Ford Focus 1.6 Ti-VCT Zetec estate
by Matt Joy
There is no beating the traditional estate car for real carrying capacity, despite all the hype spouted by marketing people about MPVs, SUVs and so on...
Small load-luggers derived from family hatches take a large slice of the estate market in the UK. And this is why Ford has been quick to boost the new Focus range with just such a car.
The estate's rear end is well integrated into the model's all-new shape, and it looks like a lower and leaner C-MAX. Despite high-mounted tail-lights and flush glazing, this model is actually more stylish than the hatch. Even so, its great rival, the Vauxhall Astra estate, appears much sharper in comparison.
Those sleeker lines do no harm to the luggage space, however. A gently sloping roofline leading to a square tail maximises the available room, and with 475 litres of boot space with the seats up, the Focus is a capable carrier. The rear chairs fold easily to allow use of the full load area of 1,525 litres, but unlike some rivals Ford does not offer any kind of storage divider. As with the hatchback, accommodation is generous. Even when tall occupants are in the front seats, rear legroom is sufficient for most shapes and sizes.
Passengers will be pleased with the fixtures and fittings, too. Ford has really moved the Focus forward in terms of quality of materials used. A soft-touch dashboard, rubberised heater controls and solid switches feel good and are robustly built. It's from the driver's seat, however, that the Focus really shows its trump card. The 1.6-litre Ti-VCT engine provides good torque at low revs rather than top-end power, but can still haul a car of this size with ease.
Thanks to a solid yet smooth action, the gearshift is a delight to use. The steering, too, is first class. Although less communicative than that of the original Focus, it is superbly weighted.
And the sporty driving position makes it all the easier to exploit the chassis. A composed ride means only the very worst bumps and potholes get through into the cabin, while the handling is also first-rate, with impressive grip and a neutral, forgiving nature.
Which just goes to prove that you don't necessarily need sporty looks to guarantee a good drive. The Focus estate may appear sensible and practical, but it's also thoroughly accomplish-
ed on the road.
The Ford Focus estate provides additional practicality for demanding buyers, while retaining all the good points of the standard hatchback model. It is arguably the better-looking design, too. In all, it's a good car - albeit one which brings nothing entirely new to the market.
At a Glance
* On sale in January 2005
* Estate costs ÂŁ850 more than the five-door hatchback
* Zetec has sports suspension