5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Packed with kit for the price; retains keen dynamics; brilliant turbo triple
Marketing faff; ride quality remains sharp; can’t really go off-road
The Wheels Verdict: It might seem like complete marketing guff, but the Ford Focus Active is a positive addition to the range. While you probably won’t benefit from the nominal ride-height increase, the spec level, styling additions, drive modes and independent rear suspension make this would-be SUV a worthwhile proposition. Whether you’ll go off-road in it is questionable, but at least it’ll look like you can.
WHAT IS THE FORD FOCUS ACTIVE?
That’s a good question, one even Ford struggles to answer. Stating what it isn’t seems easier – it’s not an SUV and it’s not a normal hatchback. In layman’s terms, adding Active to the already proven Ford Focus hatch means extra ride height, two traction-scavenging driving modes, independent rear suspension, contemporary body cladding and styling tweaks.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Anything with a jacked-up ride height and SUV pretention is currently hot property. With few clear rivals, the Ford Focus Active is a bit of an enigma in the market that needs to be explored. Essentially, there’s a lot of ‘active-lifestyle’ jargon in desperate need of deciphering.
FORD FOCUS ACTIVE REVIEW
The sun is shining and the fields are green for our idyllic drive on varied surfaces through the countryside surrounding the rich and famous residents of Byron Bay. Then, as if it couldn’t get more clichéd, myriad cows cross the road, the herd meandering without a care in the world that they’re impeding an, ahem, active jaunt in the German-built Ford Focus Active.
Not even Ford can tell us if the Active is an SUV, crossover or hatchback. But its raised ride height (30mm front and 34mm rear), tough-guy body cladding, bash plates and gravel-road conquering traction modes means it does a great impression of a faux-wheel drive. Yes, that’s right, the Active is exclusively front-wheel drive. However, it utilises the C2 platform and independent rear suspension.
Priced at $29,990, the Active sits in the middle of the Focus range. The five-star ANCAP-rated package gains loads of standard safety kit like autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and a 180-degree reversing camera with sensors. You also get an 8.0-inch touch screen with SYNC 3 infotainment (plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), wireless phone charging and bespoke Nordic Blue stitching as some of the standard kit.
Spend an extra $1250 and you can option the Safety Package, which includes stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot warning and lane-centering steering. For $1800 you can add 18-inch alloys, LED adaptive headlights (and LED tail-lights) and tinted glass with the Design Package. A panoramic glass sunroof is $2000.
In terms of design, the exterior kicks more goals than the interior. However, the cabin is nicely laid out and there’s been a conscious effort to use more high-end materials – although Ford’s VW Golf-hunter isn’t quite the hole in one in terms of interior ambience. There’s decent space front-to-rear, the 375-litre boot expands to 1354L with the rear seats folded and it’s ergonomically sound, the rotary control dial for the transmission being the only antiquated niggle.
On-road, the 134kW/240Nm three-cylinder turbo petrol is a charmer. It’s punchy, linear and refined. Despite its seemingly small 1.5-litre capacity, there’s enough muscle to relax into the higher ratios of the relatively intuitive eight-speed auto while using the three-pot’s torque. And it’s all accompanied by an endearing offbeat thrum. Thanks to cylinder deactivation (effectively becoming a two-cylinder), the combined fuel consumption is an amicable 6.4L/100km.
Thankfully the extra ride height hasn’t come at the expense of keen road holding or body control, with the 1404kg Active retaining the dynamic verve of the Focus range. The steering remains a highlight and there’s genuine fun to be had behind the wheel. The consequence, despite well-tuned damping, is firm ride quality – on both the 17- and 18-inch alloys. The Slippery (snow and ice) and Trail (sand, gravel and dirt) modes help the front-wheel drive Active gain extra traction together with the chunkier tyres. But ultimately, you’re better off in a Subaru XV if you want to truly veer off sealed roads.
It’s hard to argue against the Active’s existence despite its curious case for being. The high-riding Focus is packed with tech and it’s well equipped for the mid-spec price tag. But more importantly, it doesn’t detract from the positive virtues of the ‘normal’ Focus. And despite the Active’s urban-jungle persona and rugged pretenses, it might actually make you get out and see some cows…
FORD FOCUS ACTIVE RIVALS
Subaru XV, Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 3008
FORD FOCUS ACTIVE PRICE AND SPECS
Model: Ford Focus Active
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol
Max power: 134kW at 6000rpm
Max torque: 240Nm at 1600rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
On sale: Now