Obviously practicality is critically important to an estate car, and the Focus does a very solid job indeed. The boot is a presentable size at 575 litres, but while that’s enough to carry most of what a family could throw at it, it’s less than you get in most of the car’s rivals in terms of outright capacity. The space is a little shallow, too, but the access to it is great, with a huge opening and barely any load lip to negotiate. There’s more space to be found under the boot floor, too, and when you drop the spring-loaded rear seats (done with either pull catches in the boot or buttons on top of the backrests themselves), they lie pretty much flat, giving you a very competitive 1620 litres of cargo space.
There’s loads of space up front, and in the rear seats, legroom is generous and headroom is better than in the hatchback, so even tall passengers will sit very comfortably. The wide cabin means there’s more shoulder room than in many competitors. This aspect will only really come into play when you’re carrying three people across the rear bench, and the wide middle seat and flat, low-set transmission tunnel will help on that score, too.
The materials used in the cabin are absolutely fine, and should prove fairly hard-wearing, but most of the surfaces don’t have the tactility or texture to cut it with those in, say, a Volkswagen Golf
. The touchscreen infotainment system will take a bit of getting used to, but after some playing about, it soon becomes second nature.
The rest of the dashboard has a fairly sensible layout, too, although there are still more buttons than you’ll find in many competitors, and the steering wheel is also full of the things, which can be a little bamboozling when you’re trying to use the trip computer. That said, there’s lots of adjustment, so it’s easy to find a comfy driving position, and visibility is pretty clear in every direction, with no major blind spots.
Traditionally, driver engagement has always been the area in which the Focus – in both hatchback and estate forms - has excelled, and happily, that’s still the case here. It feels sophisticated and grown up at all times, because the ride is compliant, comfortable and superbly controlled at all speeds, while exterior noises are also extremely well isolated. And despite that impressive comfort, you still have every ounce of trademark Focus agility. There’s bags of grip, body movements are really well tied down, and the steering gives you quick responses and a decent amount of feel. The car flows really nicely from bend to bend, giving you a feeling of safety, as well as putting a smile on your face
What’s more, that’s all on the most basic suspension setup on offer. Cars with the bigger petrol and diesel engines have a more sophisticated setup on the rear end, and although the ride is even smoother with this arrangement fitted, the difference is very marginal indeed. The Active models, meanwhile, have a suspension that’s jacked-up by 30mm, but again, this makes very little difference to how the car behaves. So, rest assured that whatever Focus you pick, you’ll have a car that’s fabulous to drive.
The options list also offers an adaptive suspension that alters its behaviour according to which driving mode you select, but we haven’t had a chance to try it yet. All Focuses have driving modes that alter things like steering weight and throttle response, but while you can feel the differences the modes make, they don’t really make the Focus any more engaging to drive. Good job it’s already pretty engaging in the first place.