17.7.2019Ford Focus Active 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS review
Crossovers are big business currently, so it's natural that manufacturers will try and tap into the market. As such, Ford has launched a range of Active models of its core products, Focus included. The popular hatch has seen a few bits of trim create a more rugged appearance, and raised ride height to offer an alternative to the conventional mini-SUVs that crossovers tend to be.
Review by Chris Lilly
The model tested features Ford's 1.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine, in this version tuned to provide 125hp to the front wheels. A six-speed manual gearbox was fitted, and helps make the Focus the engaging driving experience we have come to expect from Ford. The gear change is easy to use with a crisp, clean action making shifting cogs simple. Mated to the excellent three-cylinder petrol engine, the Focus proves an eager and willing car, able to be driven hard or used to potter about in equal measure. Considering the compact size of the engine, it's remarkably refined, either accelerating hard or when settled down at a cruise. There isn't a sense that it feels out of puff at higher speeds, and the turbo manages to pick up any lack of response pretty quickly. It's a good all-rounder, capable of performance or refinement depending on what's required.
The Focus Active sits 30mm higher at the front and 34mm higher at the rear than the normal Focus. Although an inch or so of added suspension travel might not sound like much, it gives the Focus Active a different stance. What it hasn't done is mess up the ride and handling, which remain very similar to the Focus, rather than offering the tall driving experience of a small SUV. It's good news for those that want a good car to drive, since the Focus Active in this guise - like the engine - is a Jack-of-all-trades. It will grip with confidence down a winding country road, smooth out bumps and prove agile in town, and cruise comfortably on motorways. It's not perfect in any scenario, but it performs well across the board.
The Focus is a decent looking hatch, and the Active model is either going to improve things or make them worse, depending on your view point. Personally, I think the (slightly) beefed up styling looks good and emphasises the Focus' strong design details. The tweaked styling makes no difference to interior space, which means the Focus Active is a decent-sized family hatchback. Boot space is competitive with much of the range and a nice size and shape. Occupants get a reasonable level of head, leg, and shoulder room. Those considering the Focus Active from an SUV perspective might be disappointed, but Ford already has models in those markets. This is a conventional hatch with a few changes, rather than a re-engineered product with larger interior space.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Those wanting a crossover to give a high vantage point and view of the road may as well head off now. The increased ride height makes almost no difference to the driver's seating position, which is good from my point of view, but others will disagree. Personally, I like the 'normal hatchback' properties the Focus offers, with a little added suspension travel and bodywork protection for winter weather and those times you venture off-road or down tight country lanes. Like the interior space, there is no change to visibility, which is reasonable all-round. The seats are comfortable even over long distances and offer plenty of lateral support, and the controls fall nicely to hand. It's not the est cabin on the market, but it remains a good one. The latest version of Ford's infotainment system is a marked improvement on previous efforts and works well. Switchgear feels pretty solid, but middle of the market rather than giving an impression of a premium product. Considering the price point, it's not surprising, and there's nothing to the controls or materials used that will put buyers off.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The official fuel economy score for Ford's Focus Active 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS is 49.6 MPG, which is a good score for a car with an off-road set-up - even if it's only moderately so. In day to day driving, the Focus Active actually returned 50.6 MPG according to the trip computer. That's over a distance of more than 450 miles, with mixed driving styles and environments. Anything above 45 MPG should be expected unless the Ford is being thrashed, and with regular motorway trips, that figure could be around 10 MPG higher.
Ford's EcoBoost engine is a very efficient unit. It's small, lightweight, and turbocharged to allow for the downsizing to three-cylinders; it's a regular award winner. Ford fits a selectable Eco mode which lessens throttle response and improves efficiency elsewhere, while auto stop-start is standard too.
The Active models sit slightly separate to the conventional Focus range, but in terms of kit, come somewhere halfway up the ladder. It means equipment levels are good, with models getting 17-inch alloys as standard, alongside the raised ride height, Active styling details with twin tailpipes, Ford's Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, voice control, DAB, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity. It also includes leather trim for the steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control, heated front windscreen, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, dual-zone air conditioning, and selectable drive mode with slippery and trail settings.
Those wanting the driving experience of an SUV should look elsewhere. However, the Ford Focus Active does meet the needs of those that want something a little more rugged, capable off-road or in slippery conditions, but don't want the tall ride height and higher running costs an SUV features. It's similar to the conventional Focus hatchback which makes it a very good car.
Model tested: Ford Focus Active 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS
Body-style: Crossover hatch
Engine / CO2: 125hp petrol / 97 g/km
Trim grades: Active and Active X
On-road price: From £22,895
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars