Ford Focus Estate long-term test: you drive our cars

Published: 26 March 2020

► Ford Focus Estate long-term test
► We live with the new Focus wagon
 1.5 T EcoBoost Titanium X spec

Month 5 living with a Ford Focus Estate: the estate of the nation

Ford’s biggest problem is arguably image. In a brand-obsessed age, the Blue Oval can offer all the steering response, gadgetry and dynamic fizz it likes, but if the badge puts people off then they’ll never get to enjoy those fine qualities.

CAR readers are a knowledgeable bunch – and one not backwards in coming forwards. After an appeal on these pages, our first respondent, Tim Nicholson, expressed an interest in our Ford Focus as he’s considering one to replace his Audi A3. ‘This size of car suits my life at present, now the children have left home,’ he muses. ‘We do need occasional space for longer holidays and trips, but most of the time a car like the A3 or Focus is all we need.’

Our second reader is Mike Yeoman, a serial wagon owner who knows his estate-of-the-art onions. ‘As a full-time hockey coach, I need the space of an estate car – there’s a lot of clobber to carry around for my work, and I now have a young grandchild to entertain too.’

Both are impressed by the Ford’s graceful design and Tim reckons it’s actually better-looking than the hatchback. ‘It looks longer, too,’ he notes. That’s no illusion: the load-lugger is stretched by 290mm (nearly 12 inches) over the regular hatch, enough to give it a decent-sized loadbay.

Neither is convinced by the waggle-foot-to-open tailgate (a £450 option on our car) and we enjoy a glorious chilly winter moment where Cambridgeshire’s bystanders must’ve wondered what this strange daytime dance party was up to, as we wiggled and jiggled our feet in unison under the rear bumper. It’s a hit-and-miss affair and none us could reliably master the movement required to trigger the tailgate. Get it right, and it’s a handy aid.

Focus Estate boot

‘This would be particularly useful if I had my grandchild’s pushchair and car seat in my hands,’ admits Mike. ‘I can see why Ford offers it, but it’s quite annoying if it doesn’t work properly every time. I’d get frustrated with it. What’s wrong with opening the bootlid by hand?’

Magic feet enabled, the tailgate lifts to reveal a generously sized ⊲ boot and both readers give the flat loadbay the thumbs-up. There’s no annoying lip over which to lug goalkeeper bags or holiday luggage and it’s a decent size, stretching to a metre deep and 115cm wide, justifying that stretched bodyshell.

‘I love the fold-down seats,’ says Mike, flipping the rear backrest down by remote levers near the bootlid. ‘I’ve not seen that before.’ They automatically swivel down flat, swelling bootspace from a generous 575 litres to a cavernous 1620 litres, numbers that will be familiar to Volvo-owning Mike.

The 12-volt charging point draws praise, but the seemingly sealed rear light units are an annoyance to Tim, who points out that he doesn’t want to pay through the nose to replace lightbulbs.

Our rendezvous is in daytime, so I don’t get a chance to show off our Focus’s LED headlamps, a £750 option. It’s a shame, as I’m enjoying them during this dark, dank time of year; on full beam, they light up the road ahead impressively well, although they lack the active shuttering and corner-bending lenses of rival systems (you need to step up to Ford’s top-spec Dynamic LED headlamps for this tech).

Clambering on board, both testers are impressed by the roominess of the cabin, especially in the back seats, but there’s recognition that some cabin components are built down to a price compared with our owners’ Swedish and German cars. ‘It’s nice and uncomplicated in here – it’s not too bling and the simple heating controls are good,’ says Tim, a retired civil engineer. ‘I’d need to play with the touchscreen more to see if I could live with it, but at first glance it seems simple and straightforward to use.’

The front seats attract praise, especially for their wide range of adjustment (our Titanium X has electric operation for the driver’s seat only) and heating (‘vital for cold training sessions at the hockey pitch’). Everyone can see out easily enough, too. The start button tucked away behind the steering wheel raises an eyebrow (‘I can understand this on a sports car, but on a Ford Focus?’) but the four-cylinder 1.5 EcoBoost engine impresses both members of our Focus Group. It’s remarkably refined for a downsized motor but our typical 40mpg doesn’t feel like huge progress to either reader.

Focus Estate driving

These are men who like their cars, as confirmed by their automotive CVs. Mike likes fast, practical cars and has owned a VW Golf R32, Lancia Delta HF Turbo and BMW 330i, while Tim spent a happy five years with a Caterham Seven and used to drive a Ford Escort Twin Cam.

He’s dabbled in rallying, too, navigating at club races and even helping run the Safari Rally during an assignment building bridges in Kenya, where he rubbed shoulders with Hannu Mikkola and was spellbound by the works Audi Quattros. In his retirement, Tim prefers more comfortable cars. ‘The Focus feels slower than my 180bhp A3 1.8 TFSI, but this is a nice engine,’ he says. ‘It’s maybe not quite as refined and the ride is a little choppier, but this is more nimble than my Audi. It’s one of those cars you can get in and drive really easily.’

Mike rates the Focus decently, too. ‘I like something with a bit of go, and I do like my toys and gadgets in a car. Apart from the grabby brakes, I rate this Focus to drive – it’s much lighter and easier to hustle along a back road. It feels lively and sweet to drive for quite a roomy estate car.’

It’s fair to say that both punters were pleasantly surprised by the Focus Estate, whose ability outreaches its more humble kerbside appeal. Even on this brief encounter, reader Tim feels encouraged to consider a purchase. ‘For me, it’s a straight fight between the new Audi A3 coming in 2020 and this Ford Focus,’ he says.

‘Money will play an important part in my decision, and I expect the Ford will be cheaper to buy. I’d like a premium brand, but I’m not prepared to pay too much more for it – I just want the best car at a fair price. The badge on the front is not a deal-breaker for me.’

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Ford Focus 1.5 T Titanium X

Price £24,755 (£26,905 as tested) 
Performance 1497cc turbo triple, 148bhp, 9.0sec 0-62mph, 129mph 
Efficiency 51.4mpg (official), 39.4mpg (tested), 125g/km CO2 
Energy cost 14.7p per mile 
Miles this month 1102
Total miles 5893


Month 4 living with a Ford Focus Estate: swift swap

Focus Nomad

Is this the perfect two-car garage? I managed to grab the keys of our Ariel Nomad for a weekend and spent a wired 72 hours in editor Miller's pride and joy. It's a raw car that jolts your emotions and puts a massive smile on your face – but it naturally falls short on creature comforts. You know, niceties such as doors, roofs, luggage compartments...

Swapping from the Somerset Screwball to my regular Focus Estate was like returning from a wild stag weekend to a suited-and-booted Monday morning at the office. All numb brake pedal feel, quiet refinement and utter isolation from the mechanical process. Together, this pairing would ace most of my motoring needs.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Ford Focus 1.5 T Titanium X

Price £24,755 (£26,905 as tested) 
Performance 1497cc turbo triple, 148bhp, 9.0sec 0-62mph, 129mph 
Efficiency 51.4mpg (official), 38.5mpg (tested), 125g/km CO2 
Energy cost 16.1p per mile 
Miles this month 690
Total miles 4791


Diary update: the space race inside

Since when did the humble mid-sized estate get so big? I routinely remind myself how model inflation has grown the size of most everyday nameplates. Today's Volkswagen Polo is famously bigger than a Mk1 Golf; this Focus Estate has ballooned to the same size as an earlier Mondeo wagon. It's the way of the world, as everything is supersized.

Is this progress? From where I'm sitting, yes it is. I'm 6ft 3in and the oldest of my children is now entering the teenage years - so having a roomy passenger compartment where towering youngsters can fit behind me is A Good Thing. Space is, after all, one of the great modern luxuries. Legroom and headroom in the rear are much improved over earlier Escorts and Focus estates.

