Every petrol engine is a 1.6-litre. Entry-level cars come with a basic 16-valve 103bhp unit, but that doesn’t give much performance. There are other versions with 123bhp, but the 148bhp unit is our favourite, with a fine blend of performance and economy. The cheapest diesel models also have 1.6-litre engines, with the 113bhp version giving a good blend of pace and price. Further up the range, the two 2.0-litre-engined models perform very well, but the 161bhp is too dear to recommend.
The Focus Estate preserves the hatchback's exemplary handling abilities, with strong grip, taut body control and responsive steering. That makes it the most enjoyable car to drive in the small estate class. The low-speed ride might be a little firm for some tastes, but things get smoother when you're going faster.
The precise steering, strong progressive brakes and neat, accurate gearshift make the Focus feel full of life. When you just want to sit back and enjoy the journey, however, the smooth engines and excellent isolation of wind noise mean it is a highly accomplished high-mileage tourer. There's a touch more road noise than in the hatchback, though.
CO2 emissions are very competitive, so the Focus – and the 113bhp 1.6 diesel in particular – is a popular choice with company car drivers. However, weak resale values make it less tempting as a private buy. By and large, Ford’s engines don’t perform as well as most rivals’ in our True MPG tests, either.
The Focus's dash has an appealingly funky design, and has an expensive-looking soft-touch covering. However, the plastics on the centre fascia and central partition are harder and cheaper-looking. By the time you reach the footwells or boot, the plastics look downright budget. On the other hand, Ford has a pretty good record in Reliability Surveys.
The Focus is stuffed with airbags, and every model comes with full electronic stability control. Additionally, ‘torque vectoring' uses the ESP and brakes to distribute drive to the front wheel with the most traction. It's a subtle, but brilliant piece of kit, elevating the Focus's cornering agility and stability way above the class norm. The hatchback version achieved a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP.
The Focus's driving position is spot-on, thanks to a precisely laid-out pedal box and a wide range of seat- and steering wheel adjustment. Unfortunately, over-the-shoulder vision is limited and the dashboard features too many fiddly, confusingly arranged buttons.
The Focus is an impressively practical small estate. The boot isn't quite as long as those in the Astra or Golf estates, but it's a fair bit wider, so you'll still cram plenty in. The rear seats fold down completely flat, too. The Focus isn’t as roomy for passengers as a VW Golf, but there's still plenty of space in the back for three small children or two large adults.
There’s plenty of substance in the standard equipment, with air-conditioning, a DAB radio and Bluetooth across the range. However, we reckon it’s worth upgrading to Titanium, thanks to the posher-looking stereo that gives the cabin a real lift. Trade up to top-of-the-range Titanium X, and dual-zone climate control, cruise control and hill-start assist join the roster. Items such as blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning are available as options.
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The Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec Estate is a great car to drive, and has superb official figures for emissions and fuel economy. You might struggle to match the claimed 67mpg, but it should still be cheap to run.