CIRCLE THE WAGONS (some text hidden)
By Jonathan Crouch
Ford's Focus is best known as a family hatch, but if you need a little added practicality, look at the estate version before you get drawn into the SUV marketing spiel. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Reviewword count: 65
The Ford Focus Estate has been given a proper working over in MK4 form, with more boot space, sleeker looks, a more user-friendly interior, more efficient engines and some suspension tweaks that aim to remind us what made the Focus great in the first place. It's not the biggest or the cheapest estate in its sector, but it might just be the most appealing all-rounder.
Backgroundword count: 135
Such is the pull of small SUVs that the estate car seems to have had its last rites read time and again, yet still they struggle on. The reason why they refuse to die? They're a good idea. What's more, if people were honest about why they really needed a vehicle, an estate car would make more practical sense. They carry just as much as many SUVs, yet they're better to drive, they're lighter and more aerodynamic which means better efficiency - and they're usually cheaper to buy too. Ford's brought us some brilliant estates down the years but as much as customers have warmed to the Focus hatch, the five-door estate has never occupied a huge slice of the overall Focus sales pie chart. Perhaps this current version can formulate a more convincing argument.
Driving Experienceword count: 311
This fourth generation Focus estate, like its predecessors, has a reputation as a family station wagon with the ability to entertain at the wheel - and if you enjoy your driving, that's something you'll appreciate pretty early on the first time you try one. Twenty years ago, the original version of this model achieved much the same thing by standardising advanced multi-link rear suspension across its model line-up. Today, you get that too - in contrast to the hatch body shape which restricts this more advanced damping set-up to its most powerful 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol and 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel variants. To give you the engine line-up in full, things kick off with the brand's familiar three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol powerplant, available in a 125PS variant that features cylinder deactivation, plus it can also be had in mHEV mild hybrid form in 125 or 155PS forms. Next up for petrol people is the 1.5-litre four cylinder EcoBoost engine with 150PS, borrowed from the Fiesta ST hot hatch, this unit also available with 182PS. The Focus ST gets a 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol unit with 280PS. As for diesels, well there are 90 and 120PS versions of Ford's 1.5-litre EcoBlue powerplant, then 150 and 190PS versions of the company's 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel. The ride isn't overly firm, but body control through the bends is exemplary, allowing you at the wheel to make the most of the stiff new C2 platform, the feelsome power steering and the torque vectoring control system that helps you get the power down through the bends. It all combines to create a car that really can still reward at the wheel, even in its most affordable forms: there's still nothing else in this segment that feels quite the same. Yet it still does the sensible stuff well too, being decently refined, with confident braking and a lovely tactile gearshift.
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Category: Spacious Family Cars
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