Ford Focus estate performance
The petrol engine line-up starts with a 1.6-litre that has no turbo to help it, so it has to be worked hard and isn’t particularly efficient. We’d skip it and opt instead for the turbocharged 1.0 three-cylinder Ecoboost; this might sound like a small engine for a relatively large car such as the Focus Estate, but it is in fact a capable and refined choice.
If you do most of your miles in town, then the 99bhp version of the 1.0 is the one to go for because it gives the Focus Estate smooth and strong acceleration from low revs. However, if you’re a regular motorway user, then we recommend you step up to the 123bhp version, which is more comfortable accelerating at higher speeds. It also gets a six-speed manual gearbox instead of the less-powerful car’s five-speeder, which helps with both performance and refinement. No matter which engine power output you go for, though, it’ll easily cope with the heavier loads that the Focus Estate can accommodate.
There are two 1.5-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engines; they’re noticeably stronger than the 1.0-litre units, but we don’t think it’s worth paying the hefty price premium for them. Of the diesel options, the 118bhp 1.5 is the best bet because it has more power and is a bit more efficient than the cheaper, older 1.6 that’s also available. The 2.0 TDCi 150 is satisfyingly swift, but the 1.5 offers enough punch, so it’s hard to justify the extra cost of the 2.0.
Ford has even catered for people who want to take a lot of stuff somewhere quickly, with the high-performance ST models. These are offered with a 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel or 247bhp 2.0 turbocharged petrol engine, both linked to manual gearboxes. The petrol model can match many sports cars for pace.
Ford Focus estate ride
The Focus Estate has suspension that feels well judged for UK roads. It deals comfortably with the worst bumps, and even sharp mid-corner intrusions don’t trouble it too much. It’s pretty composed at lower speeds over pockmarked urban roads, too, although it can feel quite busy over genuinely bad surfaces, particularly on versions fitted with larger wheels. Ultimately there are smoother-riding cars available – notably the VW Golf Estate – but they don’t feel quite as well controlled as the Focus Estate.
However, the ST Estates are really firm, and while they’re fine over bigger bumps, the ride rarely settles and you’re constantly bounced about over most roads.
Ford Focus estate handling
You might be buying an estate car, but you’ll still want it to have good body control – after all, you don’t want all those carefully stacked goods being bounced around all over the boot. Well, the Focus Estate won’t let you down. The body control is excellent, so you won’t feel the car lean over in faster bends.
It also grips well in all conditions, and the steering is extremely accurate and weights up pleasingly as you go around corners. However, it’s so quick just off centre that it can make the Focus feel a little too keen, nervous even, as you turn in to faster corners. The self-centring action is also too aggressive. It’s these traits that have denied the Ford five stars here.
The steering issues aren’t entirely absent on ST models, either, despite the fact they get variable-ratio steering that delivers faster responses the more you turn the wheel.
Ford Focus estate refinement
With the exception of the relatively coarse 1.6-litre petrol at the foot of the range, the Focus Estate’s engines are generally refined. The 1.0 and 1.5 Ecoboost petrol engines are really impressive in this area, because they’re smooth and quiet, and they have so much low-rev shove that you don’t have to work them very hard anyway. If you’re in the market for a diesel model, the 1.5-litre version is the peach in the range.
Suspension noise is well suppressed, but wind and road noise are much more noticeable; road noise is especially obvious on models with bigger wheels and wider tyres, including the ST editions.
The Focus’s five- and six-speed manual gearboxes are light and precise, if a bit notchy, but the clutch biting point is annoyingly vague on many models, which makes it far too easy to over- or under-rev the engine as you pull away. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, called Powershift, is fairly slow-shifting and can be a bit dim-witted when you’re pressing on, but it’s fine as long as you’re not in a hurry.