In the straight-faced, serious-expression world of the faithful family estate, the Ford Focus Econetic has several honourably sensible plus points going for it.
It’s miles more practical than a Focus hatchback, cheaper than its VW Group rivals, and in Econetic guise, sports better real-world economy than a Toyota Prius. Overall its complete life cycle, one of these is arguably more planet-friendly than an electric car, crammed full of precious-metal-sourced battery cells.
But a Ford Focus should be more than just a humdrum family-mover – it should be a laugh to drive too. Read on to find out if the most parsimonious, practical version lives up to its benchmark badge.
Let’s get the Ford Focus Estate Econetic’s fuel economy out of the way first…
Ford’s official figure, from the usual lab testing? An admirable 83.1mpg. Our test average? A less impressive 55.0mpg. Now, mid-fifties from a mid-sized estate car with almost 200lb ft isn’t dreadful, but for a halo eco-badged model, we’d expect slightly more.
On the official figures, the car’s 53-litre fuel tank should allow up to 970 miles of range, but on our average, you’d run out 230 miles short. Meanwhile, the 99g/km CO2 emissions figure sidesteps road tax.
And the performance side of the coin…
Performance isn’t glacial despite the eco-minded set-up: Ford claims 11.8sec to 62mph for the 103bhp Econetic wagon, and if you’re willing to row the slick six-speed manual gearbox around with some gusto, it’ll muster adequate overtaking pace too, albeit booming a rattly diesel racket in then process.
Still a hoot to drive?
In long-wheelbase Estate form, cradling a weighty diesel engine in its nose, and shod with low-rolling resistance tyres, this Focus arguably represents the worst-possible guise to evoke driver giggles. However, along with that satisfying manual gearchange, the usual Focus attributes do shine through – above-average agility through accurate and well-weighted steering. There’s a fluidity to how the car soaks up bumps that rivals struggle to match, too – it copes with Britain’s scarred roads, but doesn’t lean over like a sidecar racer in a hairpin to compensate.
Practicality to, ahem, boot
We’ve recently driven the hatchback version of the Focus Econetic, but this estate version annihilates it for usability. With all five seats in situ, the estate car’s boot offers 476 litres (the hatchback manages 310 litres). The estate rams home the advantage with 1502 litres in its maximum load-bearing state with the back bench folded down – more than 400 litres roomier than the hatchback.
Indeed, that’s around 100 litres less in either configuration that the VW Golf Estate, but until VW rolls out its Bluemotion wagon in 2014, there’s no German car than can match the Ford’s near tee-total fuel figures. When it does arrive, we expect the Golf to be around £2000 pricier than the 88g/km Focus, which starts at £19,545.
Inside, the Focus is dating faster than a televised singing competition’s winner’s single, as we said in our recent hatchback review. The Econetic wears it best, though – the brittle-in-places cabin feels more attune with the Econetic’s hair-shirt spec than models higher in the Focus food chain.
>> Click here for CAR’s review of the Ford Focus Econetic hatchback
Cars like this are workhorses, first and foremost, designed to be used and abused without complaint – something we can imagine this Focus will take willingly from day one. In this class, most of the driver entertainment comes from Radio 4 comedy, so any dynamic titbits are welcome – and that’s why you’d pick the Blue Oval-badged car over its similarly economically responsibly rivals.