Today's Focus Estate is a solid 290mm - nearly 12 inches! - longer than the hatchback upon which it is based, and we've already reported on the 575-litre boot, which continues to swallow everything we throw its way. Hats off, too, to the clever, slide-out load cover which is easier to remove than any rival system. (It's amazing how awkward and heavy such covers are nowadays).

That tonneau cover can be stowed in a cubby under the boot floor; the Estate differs from the hatchback in having a dual-height floor - I tend to stick with the surface level with the tailgate lip day-to-day, but you can remove the deck and have a deeper well should you need additional space.

By Tim Pollard


Month 3 living with a Ford Focus Estate: old vs new

Ford Focus Estate Mk1 and Mk4

As chance has it, my sister owns an earlier Ford Focus estate, so when she came to visit recently I couldn't help but compare it with my 2019 edition. Hers is a somewhat hard-used, lived-in Mk1. As an artist she regularly lugs around show stands, potting paraphernalia and bulky boxes of tableware to exhibitions and galleries. It's a proper workhorse.

It's obvious as soon as you park them side by side how the Focus has shifted from generation one to four. The tailgate angle has gone from nearly upright to laidback, while the side windows have transformed from set-square deep to fashionably upticked.

Mine may look sportier – but Frances's less striking-looking car is considerably lighter and airier as a result of that deeper glass.

In fact, shorn of any Blue Oval badging, there's not an awful lot that interlinks the wardrobes of these two popular estate cars. I can't overstate the impact the Mk1 Ford Focus family had at launch in 1998, landing like a slice of New Edge exotica to brush away a decade of Escort mediocrity with a modernist style, driving dynamics to shame contemporary sports cars and a fresh approach that set Ford's path for a decade of mainstream success.

The edgy design has certainly mellowed and the new Focus won't stop people in their tracks, as the Mk1 did. Our Mk4 is a more mature affair and looks slick if innocuous in that grown-up, classy Ruby Red paint.

There's still that lingering feeling – perhaps unfair – that it's been built down to a mass-market price, and I suspect the alloys and interior plastics may wear quicker than a VW Golf's over time (as those on my sister's Focus have).

Happily, the engineering and drive of our modern Focus have evolved in a linear fashion: ours is still among the best in the class for steering response, that deft ride versus handling balance that most modern Fords have kept, and a general fizzy joie de vivre that makes me (and my sister) smile when we drive our Focuses. It's a good feeling.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Ford Focus 1.5 T Titanium X

Price £24,755 (£26,905 as tested) 
Performance 1497cc turbo triple, 148bhp, 9.0sec 0-62mph, 129mph 
Efficiency 51.4mpg (official), 46.1 mpg (tested), 125g/km CO2 
Energy cost 17.8p per mile 
Miles this month 824
Total miles 4101


Month 2 of our Ford Focus Estate long-term test: how practical is it?

Ford focus estate tailgate opener

We’ll have to get back to you on the details of our Focus estate’s ride and handling characteristics, but we can give you chapter and verse on its practicality. Every weekend since it arrived at CAR, and a few weekdays too, the Ford has been in demand for its ability to carry usefully large quantities of people and luggage.

Editor Ben Miller had a family moveathon and snaffled the keys one weekend, while James Taylor muttered something about bicycles and boots and before I knew it the Focus had taken on Tour de Peterborough support vehicle status. 

