A friend of mine, a keen pizza eater, always used to order an American Hot AND “with extra pepperoni!” For some reason, I thought of him on a cold morning this winter when I switched on the Ford Focus Active X heated seat — I very soon had to switch it off again…
The Active X Estate in question, at £27,895, was well-endowed with driver-comfort aids like that, including that unusual and very welcome knee-padding on the central console. How many times have we noticed how surprisingly hard is the side of a car’s console when you rest your knee there?
So, what’s all this got to do with a car review? Surely I should be starting with things like the engine, the brakes, the steering and so on? OK, but my point is that Ford designers have actually sat down and worked to eliminate the little things that, over thousands of miles, can, perhaps disproportionately, become quite annoying.
And so onto bigger things…The test car was the 1.5 EcoBoost version with start/stop and a six-speed manual gearbox.
I was particularly keen to try this car to find out how the 3-cylinder engine (50% bigger than most 3-potters) would feel, this type not being my favourite.
Once again, there is that slightly lumpy feel, no worse than the smaller units and of no significance, I guess, to the vast majority of owners. That said, what IS impressive, not unexpectedly, is the surging performance these engines give. Is it in my head or do these motors really shoot along? Wind them up and it’s fun all the way, the engine and exhaust note signalling the aural experience.
Zero to sixty is in a respectable 9.3 seconds, it feels faster, but more relevant is the acceleration on tap at higher speeds.
If you are in a sporty mood (even if that’s not this car’s primary function), the excellent six-speed gearbox does its bit in the enjoyment stakes: it’s slick, quick, light and well ratioed, with a good clutch action.
The Ford’s road-holding proved to be excellent, giving that welcome sense of security, and the steering, although on the heavy side at low speed, shifts to nicely-positive at higher speeds. Brakes? Fine.
Carrying on the positives for the Active X Estate, the ride was very comfortable. Depending on the model variant, Focus’s may have Selectable Drive Mode with Slippery & Trail mode; this would be useful for owners who really do expect to be driving in a wide variety of road and semi-off-road situations. During the test week, I found myself having to do an unusual amount of hill starts — and certainly appreciated the Auto Hold and Hill Start features.
The versatility of such an Estate model speaks for itself, with this car having Ford’s typically-easy-to-fold seats and boot arrangements, along with black roof rails.
Not quite as I had hoped was Ford’s SYNC 3 navigation system (of course, SYNC 3 is also about DAB radio, voice control, Bluetooth, Emergency Assist, two USB ports and App Link Android Auto); at first touch, I thought, ‘yes, I like this!’. Then it went downhill as I wrestled with how to work it as I wanted…for example, it seemed to have a mind of its own for day/night mode display.
I admit to giving up on the voice guidance, being something I just could not get the hang of; OK, the ball’s in my court to learn, but my caveat is that the system is simply not obvious and intuitive enough. However, this is not limited to Ford cars.
Overall fuel consumption, according to the trip computer, finished at 40.1 mpg. If this is accurate, and bearing in mind that a significant amount of time during the 400-odd miles covered was in very heavy traffic, that is a very acceptable figure, comparing well to the official combined figure of 42.2 mpg.
Given that nothing is perfect, for £27,895 as in the actual test car, this Focus Active Estate left me with an overall impression of a very good family car, well-equipped with safety and convenience features, and aimed at making any journey something to be enjoyed.
Car reviewed: Ford Focus Active X 1.5L Ford EcoBoost 150PS, on the road price £26,745 as tested £27,895 0-62mph 9.3secs Top speed 127mph Engine 1497cc 3 cylinder unleaded Euro 6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 51.4mpg CO2 emissions 127g/km Max Power 150PS@6000rpm Torque 240Nm@1600rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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