Ford Focus Estate review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Ford Focus Estate is practical and drives brilliantly, but isn't the best load-lugger out there

For: 
Fun to drive, comfortable, punchy and economical engines, sharp styling
Against: 
Boot isn’t class's biggest, top-spec versions depreciate heavily, cabin quality still trails class leaders

The Ford Focus Estate is a mainstay of business fleets across the country, but while it delivers far better carrying capacity than the hatchback bodystyle it’s load lugging capacity is significantly less than that of rivals such as a Skoda Octavia Estate and a Peugeot 308 SW.

Most models are sold with diesel power, and the new 1.5-litre diesel and petrol engines provide the same performance as the old 1.6 units - but with superior emissions and economy. The 1.0-litre ecoboost is probably best avoided because while the claimed economy of 58.9mpg is good, in the real world you will struggle to get anywhere near it – especially when fully loaded. If it’s economy you are after the 1.5 TDCi 120 promises over 70mpg and emits 98g/km of CO2.

It's not the most practical car in its class, nor the most economical, but it is more fun to drive than most. 

The Ford Focus Estate ECOnetic model offers outstanding efficiency and is a solid choice for those who want something a bit more involving to drive. It lacks standard equipment, however, so we recommend the 1.5-litre diesel model in Zetec trim.

The Focus Estate gets extra headroom for rear passengers compared to the hatchback version but the rest of the car shares its technology with the standard Focus hatch. That means there’s a host of upmarket gadgetry and brilliant petrol EcoBoost engines, as well as frugal diesels.

Our choice: Ford Focus Estate 1.5 TDCi (120) Zetec

Styling

3.2

Styling hasn’t been a strong point for the Ford Focus since the distinctive MkI car was replaced with the less eye-catching MkII. The MK3 didn’t get off to a good start but the all-new 2014 face, with sleeker headlamps and Aston Martin-style grille, is a huge improvement. Also the tailgate design has been improved slightly. 

There have been some significant changes inside the cabin. All but the entry-level studio model gets a large colour touchscreen in the centre console through which most of the car’s functions are controlled. It's a much neater and more intuitive system than the mess of buttons that characterised the pre-facelift Focus. 

The, Focus Estate is also available with Ford’s Sync 2 which lets you control even more of the functions through voice commands than before allowing to keep your eyes on the road.

As a result of the update, the Focus' cabin is now much more closely matched to the excellent interiors on offer in the VW Golf and Audi A3, but it still falls ever so slightly short.

Driving

4

As part of its mid-life facelift, the Focus estate gets the same chassis upgrades as the hatch. That means revised suspension for improved comfort and recalibrated steering for even sharper responses. However, the effect of these is hard to discern as the previous model was already great to drive.

Either way the Focus Estate gets the balance between comfort and handling spot on, and is the more fun to drive than its rivals. Ford has also added some extra sound insulation to the car and claims it’s the quietest car in its class. 

Ford Focus estate rear action

There are plenty of engines to choose from. The new 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol feels almost hot hatch quick, yet is claimed to do around 50mpg. The 2.0-litre diesel now has 10bhp more than before and is smooth and strong. It also returns an impressive 70.6mpg.

The new 1.5-litre diesel will be the big seller though, with its sub 100 g/km emissions and 74mpg.

Reliability

4

The MK3 Ford Focus has been on sale for three years, and in that time it has proven to be relatively trouble-free. The exterior panel gaps are tight and the interior robust, suggesting the Focus has been built to last.

The new EcoBoost engines should be reliable, too. We ran an estate powered by this engine that racked up over 20,000 miles in a year without a hiccup. And if there are any problems, then a network of 781 dealers means there will be a franchised workshop on your doorstep.

The Focus hatch earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and its percentage scores are similar to the Peugeot 308’s. You get six airbags as standard, and Zetec-spec models feature a Quickclear windscreen and heated mirrors. 

Practicality

3

The Focus Estate has a large boot opening and low loading lip, but it only has 476 litres of space under the load cover – less than the SEAT Leon ST and Peugeot 308 SW. There aren’t many useful features in the boot, either. You won’t find any seat folding levers or under-floor storage, although there are four hooks moulded into the trim and a 12V power socket.

Ford Focus estate interior

Elsewhere, the Focus isn’t quite as spacious as its rivals for back-seat passengers, although it does have the smallest transmission tunnel. On the plus side, it’s quite comfortable up front, and there’s a decent-sized glovebox and door bins.

Running Costs

3.8

Despite all the extra kit and improved safety over the previous Focus Estate, the weight-saving measures mean it's reasonably cheap to run.

Every single Focus Estate emits less than 140g/km of CO2, while the best choice for business and private users in the current line-up is the 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel, which gets stop-start, emits 98g/km and returns 74mpg.

The luxuriously equipped top-spec Titanium and Titanium X models can be quite costly though, and will depreciate quickly. All cars get air-conditioning and alloy wheels and you can also add option packs. These include gadgets such as lane departure warning, automatic parking, automatic cruise control and road sign recognition.

Disqus - noscript

I had ordered a hired Peugeot 307 Estate diesel for my two weeks and Spain but given a Focus Estate petrol instead which I was forced to accept as they said nothing else was available.

+ve: Good sized boot, auto-A/C coped well in >35°C heat. Good filler which would only take petrol nozzles. Rear passengers said it was roomy though I had to pull the front nearer to the steering wheel than if I was on my own.

-ve: Over-sensitive undamped steering - far too easy to swerve about,
Under-powered engine - it's the only car I'driven where the cruise control switches off going uphill on a motorway/autopista because there's no more power.
Poor fuel consumption.
Poor dash layout.
Lights come on when the boot is opened - even in the midday sun. Huh?

In short, over-rated.

Last updated: 23 Sep, 2014
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