2019 Ford Focus Active Review
Toby Hagon’s 2019 Ford Focus Active Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In a nutshell: A Focus hatch with some high-riding SUV thinking for those who want the look without the off-road ability.
SUVs and crossovers are big business, but Ford has only dipped its foot in the fast-growing market segment with its latest addition to the Focus lineup, the Active. Using the hatchback body of the regular Focus, it rides slightly higher and includes some all-important styling tweaks to visually separate it from the regular model. Elsewhere, the Active is pure Focus, from its engine and transmission to its five-door layout and features.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
The Active is an addition to the Focus range rather than a standalone model. At $29,990+ORCs it sits between the more affordable Trend and ST-Line and the top-of-the-range Titanium, although its adventurous positioning will help it appeal to a slightly different buyer group.
Sitting about 30mm higher off the ground (the front suspension has been raised 30mm and the rear 34mm) the Active also gets unique bumpers, 17-inch alloy wheels and black flares around the wheel arches. Roof rails are also part of the deal.
Elsewhere, the Active’s equipment levels closely mimic those of the ST-Line, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), dual-zone ventilation, rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging, digital radio tuning and rear parking sensors and camera. There’s also an 8.0-inch touchscreen with integrated satellite-navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
There are various options, including a sunroof (for $2000) and a driver assistance pack ($1250) that adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance to vehicles in front.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
Inside there’s little to separate the Active from a regular Focus, which translates to a functional but plain cabin. Plastics and finishes are inoffensive but in parts dull and not particularly classy, the presentation lacking the flair of leaders with interior presentation such as Volkswagen and Mazda.
The unique-to-Active seat trim is a rare exception, its modern texture and blue stitching in keeping with the adventurous spirit. Space is generally good, with the exception of rear headroom, which is adequate. Those in the rear also miss out on rear airbags; some of the finishes are also of a lower quality, suggesting some cost cutting for those out back.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
It’s pure Focus in its interior layout, which is good and bad. While the centre console is clean and clutter-free, the circular gear selector is less than ideal when shuffling quickly from drive to reverse.
Yet the 8.0-inch screen atop the dash packs plenty in with thoroughly logical menus and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Regular dials and a smattering of buttons for major features reinforce the sensibility and it’s handy having it so high on the dash.
The ventilation controls, too, are logical in their presentation and operation. Traditional gauges in the instrument cluster do the job without looking fancy or bringing any new functionality.
What’s the performance like?
A 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine may seem small, but the outputs are thoroughly respectable, the addition of a turbocharger making up any capacity shortfall. There’s robust mid-range pull courtesy of 240Nm of torque from just 1600Nm.
At the same time, the engine doesn’t shy away from a spirited thrash, its thrummy three-cylinder stretching for higher revs. The eight-speed auto chimes in with well-spaced ratios and generally well-timed shifts, a propensity to utilise the ample torque on offer. Fuel use is claimed at 6.4 litres per 100km and the engine can temporarily revert to firing two cylinders in gentle driving.
As with the Focus, the Active has Sport and Eco drive modes. Eco is quite relaxed, the lazier throttle response dulling responses, whereas amplifies things the other way, to the point where the throttle is overly sensitive, in turn wicking the turbo up faster.
Two additional drive modes are more marketing than anything useful, in Australia at least. The Slippery mode reduces wheelspin with a more aggressive traction control tune, while also dulling the throttle response. The Trail mode noticeably dulls throttle responses and again tweaks electronic controls, something that would be better tested in its intended environment.
Then again, it’s difficult to see many pushing the Focus Active beyond the blacktop. If that’s your thing then a Subaru XV or Ford’s own Escape would seem more logical solutions, each bringing all-wheel drive to the equation.
What’s it like on the road?
There’s a very Focus flavour to the way the Active goes about its business, with some subtle but notable differences. Without a direct comparison on more familiar roads we’ll leave the final assessment until we drive the car on home turf.
But the fitment of slightly taller profile tyres and a higher ride height – thereby incrementally raising the centre of gravity – are teamed with revised suspension that seems slightly softer than a regular Focus.
Yet it’s given away little in terms of control, the Active still among the best controlled and most fluid hatchbacks on the market. Utilising the multi-link rear suspension system (in lieu of the torsion beam rear-end of the Focus hatch) should theoretically deliver better control, although the improvements, again, are minor. And they’re partially offset by a mild increase in tyre noise, coarse bitumen surfaces relaying more of that unwanted groaning into the cabin.
What’s it like off the road?
Sure, there’s a trail mode, but the Active is not about bashing around in the bush. The lack of all-wheel drive pretty much cements its on-road focus. Instead, it’s electronic aids – such as anti-lock brakes and traction control – can be tailored to surfaces such as snow, ice or grass, all with the aim of making progress slightly easier. There’s a fair chance you could get a similar result – or better – by fitting specialist tyres to other two-wheel drive cars.
Does it have a spare?
There’s only a space saver spare tyre, something that limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h. So best not get too adventurous…
Can you tow with it?
The Focus Active is rated to tow up to 1200kg. So it’s either very small vans or a box trailer.
What about ownership?
Warranty coverage runs to five years with no limit on how far you travel. There’s also capped price servicing, but it only covers the first four years or 60,000km. Those first four services cost $299 each.
What safety features does it have?
There are six airbags and a good crash structure, something that helped it to a five-star ANCAP safety rating. Only whiplash protection for the driver was rated as marginal. There’s also autonomous emergency braking, however in the base car it only uses a forward-facing camera to detect obstacles. That limits its operational speed to 80km/h. The AEB was only rated as marginal for cyclist protection, struggling to detect the test dummies in two scenarios. You can extend the range of the AEB by opting for the Driver Assistance Pack, which bundles radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert with auto braking in reverse. The addition of the radar gives the AEB enhanced functionality, which also allows it to operate at freeway speeds and above.
2019 Ford Focus Active Specifications
Price $29,990+ORCs Warranty 5 years, unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP rating Engine 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo Power 134kW at 6000rpm Torque 240Nm at 1600rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive Front-wheel drive Dimensions 4378mm (L), 1825mm (W), 1454mm (H), 2700mm (WB) Ground Clearance 163mm claimed Kerb Weight 1321kg Towing 1200kg Towball Download 120kg Boot Space 443L Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 52L Thirst 6.4L/100km