Ford Focus Estate 1.6 Duratec petrol manual Ti-VCT 125PS Titanium Road Test Review by Oliver Hammond

The first two generations of Ford Focus were both generally accepted as class-leading in the dynamics stakes and for providing great all-round propositions. With this third generation model, has the Focus just got even better?

Kinetic Design that blows your mind?

Ford Focus Estate 1-6 petrol manual 125PS Titanium Ti-VCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - front 2

In recent years, Ford has harped on about its Kinetic Design ethos and to be honest, who can blame them, as the new Mondeo which debuted in that James Bond film looked amazing to many, me included – and Ford carried their success on with stylish cars in the form of the S-Max, Kuga and even the latest Fiesta models.

I’m going to stick my neck out a bit and admit that I’m one of the rare few who actually really like the face of the latest Ford Focus, with its triangle air intakes and somewhat aggressive, purposeful, sleek and sporty lines. A few people commented during the week that the gap between the badge and the bonnet is really rather poor, but it didn’t bother me that much. The grey exterior colour (a £495 option on this £18,750 base price car) didn’t bother me either and I quite liked it, as it gave the car an elegant image and hid dirt well. What did bother me, though, were the 16” 10×2 spoke wheels which are standard on Titanium spec cars and to me looked puny.

Ford Focus Estate 1-6 petrol manual 125PS Titanium Ti-VCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - rear 34 02

I couldn’t reconcile the rear styling, either. Many estate cars look better than their saloon or hatchback equivalents, but I personally prefer the Focus hatch. Maybe it was the lack of privacy glass and the aforementioned small alloy wheels, but I just couldn’t stop yawning when I looked at the rear of this particular Focus Estate, despite it carrying over some of the Mondeo Estate’s good looks. I would definitely opt for the Titanium X spec with its sportier wheels, styling and general finishing touches, which would definitely reduce a chunk of the ambivalence I feel towards the design of the rear three-quarters. Looking at it dead-on isn’t so bad though, but the overall car is definitely more Ken Barlow than Gary. In my view it doesn’t look as good as the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, but I do prefer the Focus to its Peugeot rival.

Ford Focus Estate 1-6 petrol manual 125PS Titanium Ti-VCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - front

A Game of Two Halves Inside As Well?

The front cockpit of the Ford Focus is definitely very modern in its layout and features, that’s for sure, but it still somehow retains a little of the feel of older Fords. Accessing the car, the doors felt heavy and solid and Ford has included loads of convenience aids into the Focus’ package such as the puddle lights shining down from the auto-folding wing mirrors (which came fitted along with Rear Park Assist as part of ‘City Pack’ at £275) and the red light glowing in the passenger footwell. The front sports seats were cosseting with excellent side supports. I was surprised to find that they were manually adjustable as opposed to electrically, but all except particularly short drivers should be able to find a comfortable and high-enough position along with the adjustable steering wheel. Just a shame the actual fabric quality of the seats felt a bit naff. Okay, it may prove durable but I got the impression it would quickly pick up marks and fade.

Ford Focus Estate 1-6 petrol manual 125PS Titanium Ti-VCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - front seats dashboard 01

Aside from the cheap-feeling handbrake (to Ford’s credit, few manufacturers provide decent ones), thequality of the dashboard and controls was very good, all the buttons and dials having a durable feel to them. The central console was rather too busy for my liking and other passengers thought so too. The telephone, audio, nav (all part of the Ford DAB Audio Navigation System at £550) and phone buttons were angled slightly oddly and the radio wasn’t that logical to operate. But boy did it sound good – surprisingly so. And it was most welcome being able to listen to my favourite DAB digital radio stations. I wasn’t able to evaluate the sat nav as the system kept throwing up an SD card error, but for what it’s worth, the display screen is smaller than the beautiful one in the Vauxhall Astra.

The blue lighting and dials in the Focus were very nice and made me feel rather relaxed behind the wheel. Thumbs up to Ford in this area. And the now commonplace Ford computer system and menus were present in the Focus courtesy of the secondary LCD screen, behind the steering wheel. From here you can access the brilliant trip computer, configure the car’s safety, driver aid and convenience settings and even improve your driving by trying to achieve 5 stars in the three EcoMode categories – anticipation, speed and gear shifting. The computer graphics really are tasteful, even as far as depicting side lights, dipped headlights and so on. Pairing and using the Bluetooth phone system was a doddle and the Focus has a keyless system, so once you’ve opened the doors, keep your keys in your pocket and just press the Ford Power button to start the engine.

