Ford Focus Estate review
"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.
Sales of the Ford Focus haven’t been as good as Ford might have expected, so in late 2021 it launched a facelift of the Focus and Focus Estate. Slimmer headlights and a reshaped grille give the car a fresh look, while inside there’s new technology and a much bigger media screen. Time will tell if these changes are enough to sway buyers away from the Volkswagen Golf and Ford’s own Kuga SUV.
Ford is persevering with the Focus Estate 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 appearance, thanks to its narrow, horizontally split headlights and 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.
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 lineup with the hatchback. This consists of three 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost petrol units – two with mild-hybrid assistance – as well as a single 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel offering. Buyers opting for petrol power can choose from either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The diesel model is also available with a manual and automatic transmission, however the auto gets eight gear ratios instead of seven.
If you’re feeling the need for speed, Ford also offers a sporty ‘ST’ version of the Focus Estate. Like the Ford Focus ST hatchback, this uses a 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 276bhp. There are other mechanical upgrades under the metal too, in the form of a limited-slip differential and adaptive suspension dampers.
A wide choice of trim levels are offered, with entry-level Trend 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 the well-equipped Titanium, the sporty ST-Line, and a rugged Active model. In late 2021, Ford reduced the luxurious Vignale trim level into an option pack that can be specified on all of the top trims; this adds a high-end stereo, digital dials, larger alloys and heated seats.
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 25th out of 29 manufacturers in our 2022 Driver Power survey. The Focus itself didn’t perform any better either; it dropped out of our list of the top 75 cars to own, raising serious concerns surrounding customer satisfaction.
That aside and 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.