns a new front bumper, from where it flows down the sides of the car, looping over the wheelarches in a style you’ll find on everything from the Fiat Panda 4x4 to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain. The grille is also blacked out, because chrome just doesn’t look very tough, and naturally the skidplates are false.

Mechanically, the Focus Active is almost identical to the standard hatchback, offering a choice of three-cylinder turbocharged petrol and four-cylinder diesel engines driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox. The trim levels, Active and Active X, slot in at Zetec level, only with sat-nav and privacy glass as standard. Both come equipped with independent rear suspension, while Active X adds 18in alloy wheels and a panoramic roof.

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What's it like?

The Focus Active conducts itself much like a normal Focus, which means its steering is light, precise and nicely geared but a little keen to self-centre. Meanwhile, the manual gearshift has a gentle, accurate throw but not much in the way of feel. They make a nice pair, each being satisfying and effortless to use – traits indicative of the whole Focus driving experience. 

In order to fit longer springs and dampers, Ford had to alter the Focus's suspension geometry. At a push, you could say the chassis now fidgets a touch more over rougher surfaces and the compression damping is more abrupt, but it's marginal, and in general this remains among the more supple yet controlled chassis in the class. On smooth surfaces, the extra height in the sidewalls of the high-profile tyres makes for a conspicuously plush ride; long-distance motorway runs would be swept up easily. 

The 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine we tried is well-mannered but not the most responsive or potent. When you're carrying passengers and luggage (particularly in the case of the estate, which raises boot capacity from 1354 to 1653 litres), its 123bhp and 148lb ft won't make for easy overtaking. You might therefore want to go for the 148bhp 1.5-litre Ecoboost or one of the Ecoblue diesels, both of which have usefully more torque. Further down the line, Ford might offer the 179bhp petrol so far reserved for the Focus ST-Line and Vignale, but don't count on it.

In lieu of four-wheel drive, the Focus Active gets two extra driving modes that supplement the Normal, Eco and Sport of the standard car. Slippery mode tightens the reins of the stability control, cuts wheelspin earlier and, to that end, deadens throttle response, while Trial mode reduces ABS intervention to allow greater wheel slip on softer surfaces, thereby maintaining momentum. 

While the Focus Active sits taller than its rangemates, it's no longer, but the Focus already has a spacious interior, if a plain one. The Focus Active gains leather on its steering wheel and gearknob and model-unique scuffplates and seat cloth. It has a nice enough ambience and feels tough but not particularly cosseting.

Should I buy one?

Going by the success of the smaller Fiesta Active, Ford expects this car to do well, to the extent that it reckons the majority of Focus Estates will be sold in Active trim.

Which is no surprise, really. Relative to the rest of the range, the Active is keenly priced, far from unattractive and useful for anybody who finds themselves on rocky tracks – or just mounting kerbs and getting onto steep driveways – from time to time. It's here the extra ground clearance will give peace of mind, and with a set of all-season tyres, you'd give little, if anything, away to a comparable SUV on summer rubber.

And while the Focus Active doesn't handle quite as cripsly as the standard Focus, no traditional SUV is going to offer up such a satisfying steer – at least not until you reach the entry-level Porsche Macan, at more twice the price. Our only concern is that this entry-level 1.0-litre engine version isn't very gutsy, but the larger petrol unit would remedy this.

Even so, at £21,900, all adds up to make the Focus Active seem a lot of car for the money, which it undoubtedly is.

Ford Focus Active 1.0 Ecoboost specification

Where Peak District, UK Price £21,900 On sale Now Engine 3 cyls in-line, turbocharged, petrol Power 123bhp at 6000rpm Torque 148lb ft at 1400rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight tbc Top speed 122mph 0-62mph 10.3sec Fuel economy 44.1-49.6mpg (WLTP) CO2 emissions 107g/km Rivals Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Skoda Karoq Scout

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Comments
15

20 February 2019

Oh how i recall all the mocking of the Rover 25 Streetwise...... a Mondeo Active estate with 4wd would give the Passat Alltrack and Insignia Country a run for their money. 

20 February 2019
Didn't see that coming! Ah! How the WLTP has shrunk the claimed MPG! Looks far more realistic than the old system.

20 February 2019

Probably, especially to old school Ford buyers due to fact Ford doesn't have a THB (Tall Hatch Back/ SUV if you will ) model in this segment.  Kuga is costs more and has a much bigger foot print than the Focus, ECOSport - need I say more.  

Ford cut backs - This method is alot cheaper than developing stand alone models I suppose, Rover Streetwise Method me thinks.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

20 February 2019

Don't Volvo do a lot of this stuff? jack it up a bit and stick some cladding on.  Not sure its a great seller for them either.

21 February 2019

You have to special order a normal V90 wagon in America. The dealers only stock cross country models.

Mesumguy

20 February 2019

Not everyone wants a bulky SUV but having a little extra ground clearance makes light off roading (think gravel track or a grass field) that little bit easier. Fit a decent set of tyres and this should do all that most people need.

20 February 2019

Got this from the Autocar Mk4 Focus review "new Focus as tested right here is a five-door ..... and it’s 15mm lower"

Not scientific I know but you wonder just shows you best take a ruler to show rooms

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

20 February 2019

"instead of an SUV. Without four-wheel drive, a towering frontal area and beefed-up bodywork, it's respectively less expensive to buy, more fuel efficient and easier to manoeuvre"

Err..most of the compact SUV / X-over crowd are FWD and have a frontal area no bigger than a Focus. This is marketing trying to create justififcation for a segment. 

20 February 2019
michael knight wrote:

"instead of an SUV. Without four-wheel drive, a towering frontal area and beefed-up bodywork, it's respectively less expensive to buy, more fuel efficient and easier to manoeuvre"

Err..most of the compact SUV / X-over crowd are FWD and have a frontal area no bigger than a Focus. This is marketing trying to create justififcation for a segment. 

They are significantly more jacked up than this Focus, though. I'd argue that the points about fuel efficiency and easier manoeuvrability are valid - having just gone from test driving a Karoq to a Leon myself. 


"Work hard and be nice to people"

20 February 2019

 Just another jacked up Saloon?

Peter Cavellini.

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