When I first looked in the back, it didn’t look like much legroom was going to be on offer, but even with taller passengers in the front, I was surprised to find that rear legroom was pretty good. Okay, not cavernous to the point where you could stretch your legs right out, but it wasn’t cramped in there and there should also be enough head and shoulder room for three adults on a medium-length journey. Impressive, considering the new Focus Estate is slightly narrower than the previous model. Again, the seats are quite comfortable in the back, although they don’t look or feel that special to the eye or touch.

Ford Focus Estate 1-6 petrol manual 125PS Titanium Ti-VCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - rear flat 02

The boot has the opposite effect. It looked huge at a glance, and is indeed very well proportioned and practically-designed, but its 500 litres (seats up) is 24 litres less than the Astra Sports Tourer and less still than the Volkswagen Golf estate, although the latter is admittedly slightly more expensive. Folding down the 60:40-splitting rear seats gives you 1,502 litres to play with in the Focus. The boot floor is flat and easy to load items into, with no pronounced lip hindering things. Useful bag hooks are located on both sides of the boot.

With rear parking sensors, good seating, a decent-sized and practical boot, amenities like sat nav, DAB, Bluetooth, USB port, cupholders, courtesy lighting, auto-folding mirrors, a Quickclear windscreen, good audio system, dual zone electronic air temperature control and hill start assist, the Ford Focus Estate Titanium presents itself as a practical and safe choice for families and would also be a good bet for some fleets and small business users. So how does it drive?

Addictive Fun – Really?

In the marketing blurb for the latest Focus, Ford boldly claim that you’ll be set for “the most addictive driving experience, with all the agility and precision you could wish for.” They say the new Focus is “so much fun to drive, you’ll always be craving for more.” Confident talk indeed, but did much of it ring true?

Pressing the Power button to start the 1.6-litre petrol engine, I almost questioned whether I’d turned it on correctly, as the startup and tick-over were that quiet. Setting off for the first time, I was impressed to discover that the engine remains quiet and the gearbox was lovely and smooth to use. The 1.6 Focus likes to be taken up the gears as quickly as possible and it was surprising to be using a 5-speed gearbox, as most cars have 6-speed ‘boxes these days.

Ford Focus Estate 1-6 petrol manual 125PS Titanium Ti-VCT road test review by Oliver Hammond - front 34 02

The ride quality of the Focus Estate was excellent, soaking up bumps and holes very elegantly, without feeling unsettled. This may have been helped partly by the 16” wheels. The steering was also a joy, the car turning with precision and feeling in control through all nature of bends. In town, on the motorway and down country lanes, the Focus always felt at home, the chassis taking everything in its stride. Power wise, the 1.6-litre engine was quite flat at times, especially on the motorway where overtaking required dropping down a couple of gears, whereas some other cars would have hauled themselves up to speed without. The engine sounded boomy at higher motorway speeds, but driving around town and on A-roads, it really was perfectly adequate and even relaxing. Should you ever wish to give it some welly, the Focus was good fun, with nippy power in low gears, coupled with the great ride and steering. Towards the end of the week, I was gobsmacked to be actually starting to come round to Ford’s “craving for more” statement. Just not on the motorway, thanks. Economy for this 125bhp 1.6-litre Ti-VCT (stands for Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing if you’re interested) Duratec engine is quoted as 47.1mpg. Driving really carefully and economically from reset, I managed to achieve 43mpg, which isn’t too far from the official figure. Driving spiritedly only saw a 3mpg drop in economy, averaging about 40mpg. The 55-litres tank will cost about £77 to fill, I would imagine, and if you do a shortish commute on a regular basis, should leave you quite satisfied economy wise. In green terms, the Focus Estate I tested puts out 139g/km CO2, compared to the 1.6 Astra Sports Tourer at 149g/km and 44.1mpg combined, and is better than the 1.6 Megane Sports Tourer too.

