It had been a while since we last drove the Ford Focus of the Active variety. The model played a big part in us awarding the Focus our Car of the Year award a few years ago, as it proved a fine-handling, practical package.
But the Focus line-up sure has changed in the intervening years. Aside from the rarely seen ST, there is now just the Active and ST-Line X (which we featured last year) and both have had quite the update. Is the Active still as convincing?
The Focus powertrain is now of the mild hybrid type, the 1.5T replaced by a 1.0T matched with a 48v system and a belt starter generator. It used to have an auto too, well, it still does but now it’s of the twin-clutch variety, with one less cog for a total of seven. And for those that have bad memories of the old Powershift, they say the lubrication issues are sorted.
Another change is the move to a torsion beam rear end from an independent type set-up. This isn’t as detrimental as it sounds as the ride and handling balance is still swell.
The steering feels different however, much lighter with more of a self-centering action than we recall. It’s not a deal breaker; it’s just not quite as polished as it once was.
There’s no problem with the reduction in engine size either as the electric addition gives the 1.0-litre triple a boost in the torque stakes from right down low, where it needs it most, and this feels strong right off the mark. Thanks to the BSG, the idle/stop system’s restarts are quick.
The transmission is programmed to upshift early once underway, around the 1500-2000rpm mark, and it just grunts along on its low-end torque without requiring many revs at all. Ford lists the outputs at 114kW with 190Nm on from 2100-5500rpm, and it’s that broad spread of Newtons that makes it an unfussed around-town drive.
As such, the Active returned 5.7L/100km during our time behind the wheel, most of that spent ambling around the city. Ford states consumption at 5.1L/100km (119g/km) which, at the time we drove it, gave you a handy rebate but now nets you nothing.
But neither does it incur a fee. It’s covered by Ford’s five-year, unlimited kay warranty and 20,000km/12-month service intervals.
The transmission (which now gets a proper gear lever in place of the rotary selector) is a slick unit and up to the task. There are no unnecessary paddle shifters (or any mechanism to shift the box manually) but you can slip the lever into L, which holds lower ratios and therefore improves responsiveness.
One mark against the trans is when reversing uphill; the take-up is laboured, and it’s hard to modulate your speed once it gets moving.
There are more driver assistance features now with active lane keeping (not so bothersome really, but also quickly deactivated) that pairs with the active cruise to help ease motorway commuting. It’s especially useful in the slow grind of the stop/start rush hour, taking care of it all for you.
The Focus we’d deem a right-sized hatchback with good rear seat space (plenty for kids) and easy access, the minimal increase in ride height helping there. The boot is well formed with a good capacity for the class (443L) and the seats fold easily to expand that out to 1320L. A tow rating of 1500kg braked isn’t bad either.
Up front the seats could do with some additional cushioning but there’s nothing wrong with the driving position, the cloth trim, or the manual adjusters. Some of the finishing and materials used isn’t amazing but maybe the big touchscreen and infusion of connectivity will help you see past that.
The dash is dominated by the large 13-inch screen with Sync 4 in charge of the infotainment. The voice control isn’t as smart as some others; you need to give it more specific prompts, but once you’ve mastered those, you can allay your fears of being driven to distraction.
There is wireless smartphone interface for both Apple and Android and you’re connected with the Ford Pass App.
The look has had a mild makeover too and it still sports its blackened wheel arches and sills, hinting at its adventurous side. While it doesn’t have much in the way of useful ground clearance, it goes rather well over gravel roads, stable in the loose with the ability to smooth the big potholes too.
It’s still a front driver, so it can’t go too far off road. But it goes well on tarseal, with good grip on the front end and a faithful rear, despite that torsion beam axle. The little triple goes alright too when given a prod, revving cleanly to 6000rpm and sounding sweet.
It’s always good to be surprised when it comes to pricing. We thought this would have gone up in price, and be in the forties.
But no, the Ford Focus Active is a mere $38,990, making this darn good value when compared against compact SUVs. Okay, it’s more of a hatch than an SUV but if you get over that minor issue, this is still a good option.
|Model||Ford Focus Active|
|Clean Car Discount||Neutral – $0|
|Engine||1.0L, IL3, mild hybrid|
|Total System Output||114kW/190Nm|
|Drivetrain||7-speed TC, FWD|