Ford Focus Estate review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2013 model
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

3.7

Unless you approach the new Ford Focus Estate from the front, you’ll be hard pressed to notice the changes, as the major revisions are reserved for the grille and headlights.

On Zetec cars, this comprises a black mesh grille with chrome trim – while Titanium spec  gets a flashier, multi-bar chrome grille. The lights have been redesigned and look smoother than the units they replace, too, while lower down there are redesigned grilles with integrated foglights. Zetec cars get 16-inch, five-spoke alloys, but from the side, there’s hardly any difference between the old Focus and the facelifted model. It’s the same story at the rear, where lightly revised tail-lights are the only clue to the updated model.


Ford Focus Estate - front detail

Climb inside, and the changes are more comprehensive. The biggest update is to the centre console, with new soft-touch plastics and a tidier button arrangement, featuring larger switches that are easier to use on the move. The colour display is also bigger and simpler to read, although if you go for the £500 sat-nav upgrade, you get an eight-inch touchscreen with a user-friendly interface. 

The display is split into four quarters for nav, media, phone and trip computer, and selecting the assorted options is easy to do on the move. Plus, Ford’s standard SYNC voice control system means you don’t have to fumble around the menu at all – simply press a button on the steering wheel and say your command. The system can be a little patchy in its response, though.

Driving

4.1

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 more fun to drive than most of 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 cornering

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

3.6

As the Focus has only had a facelift, you can expect its reliability to be on a par
with its predecessor. Overall, there haven’t been any serious issues to deal with, while the new technology, including the sat-nav system, is being rolled out across the Ford range, so it will have been tested thoroughly to make sure that every aspect works smoothly and isn’t prone to failure.

If you do need to visit a dealer, you have over 700 franchises to choose from. However, quantity doesn’t always mean quality, as they placed a lowly 27th out of 32 networks in last year’s Driver Power satisfaction survey. So, be warned that customer service may not be up to as high a standard as other brands’ dealers.

The Focus earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating back in 2012, and the new car will undoubtedly be just as safe, as it features the same stability control and brake assist systems, plus city safety, adaptive cruise and park assist are all offered as options.

Practicality

3.6

While the fact that the Focus Estate has only been given a facelift is a positive thing for reliability, it’s a different story when it comes to practicality, as the car’s interior dimensions are unchanged.

As a result, there’s a 476-litre boot with the seats in place, which is nearly 200 litres behind that of the Peugeot 308 SW’s class-leading set-up. Still, you do get a low load lip and a wide opening, which come in handy when packing in bulky items, while the large grabhandles on the tailgate make it easy to close.


Ford Focus Estate - cabin

The back seats don’t fold completely flat, and there’s a lack of useful touches, too.
There are no lashing eyes or seat-folding levers in the boot, but you do get an easy-
roll load cover and a 12v socket.

In the cabin, there’s decent storage in the door bins and a big glovebox, while the multifunction steering wheel and voice control system make it easy to navigate through the various dash functions.

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.

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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: 22 Jan, 2015
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