From £17,9308
'SUV-inspired' version of Ford's class-leading hatchback hold broad appeal – with the right engine

What is it?

The Ford Focus Active is the brand’s attempt to claw back territory for the conventional hatchback – territory lost to an onslaught of SUVs, including its own mid-sized option, the Ford Kuga.

And it might have hit on something, because there are good reasons why you might buy a Focus Active instead of an SUV. Without four-wheel drive, a towering frontal area and beefed-up bodywork, it's respectively less expensive to buy, more fuel efficient and easier to manoeuvre, but a 30mm increase in ride height over the standard Focus still makes it easier to slide into and gives occupants a bit of a perch. Because this is a Focus, it should also be far better to drive than any comparable ‘sports’ utility vehicle. 

To make up for the fact that the Focus Active is ultimately not an SUV are lots of rugged-looking styling additions. Black plastic conspicuously adorns a new front bumper, from where it flows down the sides of the car, looping over the wheelarches in a style you’ll find on everything from the Fiat Panda 4x4 to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain. The grille is also blacked out, because chrome just doesn’t look very tough, and naturally the skidplates are false.

Mechanically, the Focus Active is almost identical to the standard hatchback, offering a choice of three-cylinder turbocharged petrol and four-cylinder diesel engines driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox. The trim levels, Active and Active X, slot in at Zetec level, only with sat-nav and privacy glass as standard. Both come equipped with independent rear suspension, while Active X adds 18in alloy wheels and a panoramic roof.

3 Ford focus active 2019 fd hero rear

What's it like?

The Focus Active conducts itself much like a normal Focus, which means its steering is light, precise and nicely geared but a little keen to self-centre. Meanwhile, the manual gearshift has a gentle, accurate throw but not much in the way of feel. They make a nice pair, each being satisfying and effortless to use – traits indicative of the whole Focus driving experience. 

In order to fit longer springs and dampers, Ford had to alter the Focus's suspension geometry. At a push, you could say the chassis now fidgets a touch more over rougher surfaces and the compression damping is more abrupt, but it's marginal, and in general this remains among the more supple yet controlled chassis in the class. On smooth surfaces, the extra height in the sidewalls of the high-profile tyres makes for a conspicuously plush ride; long-distance motorway runs would be swept up easily. 

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The 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine we tried is well-mannered but not the most responsive or potent. When you're carrying passengers and luggage (particularly in the case of the estate, which raises boot capacity from 1354 to 1653 litres), its 123bhp and 148lb ft won't make for easy overtaking. You might therefore want to go for the 148bhp 1.5-litre Ecoboost or one of the Ecoblue diesels, both of which have usefully more torque. Further down the line, Ford might offer the 179bhp petrol so far reserved for the Focus ST-Line and Vignale, but don't count on it.

In lieu of four-wheel drive, the Focus Active gets two extra driving modes that supplement the Normal, Eco and Sport of the standard car. Slippery mode tightens the reins of the stability control, cuts wheelspin earlier and, to that end, deadens throttle response, while Trial mode reduces ABS intervention to allow greater wheel slip on softer surfaces, thereby maintaining momentum. 

While the Focus Active sits taller than its rangemates, it's no longer, but the Focus already has a spacious interior, if a plain one. The Focus Active gains leather on its steering wheel and gearknob and model-unique scuffplates and seat cloth. It has a nice enough ambience and feels tough but not particularly cosseting.

8 Ford focus active 2019 fd cockpit

Should I buy one?

Going by the success of the smaller Fiesta Active, Ford expects this car to do well, to the extent that it reckons the majority of Focus Estates will be sold in Active trim.

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Which is no surprise, really. Relative to the rest of the range, the Active is keenly priced, far from unattractive and useful for anybody who finds themselves on rocky tracks – or just mounting kerbs and getting onto steep driveways – from time to time. It's here the extra ground clearance will give peace of mind, and with a set of all-season tyres, you'd give little, if anything, away to a comparable SUV on summer rubber.

And while the Focus Active doesn't handle quite as cripsly as the standard Focus, no traditional SUV is going to offer up such a satisfying steer – at least not until you reach the entry-level Porsche Macan, at more twice the price. Our only concern is that this entry-level 1.0-litre engine version isn't very gutsy, but the larger petrol unit would remedy this.

Even so, at £21,900, all adds up to make the Focus Active seem a lot of car for the money, which it undoubtedly is.

Ford Focus Active 1.0 Ecoboost specification

Where Peak District, UK Price £21,900 On sale Now Engine 3 cyls in-line, turbocharged, petrol Power 123bhp at 6000rpm Torque 148lb ft at 1400rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight tbc Top speed 122mph 0-62mph 10.3sec Fuel economy 44.1-49.6mpg (WLTP) CO2 emissions 107g/km Rivals Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Skoda Karoq Scout

2 Ford focus active 2019 fd hero side

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
4WheelDrift 20 February 2019


Would have been nice to launch with Hybrid/PHEV option but no word on this. 

Think Ford going down the 48v mild hybrid route with the Focus though there is rumour of new Kuga being PHEV. 



catnip 20 February 2019

I'd much rather people bought

I'd much rather people bought vehicles like this to satisfy their SUV lust, at least they don't block my view in the same way at junctions. I've seen quite a few Fiesta Actives on the road, and I think they look good, far better than the Ecosport, though that's probably selling them very short.

Einarbb 20 February 2019

My previous car was a Focus ecoboost

This should drive pretty similar - even though mine was the previous gen. - never reckoned the ecoboost underpowered - found economy reasonable if not great - it wasn't powerful, but I never found over-taking tricky -- easy I would say. Nothing at all broke down, only needed to replace brake pads. The sole disappointment was when I sold it - I discovered twin rust stains on the rear wings, both stains on exact same spots on each rear wing. On the whole I reckon I can recommend a Focus ecoboost -- however, the owner needs to watch for that rear wing rust. The car was only 5 years old, meaning I felt it was rusting sooner than I expected. Except for that, no complaint at all. My current car - latest gegn Honda Civic. Thought to try a Honda this time.