Ford Focus Estate first drive

4 Jul, 2011 1:20pm Paul Bond

Excellent mid-spec version of family carrier is the pick of the range

Verdict

4
The Focus Estate addresses two of our biggest complaints about the standard car, with smarter looks and a more family-friendly boot. It’s as engaging to drive as the hatchback version, and the 1.6-litre TDCi engine is an excellent all-rounder that gives strong performance and low running costs. There are lots of options, but they can inflate the initial outlay.
Ford claims nearly double the number of people who bought the previous Focus Estate will be convinced to buy the new one – so Auto Express got behind the wheel of the 1.6-litre diesel version to see if the maker’s confidence is well founded.

The Estate certainly marks a big improvement in the style stakes, as the curving tail-lights of the previous-generation car have been ditched in favour of a much slimmer design. This gives more balanced proportions.
 
Our model’s black metallic paintwork contrasted nicely with the standard aluminium roof rails. Plus, adding to the visual flair is an optional appearance pack, which includes a set of multi-spoke 17-inch alloys and rear privacy glass (£525).

Under the bonnet, the 1.6-litre TDCi diesel engine produces 113bhp, and is the pick of the range. Despite its relatively low output, it rarely feels underpowered, and has the kind of mid-range punch and refinement that makes more potent versions seem redundant. There’s a healthy 285Nm of torque on offer, too, thanks to an overboost function. And the width of the powerband means that the Focus is a relaxing companion over long distances, while the excellent steering and grippy chassis still give plenty of involvement to keen drivers.

The smooth six-speed manual gearbox is much more usable than Ford’s pricier Powershift automatic, and this model comes with stop-start as standard. That means it returns an impressive 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, and puts out only 109g/km of CO2, despite weighing more than the five-door.

Admittedly, the stop-start system isn’t the best we’ve tried, and using heavy-duty electrics such as the air-con and heated windscreen will affect how often you’re able to cut off the engine in traffic. It’s on a par with similar set-ups from rivals such as VW, though.

The biggest changes are in the back, where an extra 20cm of length added to the body frees up an additional 160 litres of boot space. This increases to an adequate 1,502 litres once the rear seats have been safely folded away – a simple process that can be done one-handed.

Our car also came fitted with a £215 optional plastic boot tray, plus a set of silver dividing rails, that further add to its practicality. The wheelbase is identical to the standard car’s, but as the hatch has plenty of rear legroom, this isn’t a problem.

That’s not to say the new model is perfect, though. As we found when we drove the Focus hatch earlier in the year, the bigger alloy wheels reduce the size of the turning circle.

Add the Estate’s extra length and thicker C-pillars, and it proved quite difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces.

It’s also expensive. No matter which engine and trim combination you go for, the load carrier commands a premium of £1,100 over the five-door. Adding a few options means the price of this mid-range Zetec quickly rises above £20,000 – and this may be enough to put some buyers off.

Disqus - noscript

Surely, as this is set up as a negative statement, you mean "increase"?
And quoting the list price for a Ford is largely irrelevant. Within a few months, there will be significant discounts on offer - although £215 for a plastic boot tray shows that Ford are trying to 'do a VW' when it comes to accessories pricing.

Is it me, or from the pictures does it look like the gear stick is on the wrong side of the rather protruding handbrake? Is this a LHD set-up that's been badly taken over to RHD?

Hi, the review was ok until the contradictory statement of using the air con and heated windscreen, the a/c will not turn on under 4c and who want to sit in a car that has stopped the engine when it is hot and sunny without a/c?
Then there is the very silly, and something I'd expect AE not to get wrong is the price. The car is no differently priced than it's rivals and cheaper than it's main rival the VW. We also know it is easy to get discounts from dealers anyway. Come on AE, you can do better than that or did you steal the review from somebody's mobile phone? :-)

Don't recall the 'curving tail lights' of the previous generation car. They seemed pretty straight and vertical to me!

Key specs

* Price: £19,595
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbodiesel 
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
* Power/torque: 113bhp/285Nm
* 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
* Top speed: 120mph
* Economy/CO2: 67.3mpg/109g/km
* Equipment: 16-inch alloys, air-con, front electric windows, DAB radio, heated windscreen, ESP with torque vectoring, Bluetooth, stop-start, leather steering wheel
* On sale now
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