The 575-litre boot is sensibly shaped and easy to slide big loads into, with little redundant hidden space. The rear seats flop down easily and I’m beginning to learn where to waggle my foot to open the tailgate. I’d still prefer just to, you know, use my fingers to open the handle, though.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Ford Focus 1.5 T Titanium X

Price £24,755 (£26,905 as tested)
Performance 1497cc turbo triple, 148bhp, 9.0sec 0-62mph, 129mph
Efficiency 51.4mpg (official), 46.1 mpg (tested), 125g/km CO2
Energy cost 13p per mile
Miles this month 782
Total miles 3277


Month 1 living with the new Ford Focus Estate: not premium, not an SUV and not hybrid

Ford Focus Estate long-term test by CAR magazine: we live with the 1.5 T EcoBoost Titanium X

There’s always that moment as you first drive a new car when you find out whether you’ve made a sound decision or a howler. Happily, after the first mile I quickly realised that the Ford Focus Estate and I were going to get along just fine: it wields a broad range of capabilities in a pleasingly modest package – and ticks most boxes I demand of a family car.

With the demise of Mondeo Man, I reckon the more compact C-segment contender makes a good case for Focus Folk. It’s such an Everyman car, currently sitting in second place in the 2019 UK top-sellers list just ahead of the Golf, Corsa and Qashqai, and behind little brother Fiesta. I like its ubiquitous nature – it’d make a perfect getaway car.

Three of my last daily drivers have all worn premium badges and been electrified in some way or another (BMW i3, Tesla Model S, Lexus RX L) so flipping into a mainstream Ford Focus in 1.5 EcoBoost petrol spec is a refreshing change. It’ll be interesting to compare running costs, emissions and my environmental conscience as the miles stack up.

I have a long and positive relationship with the Focus family. The original is still one of the most influential new cars I’ve ever road tested; I remember being blown away at launch back in 1998. No other new car in the intervening decades has ripped up what went before so convincingly – and the Mk1 Focus remains a high-water mark for a mainstream manufacturer moving the goalposts. 

My wife traded in a Peugeot 306 hatchback for a Ford Focus Estate Mk2 when our firstborn arrived, and we did 100,000 miles in that without problem. It’ll be fascinating to see how the wagon has evolved since. Where the Mk1 was all New Edge sharp wardrobe upstairs and semi-professional athlete down below, the Mk2 was a little blunter in both departments, but remained a faithful workhorse for carting around pushchairs, endless baggage and travel cots. 

Ford Focus Estate full review

We are testing the new 2019 Ford Focus Estate 1.5 T EcoBoost Titanium X

Nowadays, with my kids entering their teenage years, they’re more likely to be lugging around sports kit of their own, plus we have a golden retriever. So a mid-sized estate car fits the bill just fine. This 2019 Focus Estate is a considerable 290mm longer than the hatchback, at 4.7m long, and that stretch brings a useful 575-litre boot. Drop the rear bench and that swells to 1620 litres – we’ll be testing the outright space in the coming weeks.

Ours is the downsized three-cylinder petrol engine, dubbed 1.5 T EcoBoost in Blue Ovalese, and first impressions are it’s a cracker. With 148bhp and 177lb ft of torque, it’s plenty fast enough and well matched to a slick six-speed manual transmission (it’s amazing how few stick-shifts pass through our hands these days). I’m still on my first tank of fuel, so haven’t crunched the fuel economy yet. Happily, mid-40s mpg seems likely.

To the £24,755 list price we’ve added four modest options: £800 Ruby Red metallic (a visual delight), £750 LED headlamps (a bright idea for this coming winter, I hope), £450 hands-free tailgate (not convinced, but let’s see) and a £150 heated steering wheel (I could do without this). We’ll be probing the sense of these optional extras in the course of the next six months.

Have you driven the new Focus Estate? Or are you a former owner, like me? If you fancy having a drive in this one and talking it through with the CAR team, email me: tim.pollard@bauermedia.co.uk

Interested? Come and join our impromptu Focus group!

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Ford Focus 1.5 T Titanium X

Price £24,755 (£26,905 as tested)
Performance 1497cc three-cylinder, 148bhp, 9.0sec 0-62mph, 129mph
Efficiency 51.4mpg (official), n/a mpg (tested), 125g/km CO2
Energy cost n/a
Miles this month 105
Total miles 2553

More Ford reviews by CAR magazine

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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