Ford Focus Active hatchback
"The Ford Focus Active brings crossover appeal to the Focus range and teaches SUVs a thing or two in the process"
- Appealing looks
- Value for money
- Still great to drive
- No plug-in hybrid version
- 1.0-litre petrol can feel strained
- Seating position won't satisfy everyone
The Ford Focus Active bucks the trend of crossovers that trade driving fun for a high seating position. With a small 30mm increase in ground clearance, both the hatchback and estate versions of the Active manage to look tough without sacrificing the best bits of the standard Focus, a car we rate very highly.
Designed in a similar vein to the Skoda Scout, Audi Allroad and Volvo Cross Country models, the SUV-style treatment of silver skid plates, black plastic wheelarches, chunky wheels and tall suspension manages to look stylish rather than silly, and the interior is upmarket and well appointed.
The standard Active is based on the popular Zetec trim and has everything you really need, from cruise control to Ford's eight-inch infotainment display. If you fancy added luxuries, Active X adds heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, parking sensors and two-zone climate control for around £2,500. In late 2019, Ford added an Active X Vignale trim level at the top of the range - it includes a range of Vignale-specific interior features, plus LED headlights, a premium audio system and a head-up display that projects important information onto a screen in front of the windscreen.
Four engines are brought over from the standard Focus, with two petrols and two diesels that should suit a wide audience. The 1.0-litre petrol engine features mild-hybrid assistance, and can be specced in both 123 and 153bhp power outputs with a six-speed manual gearbox. If you want the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the 1.0-litre petrol engine does without the mild-hybrid technology.
Every version of this engine is ideal for less demanding drivers, providing smooth and economical motoring, but the lower powered version can feel a little strained when the Active is fully loaded with people and their luggage. Both versions feel just as quick as the 1.5-litre diesel, but for motorway driving the 153bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine has a slight performance advantage while managing decent fuel economy. For those who want to tow or just need a bit more pulling power, the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel with 148bhp is the one to go for.
Its longer suspension and taller tyres mean the Focus Active trades a small amount of handling precision compared with the hatchback, but the benefit is even better ride comfort in a car that is still far more engaging than almost any SUV.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Ford Focus Active MPG & CO2
Next to most crossovers, the Focus Active's hatchback origins and relatively low roofline bring inherent advantages when it comes to running costs. When equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox both versions of turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost manage up to 52.3mpg. CO2 emissions are impressively low ranging from 120-125g/km, placing this model in the mid-range Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) banding for company-car drivers.
The 1.0-litre engine can also be specced with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This powertrain doesn’t feature the mild-hybrid assistance found in the manual model, and is the least efficient in the Focus Active range, with fuel economy of up to 46.3mpg and emissions of 138-143g/km.
The Focus Active is offered with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines. They're more expensive to buy but could make sense if you have a high annual mileage, returning up to 60.1 and 55.4mpg respectively.
Road tax costs £150 a year and servicing should be just as affordable as for a regular Focus hatchback or estate.
Engines, drive & performance
Ford Focus Active petrol engines
The 123bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol is expected to be the bestseller in the Focus Active range, It’s impressively quiet and smooth, and features mild-hybrid assistance when equipped with a manual gearbox. There's just enough performance on tap, although if you often plan on driving with a car full of occupants or luggage, you might be better served by the more powerful 153bhp version. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 10.3 seconds with the 123bhp engine and is cut to 9.5 seconds in the 153bhp version.
Both versions of this engine are fitted with a belt-driven starter-generator that replaces the alternator. This harvests the energy normally lost under braking or coasting and stores it in a small battery. This energy is then redeployed to allow the start/stop system to be activated sooner at speeds of up to 16mph or to provide a small power increase under acceleration
The 1.0-litre petrol engine equipped with the eight-speed automatic gearbox omits the mild-hybrid technology and is the slowest Focus Active in the range, with a 0-62mph time of over 11 seconds.
The diesels provide a bit more mid-range pulling power than the petrol engines but are more expensive to buy. The base turbocharged 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine produces 118bhp, taking 10.8 seconds from 0-62mph with a manual gearbox and 10.7 seconds when equipped with an automatic.
Go for the 148bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine, and you’ll need to choose either of the ‘Active X’ or the range-topping ‘Vignale’ trim levels. When fitted with a manual gearbox, 0-62mph is possible in 9.1 seconds, with the automatic taking 9.3 seconds.
Despite its rugged personality, Ford has opted to keep the Active exclusively front-wheel drive rather than make it more expensive to buy and run by offering four-wheel drive. Instead, 30mm of extra ground clearance, taller tyres and off-road driving modes boost its ability to tackle the odd field or muddy track. It's on the road - where Focus Active drivers will spend most of their time - that the car excels. The Focus is one of the best-handling cars on sale, and while the taller Active sacrifices a small amount of sharpness, it's not far behind. It also has a smoother ride, and this is a trait some may prefer over the regular models, which can feel quite firm at times.
Interior & comfort
While we applaud the way Ford has approached turning such a talented family hatchback into a crossover, the relatively low driving position might be a deal-breaker for some. For those who crave the commanding view over smaller cars you get in an SUV, the Focus Active simply won't stack up.
But that's about the only negative, because for everyone else, the Active is a perfectly nice place to spend time. The amount of steering wheel and seat adjustment is excellent, along with the dashboard ergonomics. Materials are also more upmarket than in the previous Focus, and the number of buttons dotted around the interior has been greatly reduced for a more uncluttered look.
The standard Active trim is loosely based on the now entry-level Zetec grade, but is quite well equipped. You get 17-inch alloy wheels, Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system, sat nav, a heated windscreen and cruise control. For a more lavish spec, there's also Active X, adding 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and a powered driver's seat. If that’s not enough, the Active X Vignale has LED headlights, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, active parking assistance, a reversing camera and a B&O audio system.
Practicality & boot space
Other than its mild off-road ability and slightly tougher body cladding, the Focus Active mirrors the practicality of the standard hatch and estate. This means a big improvement in space compared with the old Focus, especially for those sat in the back, with more room for knees and shoulders in particular.
Because the Active doesn't have four-wheel drive, boot space is exactly the same as the standard Focus, measuring 375 litres in the hatchback and up to 608 litres in the estate, or 1,653 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Reliability & safety
The Ford Focus has regularly been one of Britain's best-selling cars, making it even more important that Ford produces a model that's both dependable and safe. That should be the case if the manufacturer builds on the success of the old model, which came 33rd out of the top 75 cars in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey in 2018. The Focus didn't feature in the 2020 survey.
Ford did feature in our 2020 brand survey, though, finishing a lowly 24th out of 30 manufacturers, with 15.6% of owners reporting a fault in the first year.
The latest Focus Active has lots of new parts, but crucially it also uses some tried and tested engines. We expect the latest Focus to feature high on our Driver Power survey in the next few years.
While the Focus Active is unlikely to be tested individually, it's also safe to assume the hatchback's five-star score from Euro NCAP applies here. Ford has pushed the boat out when it comes to safety technology, fitting the Focus with an array of sensors to help predict and avoid collisions, as well as making it tough should the worst happen. 'Evasive Steering Assist' even helps the driver when making an emergency manoeuvre.