In Summary

The new Ford Focus Estate drives exceptionally well and is still dynamically the best in the class. The exterior and interior styling may not be to everyone’s taste, but Ford has made a good effort in both departments. It’s a practical, well-equipped car, and the 125PS 1.6-litre petrol engine is economical and easy to live with. Just bear in mind that the rather pricey £20,070 Titanium specification our review car came in still doesn’t include Ford’s excellent road-sign recognition, lane departure warning and parallel parking assistance systems – for these, you need the Titanium X model, which will probably lose resale value even faster. If depreciation is important, consider the Zetec model. And if you’re after more grunt whilst retaining good economy, there’s the 2-litre 140bhp Duratorq diesel option available. Unless you’re the type of person who munches motorway miles and frequently changes lanes, this Titanium spec’ 1.6 is a very good all-rounder and will certainly impress with its road manners.

© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant


Specification of the Ford Focus Estate Titanium 1.6 petrol manual Ti-VCT Duratec tested

Engine: 1.6 Duratec Ti-VCT petrol
Capacity: 1,596cc
Max Power: 125PS/bhp
Max torque: 159Nm
Max speed: 122mph
0-60mph: 11.1 seconds
Fuel tank capacity: 55 litres
Insurance group: 14E
Combined Fuel Economy: 47.1mpg
CO2 emissions (g/km): 139
Gross Weight: 1,825kg
Length: 4,556mm
Width: 2,010mm with mirrors
Height: 1,492mm with roof rails
Luggage Capacity: 476 litres (rear seats up) / 1,502 litres (seats down)

Standard features Include:

Heated rear window
Front variable intermittent wipers with electric wash
Rear intermittent wiper with electric wash and auto reverse function
Electric front and rear windows + one touch + global open/closing
Tailgate wash/wipe
‘Quickclear’ heated windscreen/heated washer jets
Automatic rain sensing wipers
ABS+Electronic Brake force Distribution
Hill start assist
ESP with traction control + emergency brake assist
Front/rear floor mats
Bluetooth connection with voice control and USB port
Electric boot release
‘Ford Power’ starter button
Easy fuel capless refuelling system
Driver Information
Trip computer
Lights on warning
Digital clock
Low screen washer fluid warning
Exterior temperature gauge
Door ajar warning
Driving Mirrors
Body colour electric adjustable heated door mirrors
Auto dimming rear view mirror
9 speakers sound system
Steering column with mounted audio controls
Body colour door handles
Body colour bumpers
Silver roof rails
Body colour bodyside mouldings
Chrome finish on upper door line
High gloss black grille
Front fog lights
Automatic headlights
Black headlamp bezels
Guide me home headlights with delay switch-off
Headlight levelling control
Pollen/active carbon filters
Dual electronic automatic temperature control air conditioning – CFC-free
Tonneau cover
Cloth upholstery
Reach + rake adjustable steering column
12V power point front/rear
Rear armrest with storage
3 spoke leather steering wheel
Leather gear knob
Leather trimmed steering wheel
Centre console storage box/armrest
4 spoke leather steering wheel with silver accents
Auxiliary power socket in luggage area
Illuminated heater controls
2 map reading lights
Front footwell light
Rear overhead dome courtesy light
Ambient Lighting
Footwell lights
Driver airbag
Front passenger airbag
Front side airbags
Side curtain airbags
Front inertia reel height adjustable seatbelts with pre-tensioners
Three rear inertia reel lap/diagonal seatbelts
Deflation detection system
Intelligent Protection System (IPS)
Sports style front seats
Height adjustable front headrests
Passenger seat height/lumbar adjustment
Driver’s seat manual height adjust
Isofix child seat preparation
Driver/passenger front seatback pockets
60/40 split back and cushion rear seats with 2 height adjustable headrests
Driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support
Locking wheel nuts
Immobiliser-Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS)
Anti-burst high-security shielded door locks
Thatcham Cat.1 alarm
Remote central double locking
Driver/passenger sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors + covers
Mini steel spare wheel

Options on this vehicle:

Metallic Paint – Lunar Sky (grey) £495
City Pack (Rear Park Assist + Power-fold mirrors) £275
Ford DAB Audio Navigation System £550

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