As SUV’s and crossovers continue to dominate the space on our roads Ford are hoping to corner a new niche in the market, the car based SUV. Last year they launched their new ‘Active’ range, a trim level that gives buyers some soft-roading ability without the need for a large, gas guzzling SUV or a crossover they don’t need.
The last vehicle to get this treatment is the Focus, the Fiesta and Ka+ have already been ruggedised over the last year. But is the Ford Focus Active any good?
Some cars lend themselves to beefier off-roadesque versions more than others, the Focus is one of those. Fresh bumpers front and rear match with rough and ready side cladding along the sills and arches, Active models gain roof rails while the upper level Active X goes without them…strange I know.
Up front there’s been a 30mm raise in ride height, 34mm at the rear making the Focus sit much higher than its normal road fairing brother.
There’s no chrome to be found, with black trim around the windows and a matte black plastic grille, it makes the Focus look rather stealthy, like it means business.
That ‘Orange Glow’ colour featured here is an Exclusive Colour to the Ford Focus Active models, it costs an extra £700 as do the other two Active only colours, Ruby Red and Metropolis White.
Often a raised ride height means a hampered ride, but Ford have gone about things properly. They totally re-engineered the suspension on both the hatchback and estate version of the Active.
There’s unique springs, dampers, stabiliser bars and the subframes are actually isolated from the body to stop bumps and lumps making their way into the cabin. The estate also has a totally separate rear suspension setup compared to the hatch.
This development has worked wonders, driving the Active and a normal Focus back to back and the differences in handling are negligible. Turn in and there’s little roll to be had, this isn’t the silt like affair you get in the Ka+ Active, Ford have gone to town to make this as car-like as can be.
The only time you notice a difference is over broken sections of road, here the Ford Focus Active can get a little bit fidgety, jostling you about as the stiffer springs do their best to absorb the bumps. But for the most part you’d think you’re driving a common all garden Ford Focus.
Ford offer the Active with a choice of four engines, the ubiquitous 1.0 litre EcoBoost, a 1.5 litre EcoBoost as well as a 1.5 and 2.0 litre diesel. Any engine can be paired with Ford’s new 8 speed automatic gearbox which makes a refreshing change, while the 6 speed manual is pleasant to use the 8 speed auto is super slick, it’s verging on DSG good.
If you’re going for the estate then opt for the 1.5 litre three cylinder with 148 horses and 240 Nm of torque, it feels far quicker than the 1.0 litre engine and if you’re going to be lugging kit around it makes sense.
Taking the Active soft-roading down a mile or two of unpaved green lane showed it’s abilities well, that raised ride height lifted us over the worst of the terrain, showing that 30mm might not be a lot but it does the job perfectly well.
While there’s no all-wheel drive there are two new modes to help you tackle more serious terrain, Slippery and Trail. The former adjusts the ESC and traction control giving you more grip in mud, snow and ice. Trail helps you not get stuck in soft surfaces like sand, it uses the anti-locking brakes to allow wheel slip, thus spinning and flinging mud, snow or sand from the tyre tread. Both modes dull the throttle so you don’t get yourself stuck by being too gung ho.
Inside you’ll find some smart cloth seating on the Active model, Active X upgrades you to half leather. There are ‘Active’ monikers dotted around the interior, on the seats, tread plates and the interior trim matches in pale blue hues.
Across the centre console you find a textured almost brushed plastic finish rather than the glossy stuff you find in most cars these days. It looks hard wearing and pretty scratch resistant, just what you need with an ‘Active’ lifestyle…
Infotainment is taken care of with an 8-inch infotainment system, there are a few shortcut keys beneath the screen, one of them handily turning the screen off for night driving. Below that the heating controls are still embedded into the nastiest and cheapest piece of plastic to be found anywhere in the Focus, we still have no idea why. Apart from that one piece the rest of the interior is of a decent quality as per the normal Focus, nothing stands out it just does the job.
Leg and headroom is just the same as the Focus, so ample for a fully grown human. Boot space measures in at 375 litres for the hatch, but the estate can swallow a massive 608 litres with ease. The boot floor on the wagon is also far easier to load cargo in and out of as it’s completely flat.
Although the Focus Active is two wheel drive only, the majority of SUV and crossover buyers either opt for the two wheel drive option or never leave pristine tarmac. For those of us that live up a farm track, in the countryside or just like to head out into the semi wilderness of a weekend the Active makes a great choice.
Dare we say that it even looks better than a standard Focus…