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 very closely related to the normal Focus hatchback or estate, but thanks to some small changes to the bodywork and a small increase to how high up it is, it looks more like an SUV.
It’s a clever way to make the Ford Focus more desirable to people who might like the idea of an SUV like a Ford Kuga but don’t want to spend more money on a larger model like that. Ford’s Active models are just like the Skoda Scout, Audi Allroad and Volvo Cross Country ranges in that by adding things like pumped-up plastic wheelarches, beefier-looking wheels and taller suspension, you get a car that looks like an SUV but is as good value as a hatchback.
There are two models available, both treated as part of the normal Focus range. They’re called Active Edition and Active X Edition and both come with plenty of standard equipment including 17-inch alloys, LED lights, climate control, sat-nav and smartphone connectivity on a large touchscreen display on the dashboard. The higher-spec version adds larger wheels, upgraded seats, wireless phone charging and a better stereo system.
Since the Ford Focus Active is part of the normal Focus range, it’s available with the same engines including petrol and diesel versions. The 1.0-litre petrol engine comes in either 123bhp or 153bhp power outputs with a six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic gearbox is available too. Ford’s mild hybrid system is fitted to all but the entry-level manual model but it’s simply a small motor that boosts efficiency and you won’t notice it when driving.
We like the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine in all forms, as it’s relatively efficient and fun to use. It’s best for shorter trips and all-round driving, but if you do a lot of longer journeys then the diesel version, which uses a 1.5-litre engine with 113bhp, is better. It’s more efficient at high speed, so you’ll save money on fuel, and it’s automatic-only.
The Focus Active is nearly as good to drive as the regular Focus hatchback, and it’s available as a more practical estate as well. It’s actually a little more comfortable too, thanks to the slightly higher suspension, and since it’s more efficient than an equivalent Ford Kuga petrol, it will suit more buyers’ needs at a better price.
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. The 123bhp version matches the manual model’s efficiency with use of mild hybrid technology at 52.3mpg, while the 153bhp version is a little more thirsty than the manual at a still-impressive 53.3mpg.
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 57.6mpg - but it’s at its best on the motorway and should easily beat the petrol versions there for efficiency.
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 10.2 seconds with the 123bhp engine and is cut to 9.0 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 is available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox too. This version provides identical performance if you choose the 123bhp engine, and is actually faster than an equivalent manual model if you go for the 153bhp engine.
The 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine produces 113bhp and takes 11.8 seconds to go from 0-62mph.
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 well equipped. You get 17-inch alloy wheels, Ford's SYNC 3 media system with sat nav and smartphone connections, climate control and cruise control. For a more lavish spec, there's also Active X, which adds 18-inch wheels, upgraded seats with 6-way adjustment, a B&O stereo system, a 12.3-inch digital display instead of traditional dials, ambient interior lighting, wireless phone charging and some other upgraded interior trim to make it look smarter inside.
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.