First report: Is an estate car as good as (or better than) an SUV for everything a family needs? We’re about to find out
4.0 out of 5
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Fords’ fresh Focus Estate has made a sound early impression on our fleet with its great balance of fun and comfort, plus some improved tech. But it’s the Focus’s practicality that’s already shining through here.
- Economy: 36.4mpg
- Mileage: 2,523
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There really is nothing like a big boot. You probably haven’t devoted much time to considering the size of your car’s cargo area recently, but let me tell you that the 575-litre capacity of our new Ford Focus Estate has been a regular source of joy in the early days of our long-term test. Fold the back seats down and there are 1,653 litres to play with – great for my growing family.
The boot, of course, is what estate cars are all about. Like a peacock or an eighties footballer’s mullet, it’s business as usual up front and party out the back. That’s if your idea of a good time is being able to carry an extra suitcase on holiday or a child’s bike without taking a wheel off.
The car we’re welcoming onto the Auto Express test fleet is the newly facelifted Focus Estate in Active specification. Active means it has a slightly (30mm) raised ride height and some black plastic cladding around the sills and wheelarches. In other words, there’s the faintest whiff of SUV styling – the type of car that has relegated estates to second fiddle for family car buyers over the past decade.
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This updated family favourite from Ford also has a significantly revamped boot area – try to contain your excitement. The floor folds up and clips vertically to catches on the boot walls, splitting the space in two. This gives you a rubber mat in the front section where you can store muddy boots and the like. Ford has even stuck a big graphic on the underside of the boot floor, showing you how it all works, so there’s no need to keep digging out the manual.
Vignale used to be Ford’s top trim level, but it’s been transformed into a plush option pack with the latest Focus range – and our car has it. You get better-quality trim materials, exclusive alloy wheel designs, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster all for about £2,200 extra.
With the more powerful 1.0-litre EcoBoost 155 engine (153bhp) and the seven-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox, our car costs £31,500 in Active Vignale spec as standard.
We’ve added a few extras: Chrome Blue is a ‘premium colour’ (£575), the Blind Spot Information System and head-up display cost £400 each and the LED matrix adaptive headlights are £950. Then there’s the Driver Assist Pack (£525) with its adaptive cruise control and traffic-sign recognition, the Parking Pack (Active Park Assist, a rear camera and pop-out door edge protectors for £500) and the Family Pack for £400 (60:40 split rear seat with load-through hatch, extra USB sockets in the rear and a hands-free tailgate).
It means we have a £35,250 Ford Focus on the fleet, with most of the bells and whistles from the options list. To be fair to Ford, the options are reasonably priced; you might not bother with the head-up display and if you never intend to tow anything, the Blind Spot Information System (that can be adjusted to account for the size of your trailer) might also be overkill – there’s no substitute for looking over your shoulder. I’d also probably forgo the cosmetic upgrades of the Vignale pack and save myself more than £2,000 – desirable though the digital dash cluster is.
The latest facelift smartened up the styling of the Focus and I think it’s a handsome car that’s only helped by the long roofline of the Estate model. The Active version’s body cladding is less in-your-face if you pick the darker colours. The cabin is dominated by the large central touchscreen running Ford’s latest SYNC4 software. It’s still early days, but it works well with its split-screen layout keeping more functions in view, while the climate controls are always accessible.
If you could ignore this giant 13.2-inch oblong rising up from the centre of the dash, the rest of the Focus’s interior is simple and functional, maybe even bland. There’s little of the design flair or style you get from some rivals that have been engineered to accommodate modern touchscreen tech from the outset, rather than being adapted to house it like the Ford, even with the Vignale trim upgrades.
As well as the party-piece boot, there’s a load of rear legroom. Buyers familiar with Ford Focus models from one or two generations ago – and their mediocre offerings in the rear seats – need to reset their expectations, because this is a proper family car with enough rear leg and headroom for adults. Getting three across the back is a squeeze, though. At this early stage, it feels like the biggest challenge on our Ford Focus Estate long-term test will be finding enough stuff to put in it.
Ford Focus Estate 1.0 EcoBoost 155 mHEV auto Active Vignale
On fleet since:
1.0-litre 3cyl turbo petrol, 153bhp
Premium paint (£575), Blind Spot Information (£400), Head-up display (£400), Dynamic matrix LED lights (£950), Driver Assist Pack (£525), Parking Pack (£500), Family Pack (£400)
Group: 18 Quote: £578
None so far
*Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points
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