Ford Focus Active 1.0 EcoBoost mHEV – King of chassis on a diet

The Ford Focus underwent an upgrade some time ago, which mostly affected its cabin, where it received a large touchscreen display and the architecture has also changed slightly. But there’s news under the hood, too, where the Focus gets a new mild-hybrid powertrain. We put the latest Ford Focus Active to the test with the mild-hybrid 1.0 EcoBoost three-cylinder as part of our week-long test. Is it enough to get a mid-range estate moving? Let’s take a look…
You’ll recognise the upgraded Focus quite easily. Just take a look at the revised front end, which has been given a slightly modified bonnet, lights fitted with LED technology as standard, a revised grille and a redesigned bumper. One of the most noticeable changes, however, is the relocation of the blue oval logo from the top edge of the bumper to just inside the grille.
The Ford Focus estate in the adventurously tuned Active X version, whose design is distinguished by a few more little things, such as a different grille that has vertical slats. The front bumper is also unique, with smaller air intakes on the sides and a chrome line down the middle suggesting chassis protection.
In the trim tested here, there are standard LED headlights that shine very well and have automatic high beam switching. For an extra cost, however, you can also have the dynamic LED Matrix headlights, which show off their distinctive modules in daylight outline, and which, in addition to shading surrounding traffic, which they handle smoothly and efficiently, the lights are also able to adapt their characteristic to speed and weather, when they can substitute for fog lights, which we don’t find here separately.
The unpainted plastic body trim, inspired by crossovers and SUVs, stands out when viewed in profile. We didn’t have the retractable guards on the test piece; they’re part of a package that also adds active parking assist and a rear parking camera with panoramic image. There are also extra “Active” logos on the sides of the front fenders. The test car wears standard 17-inch alloy wheels shod in sensible sized 215/55 R17 tyres.
At the rear, we again see more modern lights, fitted with LEDs as standard, and an upgraded rear bumper that, like the front one, relies on a combination of black plastic and silver decor. In addition, the Active trim is equipped as standard with a five tailpipe twin tailpipes. Overall, the car has benefited from the modernisation and it should also be added that the special feature of the Active version is the modified chassis, whose ground clearance has increased by approx. 29 mm compared to standard.
Inside, the Focus is upgraded with the next-generation SYNC 4 infotainment system with a 13.2-inch screen that offers cloud-based navigation, voice control, remote OTA updates, and wireless support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It is a bit of a bummer, though, that the upgrades have reduced the classic physical buttons and so the climate control has been moved to the infotainment. At least it’s still in plain sight and there’s no need to hunt for it in the menus. However, I must have a complaint about the absence of a button to quickly close the internal air-conditioning circuit, so for every loaded “racer” on the old Golf, I had to crank through the display and sometimes it was too late.
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The volume control button, along with the system start/stop button, drive mode selector, and a few other buttons, have been moved to where the vent panel used to be. It’s also a shame that switching drive modes has to be invoked with the button first, and then switched by tapping the infotainment display. This delays and delays…
At the same time, several new assistive technologies are coming to the Focus. Among them is Blind Spot Assist, which, in addition to monitoring itself, can also counter-steer if a driver is about to cross into a parallel lane to deter the driver from his or her intention and prevent a collision. In terms of spaciousness, there’s nothing to fault the Focus, in this configuration. The comfortable front seats offer good support, and finding the ideal position takes only a moment. There’s no need to worry about second-row roominess. At 186 centimetres, I had more than enough space in front of my knees and above my head.
The luggage compartment offers a basic 550-litre capacity after the hideaway rollcage. Folding the rear backrests, which can be folded directly from the boot area, then creates an almost completely flat load area with a capacity of up to 1620 litres to the roof. They are also split 60:40 and feature a practical tunnel.
If you like camping and sleeping in the car, even in a couple, the Active version is perfect for that. Also worth mentioning is the double bottom boot, which is equipped with several hinges. The luggage compartment can thus be easily divided into two parts, with a handy rubber tray in the rear, ready to carry, for example, wet clothes.
The modernization also brought news in the case of powertrains. The mild-hybrid three-litre three-cylinder can also be combined with a seven-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission. This solution does bring electrification, but only as an aid, so these mild-hybrids cannot run purely on electricity. They only contain a starter-generator, operating at 48V, which is used to start the engine and to provide some minimal assistance to the combustion engine when the throttle is added. It will cover those moments when the engine is just starting to breathe and the turbo doesn’t have the blades revved up enough for full power.
A small lithium-ion battery is also part of this unit, where energy is stored. There is no need to connect the vehicle to the power grid to charge it, as mild-hybrid vehicles can recharge the battery in two ways: regenerative braking, which recovers energy that is normally wasted uselessly when slowing down or braking, and using an internal combustion engine, via a generator that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
The driver, however, has virtually no way of recognizing the operation of the mild-hybrid drive, except that the engine is deactivated when approaching an intersection or visually by the blue icon that indicates the auxiliary work of the starter-generator. Ford’s liter engine is pleasantly responsive and I’ll say dispassionately that it can be very economical, quiet and pleasantly refined. But 125 horsepower isn’t quite enough for regular driving of such a heavy car.
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The 1.0-litre EcoBoost mHEV three-cylinder engine, which offers a peak output of 114 kW (125 hp) at 6,000 rpm and peak torque from 190 to 240 Nm. Why from-to? Because in standard driving mode, peak torque is 190 Nm between 1900 and 5500 rpm. However, if required, the mild-hybrid system, in Sport mode and with starter-generator support, can offer up to 240 Nm in the short term at just 2500 rpm. Too bad it’s only short-term…
OTOH, this mHEV system does a great job but it’s not the right motoring for a family wagon. I’m missing some of that extra kilowatt in the form of power reserve, or a more sovereign pull. The engine falls far short of the refinement of the three-cylinder 1.5 EcoBoost (110kW/150k or, better still, 134kW/180k). What a pity this engine has dropped out of the range… Also, the linkage with the PowerShift automatic gearbox could be a bit more intelligent, as it does more thinking than shifting at times. Not to mention the fact that it lacks any way for manual shifting and so you’re reliant on its logic and preset revs only and only. In L mode, it does pull higher but it’s a weak patch on the paddles under the steering wheel or at least the shift lever. And that’s mainly due to the inability to enjoy the amazing chassis to the fullest…
Despite having an Active version that should primarily target the outdoorsy customer, this Focus won’t disappoint chassis-wise, even for drivers who want to enjoy the corners. It’s a Ford with everything that goes with it and so it corners with an ease all its own. It responds instantly to steering wheel commands, it doesn’t over-steer and all the controls are tuned in just the right harmony with the chassis. Pricing starts at €26,390 for the Focus wagon body, with the Active version starting at €26,940 and the automatic gearbox is still over two grand more expensive. Tested Active Design trim with extras such as Family Set – split rear seats, with centre armrest with cup holder and ski hole, KeyFree – keyless start, unlocking and locking the car – wireless phone charging and Design Set- heated windscreen- heated front seats – heated steering wheel – alarm with surround sensor- tinted glass from B-pillar + beautiful stylish metallic paint Desert Island Blue, Magnetic is priced at €30,466.66 excl. VAT.
Once again, Ford has managed to mix interesting utility and drivability. The Focus Active appears to be the ideal vehicle for a family that lives more outside the city, while also satisfying more demanding drivers thanks to its driving enjoyment. It’s a really successful estate car, which in my eyes has only one weak spot and that’s the motoring. However, those who don’t crave performance and overtaking will find the liter with mild-hybrid abundantly sufficient.