The Ford Focus estate dates back to 1999, a time when estates were the primary choice for a family car with loads of practical space, before the onslaught of the SUV. The car began its design journey to the model we see today from the third generation, launched in 2011. The Focus hatch has remained in the top 10 best-selling cars in the UK more or less since its inception, and now we have the latest iteration of the successful car in estate form, in top-of-the-tree trim, Vignale spec.
There have been bi-fuel models, warmed-up versions and of course plenty of diesels but now, with the irreversible decline in diesel sales and concomitant local-authority urban penalties for the fuel, petrol is the obvious choice, and none more so than this 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine.
The Vignale, so smart it has the silver lettering “Vignale” across the tailgate instead of “Focus”, has all the bells and whistles, which gives us the opportunity for a good amount of window shopping, a chance to browse among all that Ford has to offer these days.
The Focus’s expansive panoramic roof has a large integrated sun roof (£995) which is a pleasant change from the normal immovable slab of glass. There’s a head-up display that shows through a pop-up glass window rather than the smarter version in more premium glasses that projects straight onto the windscreen.
We wouldn’t be without Apple CarPlay now, or the wireless charging pad (£100) which will work on iPhone version 8s and later. There are also 2 USB ports.
Ford now uses the third version of its Sync infotainment system on a touchscreen. The graphics aren't the most beautiful and our navigation took an age to load, but the premium Bang and Olufsen stereo system is superb and well worth the extra money.
We also had lane-keep assist and active cruise control on the car which, when combined, give you a driving experience that is as close to automated as you’ll get right now. The cross-traffic alert system (£400) on the rear parking camera is also extremely useful for highlighting oncoming cars you can’t see.
Quite what magic Ford engineers weave on their cars is still a mystery, and even harder to explain in layman’s terms. The Focus has always been a car with exemplary handling and ride qualities, and the estate version is no less brilliant: the steering has a quality resistance in the manner of BMWs and Alfas and the suspension feels more like that of a Jaguar – equally at home over ruts and bumps and when experiencing a shoving yaw rate through a smooth corner.
The 1.5-litre engine develops 182 horsepower and 240 NM (178lb ft) of torque, which means that you can rev it to 6,000rpm or let it sit in fifth gear at 30mph. The engine response is fluid, and unobtrusive, and the six-speed manual gearbox is a joy to pop through the gates.
Ford quotes 41mpg but we couldn’t better 38.6mpg on a long motorway run down the country.
With a low boot lip and high-rising tailgate, the Focus estate is the ideal car for loading and carrying large items, while the comfortable interior is full of space and light. This is a vehicle for those who know the market well and have a clear understanding of what they want from their car: while the styling and badge aren’t exactly status-symbol fare, if you want to combine practical space with class-leading handling, it will make you a very happy motorist.