Ford Focus Estate
"The Ford Focus Estate is a practical car that's good looking, comfortable and great to drive"
- Attractive looks
- Spacious interior
- Entertaining drive
- Indifferent image
- Not the biggest boot
- Lacklustre customer service
While the market for non-premium family hatchbacks doesn't exactly have it easy these days, small family load-luggers like the Ford Focus Estate have it even worse. SUVs are the main culprit – many buyers in search of everyday practicality fall for the charms of cars like the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Skoda Karoq, when a small estate would actually serve their needs just as efficiently and in many cases drive better too.
Not to be fazed, Ford is persevering with an estate version of the latest Focus and hopes that its stylish looks will help it regain some of the customers cars like this have lost over the years. It hopes, too, to secure orders from those who usually shop for premium badges – buyers of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake are just as much in Ford's sight as Kia Ceed Sportswagon, Skoda Octavia Estate and Renault Megane Sport Tourer customers.
While previous Ford Focus generations were most kindly described as 'inoffensive' to look at, the latest model has a far more confident and individual appearance, even if you can spot influences from other cars in its design. Aside from the grille, though, the Focus has its own identity, from its narrow, horizontally split headlights to the angular treatment above its front spoiler.
The latest estate has a far more cohesive design than the previous model, too, with a roofline that flows from front to back with little feeling that a big box has been bolted on at the back. This is helped by a window outline that curves gently towards the rear end and a feature line that flows from the front headlights to the tail of the car, via broad front and rear haunches, giving Ford's family estate a more sculptural, desirable look than ever before.
The sporty ST-Line version adds extra distinction, courtesy of a body kit, a prominent black grille in place of the subtle slatted affair of other models, and bigger fog-light surrounds that fill the space immediately above the front spoiler. The range-topping Vignale model also has a look of its own, with LED lighting all round and a unique design of 18-inch alloy wheels.
One area where Ford is keen to galvanise the Focus' reputation is that of driver appeal. While earlier Focus models set the class standard here, more recent generations lost ground to rivals like the SEAT Leon and Honda Civic. But having started with a clean sheet of paper and an all-new 'C2' platform for the latest Focus, Ford claims to have made big steps in handling prowess.
The 'clean sheet' approach is also said to have boosted interior and luggage space – an area in which previous Focus models came up a little short compared to the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf estates. By pushing the windscreen forwards and increasing the wheelbase, space has been liberated in the rear passenger compartment, so even tall adults have room to spare in the back seats. The boot itself has barely changed in size, but the bigger passenger compartment means overall space with the rear seats folded down is now greater than ever.
The Focus Estate shares its engine line-up with the hatchback. It consists of three-cylinder 1.0 and 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrols and four-cylinder 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesels. The petrols offer clever cylinder-deactivation technology to reduce fuel consumption, and range from 99 to 180bhp, while the diesels run from 94 to 148bhp. A six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox is fitted, the latter controlled by a rotary gear selector. Few family estates have a hot version, but you can have a Ford Focus ST Estate with powerful petrol and diesel engines, too.
A wide choice of trim levels are offered, with entry-level Zetec boasting an eight-inch infotainment system with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus air-conditioning, alloy wheels, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. Specification grows ever more generous through the higher trim levels, with sporty ST-Line, three rugged Active models and a luxurious Vignale version rounding off the range. Although the latter has more attractive upholstery and detailing than entry-level cars, every model's interior is lined and constructed with far more tactile and attractive materials than previously found in a Focus. There’s also the Ford Focus ST Estate at the top of the range, which we’ve reviewed separately.
Euro NCAP crash-tests awarded the Focus Estate five stars, thanks to an impressive array of standard safety kit, with even more that's optional. Ford finished a disappointing 24th out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 Driver Power survey (one place down on last year). The Focus itself didn’t feature in our list of the top 75 cars on sale.
If you can resist the allure of its compact SUV competition, the Ford Focus Estate is one of the more attractive family estate car options – and not just when it comes to looks. It's well equipped, uses fuel sparingly and offers loads of space for people and possessions. Factor in a thrilling drive and it seems to have all the answers.