Ford Focus Active hatchback review
"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 is essentially a raised version of the standard Focus family hatch, so it looks more like an SUV. It’s only 30mm taller but both the hatchback and estate versions are designed to appeal to people who love the styling of an SUV but want a car that’s efficient and good to drive.
There are plenty of examples of regular cars that have been given an SUV-like makeover, including the Skoda Scout, Audi Allroad and Volvo Cross Country ranges. The add-ons such as skid plates, plastic wheelarches, chunky wheels and tall suspension combine to give these models a tougher, more adventurous look.
The Focus Active is treated as a trim level within normal Focus range, and the two models are called Active Edition and Active X Edition. The former comes with 17-inch alloys, LED lights, air-con, sat-nav and smartphone connectivity, so there’s no urgent need to go for the higher spec car. This model adds larger wheels and a panoramic roof.
There are petrol and diesel engine options, as with the rest of the Focus range. The 1.0-litre petrol engine is available with mild-hybrid assistance, with either 123bhp or 153bhp power outputs with a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s also an auto version of this engine, though it does without the mild-hybrid system (which is added for efficiency - it’s not a full hybrid and you won’t notice the difference in normal driving).
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine in any form is fun to use and quite efficient, though for high annual mileages, the 1.5-litre diesel, which has 118bhp and is available in manual or automatic forms, may prove to be a better bet.
The Focus Active isn’t quite as fun to drive as a normal Focus because the taller suspension means it rolls more as you turn into bends. However, the trade-off is that it's slightly more comfortable, so it’s still a great choice. It’s a far better option than an SUV for many buyers, as they are likely to cost more to run and are less enjoyable to drive.
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 the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost manages 54.3mpg in mild-hybrid form.
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 47.9mpg and emissions of 137-147g/km.
The Focus Active is offered with a 1.5-litre diesel engine. It’s more expensive to buy but could make sense if you have a high annual mileage, returning up to 67.3mpg in manual form and 61.4mpg in automatic guise.
Road tax is levied at the discounted VED rate each year for the mild-hybrid equipped models, with the regular powered variants incurring the standard rate. Despite the rugged looks, servicing a Focus Active should be just as affordable as for a regular hatchback or estate model.
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 have mild-hybrid assistance, which involves 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 11.7 seconds.
The 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine produces 118bhp, taking 10.8 seconds to go from 0-62mph with a manual gearbox and 10.7 seconds when equipped with an automatic.
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. The Focus came in 72nd place in the 2021 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, just one place ahead of its key rival, the Volkswagen Golf.
Ford came in 25th place in the 2021 brand survey, which suggests the ownership experience might not be up to scratch - though so many Fords are sold that there are bound to be more complaints.
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.