Other family five-doors carry more, but few have more polish

What is it?

Our first taste of the mark three Focus wagon, and we’re sampling it in relatively modest 1.6-litre TDCi form, and Zetec trim. So while other more expensive examples of the compact estate have more power and more generous helpings of toys from the Focus’ long optional equipment allotment, this one’s likely to be the volume seller.

Ford’s direction of development of the Focus has been the subject of plenty of criticism from us over the last year or so. In an attempt to make it a global hit, the Blue Oval has enhanced and revised its former UK chart-topper in very many objective and sensible ways, but also sanitised it slightly. But however regrettable the latter may be, the former updates promise, at least, that this estate version of the new mid-sized Ford should be particularly good.

What’s it like?

Emitting 109g/km of CO2, this Focus is one of the more accommodating cars on offer in VED road tax band B – an attractive fleet option too - and it’s priced a little above VW’s 1.6-litre TDi Golf Bluemotion Technology and Vauxhall’s 1.7-litre CDTi Astra Ecoflex. And however humble its flavour, it’s a well-executed family car with plenty of impressive attributes.

Like the 1.6-litre TDCi five-door we road tested three months ago, it’s a refined performer with a finely-honed and comfortable ride, and it isolates occupants from road noise and engine vibration as well as any sub-£20k diesel-powered option we can think of.

Performance is modest, but what urge is available is easy to make the most of thanks to a six-speed manual gearbox – something key rivals of this car don’t get. Engine response at low revs feels poor at first, as if the lump’s low-end torque isn’t enough to get the car moving comfortably – but it’s a relatively easy problem to overcome once you reassess how you juggle throttle and clutch.

On the move, 199lb ft of torque is enough in the mid-range to motivate the Focus along ahead of most traffic, even heavily loaded. And even heavy loaded, the Focus Estate balances a compliant ride with good body control and commendable high-speed stability.

It doesn’t steer with the same sparkle as the last car, and isn’t particularly lively or engaging on an interesting road – but while that’s regrettable with reference to the Focus’ legacy, it’s no great condemnation relative to the car’s current competitor set.

The Focus Estate rides on the same wheelbase as the five door, so unlike certain other estates it offers those in the rear no extra legroom than the hatchback. There is a little more headroom back there, as well as a 476-litre boot that expands to 1502 litres once you’ve flipped up the rear seat cushions and folded the seat backs (which go almost, if not quite flat).

That’s not a class-leading capacity by any means – a Skoda Octavia swallows fully 153 litres more – but it’s enough for all but the very biggest loads. More importantly, the load bay is just about long enough, with the seats down, to carry fridges and the like. Thanks to new inclined rear dampers and a special boot floor, the estate’s load bay is also 119mm wider than the hatchback’s.

Should I buy one?

It may not be the obvious choice for those looking for an affordable family wagon, neither is it the most practical C-segment estate in outright terms, but for the same reasons we’d recommend the regular five-door Focus, the estate’s equally good.

Back to top

Well-mannered, desirable, spacious enough and decently cheap to run, it justifies a relatively high price point with ease. And on top of that, sad though it is but nonetheless true, the new Focus’ undistinguished handling is somehow easier to accept from an estate than from a smaller five-door hatch.

Ford Focus Estate 1.6 TDCi Zetec

Price: £19,595; Top speed: 120mph; 0-62mph: 11.1sec; Economy: 67.3mpg; Co2: 109g/km; Kerb weight: 1368kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1560cc, turbodiesel; Power: 113bhp at 3600rpm; Torque: 199lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Looking for a Ford Focus for sale? Visit PistonHeads Classifieds

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
danielcoote 24 June 2011

Re: Ford Focus Estate 1.6 TDCi

Will86 wrote:
The new Astra Estate looks good, but I too would take the Focus. The Astra's engines are not great, the diesels aren't as clean as in the Focus and I think the interior of the Focus looks easier to use. Plus the Focus has better equipment levels, particularly higher up the model list.
The above is simply nonsense for all engines and spec - sorry Will86. Getting an new Astra Sports Tourer 2.0 CDTI SRI (160BHP) on Wednesday (wife's motability car) and after driving it I was hooked (also it helped that the advanced payment was only £199 - incidentally a FIFTH roughly what the Focus would have been for the same spec and engine!). I haven't driven the new Focus but the Astra (thrashed under a three day test drive) really worked as a complete package. The recently revised and more refined 2.0 engine with Start/Stop 2.0 will get me 46-50mpg under real life driving conditions; and it corners well too (thanks in part to the SRI's lowered sports suspension). The focus is way, way more ugly and the dash looks dull. Astra anytime........

Lesia44 23 June 2011

Re: Ford Focus Estate 1.6 TDCi

As a long time admirer of the way the previous generations of Focus handle I must get myself into one of the latest just to see how it goes. I'm intrigued.

jerry99 23 June 2011

Re: Ford Focus Estate 1.6 TDCi

dolomitefan wrote:
. I should know as I have one and have completed a number of tests, on track and road in the new Focus. If you think you can find a better handling or steering car in this segment you are mistaken.

Are you tealking about road holding or handling balance?

The new Focus has definitely lost its old front to rear balance and replaced it with improved road holding.

They are not the same thing but many are prepared to sacrifice handling for road holding.