The Ford Focus has been facelifted since we last tested it. There are ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ styling changes, and uprated infotainment. As before, the Active is the burlier-looking version for buyers who might otherwise be tempted by an SUV. We’re testing the Ford Focus Estate 1.0 EcoBoost 155PS mHEV Active X Powershift here.

What are we looking for with the Ford Focus Estate 1.0 EcoBoost 155PS mHEV Active X Powershift?

Can the Focus still compete with newer rivals? Is the Active worth the extra over a regular Focus Estate?

Towing ability

It’s a sign of the times that you can no longer buy the Focus with a diesel engine. Unless you count the high-performance ST model, it’s a straight choice between two 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines when choosing a caravan tow car, both with mild-hybrid assistance.

In a mild-hybrid vehicle, electricity doesn’t power the car directly, but it does take some strain away from the engine to improve economy and lower emissions.

Our test car is the more powerful of the two mild hybrids, with 155hp, comparable with a typical 2.0-litre turbodiesel output. However, torque is more important than horsepower when towing, and the Ford offers a modest 140lb ft – the diesel Škoda Octavia Estate we tested recently has 266lb ft.

Despite this deficit, the 1.0-litre engine feels surprisingly willing when it’s towing a lightweight caravan.

Focus Estate Active side on
Plenty of headroom and legroom for adults

We matched it to our Bailey Discovery D4-4, with a MiRO of 1059kg. The Ford towed this small caravan well. Even with its modest torque figure, the car had no difficulty pulling the Bailey up to speed, or holding 60mph on the motorway.

Some of the credit for this must go to the seven-speed Powershift auto. It switched ratios willingly and generally did a fine job of making the most of the engine’s muscle.

On steep hills or when overtaking, the engine’s modest outputs were rather more noticeable, and the Focus would be slower pulling a heavier caravan.

With a kerbweight of 1451kg, the Focus Active Estate has an 85% match figure of 1233kg, so could reasonably be asked to tow around 170kg more than the unloaded Bailey, while still abiding by the 85% matching guideline.

Despite its chunky appearance and the 30mm hike in ride height, the Active is a front-wheel-drive car, so would not be for you if you want a 4×4 for towing a caravan.

Active from the rear
Despite its appearance, this is a front-wheel-drive car

When towing in wet weather, something which is likely if you’re towing a caravan in winter, it was easy to briefly spin the driven wheels making a hill start. It’s just a shame that there is no four-wheel-drive version for better traction in rainy weather.

The higher centre of gravity compared with the regular Focus Estate has no noticeable effect on towing stability. The Focus is a competent and secure tow car, with just the odd nudge from the caravan.

Solo driving

Despite suspension tweaked to better suit rough roads, and the increased ride height, the Focus Active is great fun to drive, with one or two reservations.

The biggest is the absence of a manual override for the gearbox. It’s not something you would miss 90% of the time, but when a favourite B-road is clear of traffic, it’s disappointing that you can’t take charge of gear selection for yourself. There’s a little more lean when cornering than in the standard car, too.

Otherwise, the Focus is an involving drive, with accurate, well-weighted steering and tautly controlled suspension.

To add some substance to the Active’s SUV-lookalike style, you can select Slippery or Trail modes for challenging surfaces. These alter the throttle, traction, stability and braking responses, but this finessing is no substitute for four-wheel drive and the right tyres if you’re going off-road.

Space and practicality

We found the driving position comfortable on a long drive. What’s more, there’s plenty of headroom and legroom for adults, even in the back of the car.

The standard of finish is not so pleasing, however. The car feels solidly put together, but there are some hard plastics and some cheap-looking surfaces. There’s nothing downmarket about the infotainment system, though – one of the upgrades that was made when the Focus was facelifted.

Infotainment screen
Infotainment screen is large and clear

The screen is large and clear, and the system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We’d prefer real buttons for the air-con, but the controls are always visible at the bottom of the screen.

The boot is a healthy size at 575 litres, although you’ll find even more room for your holiday bags in the Škoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf estates. You can fold the seats down using levers either side of the tailgate if the rear seats aren’t in use.

Boot with rear seats folded down
The boot is a healthy size at 575 litres, rising to 1650 litres with the rear seats folded down

Buying and owning

The Active is available in two specifications: the standard Active and Active X. With the more powerful engine and the automatic gearbox, the Active X costs £34,530. What Car? research suggests polite arm-twisting could drop that by £2000 or more.

Your money buys a respectable roster of kit, including sat nav, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, powered adjustment of the driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and a wireless charging pad.

The official combined economy figure is a respectable 50.4mpg. We bettered that with 56mpg on a steady motorway drive. While towing the Bailey, we saw 27.8mpg.


It’s questionable whether the Active offers much more than the regular Focus Estate for most drivers, but it is a practical tow car. Just be aware the petrol engine will need to work hard to pull a family van.

Alternatives to consider

The Nissan X-Trail e-4orce Tekna is a thoughtfully designed tow car which is a 4×4 hybrid SUV. Alternatively, if you want an estate, the Audi A6 Avant 50 TFSI e Quattro S Line Tiptronic provides great performance and good economy, so long as you can recharge it at home. Then there’s the Genesis GV80, an option which offers excellent stability and a luxurious cabin.

Technical spec of the Ford Focus Estate 1.0 EcoBoost 155PS mHEV Active X Powershift

  • Price: £34,530
  • What Car? Target Price: £32,218
  • Retained value after three years: 48%
  • Kerbweight: 1451kg
  • 85% of kerbweight: 1233kg
  • Gross vehicle weight: 2005kg
  • Max towing limit: 1500kg
  • Gross train weight: 3505kg
  • Towball limit: 90kg
  • Price of towball and electrics: £750
  • Boot size: 575-1650 litres
  • Payload: From 554kg
  • Test conditions: Wet
  • Engine size: 998cc
  • Power (hp)/rpm: 155@6000rpm
  • Torque (lb ft)/rpm: 140@1900rpm
  • Official combined economy: 50.4mpg
  • Towing economy: 27.8mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 127g/km
  • First year car tax: £200
  • Second year car tax: £170
  • Insurance group: 17E
  • Euro NCAP rating: 5/5

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Caravan magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things caravan related.