In mid-2020, Ford retired four of the seven models in its Ford Focus portfolio, in a bid to focus on the more popular offerings in the range.
The 2021 Ford Focus Active isn't quite a hatchback and not quite a crossover, so consumers may be a little murky on exactly what this small car is and what purpose it serves.
Essentially, it's a jacked-up hatchback that boasts a higher ground clearance to that of its siblings, with 163mm on offer – 38mm more than the ST-Line and 43mm greater than the ST. Along with a higher ride, it also scores two additional drive modes to give this badge additional flexibility.
The power plant is Ford's 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo engine buddied up with an eight-speed automatic transmission sending power to its front wheels.
The Active has a starting cost of $30,990 plus on-roads – the exact same price as the ST-Line variant, while the ST starts at $44,890 excluding on-road costs. At the time of writing, the Focus Active is available with a drive-away pricing offer from $32,690.
The model on test included a panoramic sunroof, a $2000 option, driver-assist package, an additional $1250, along with prestige paint in Fantastic Red, adding $650 to the price tag and bringing the total as-tested cost to $34,890.
Now that we know how it sets itself apart within the Focus line-up, how does it stack up against its competition?
While this small car may stand tall on the road, it isn't so superior in comparison to the rest of its class. It faces tough competition battling against the Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla, which both outsell the Ford Focus by a substantial margin.
The Hyundai i30 has a starting price of $25,420 plus on-roads and brings a bunch of unique style and equipment to the class, while the Toyota Corolla is a veteran – it's trusted, attractive, and jam-packed with features as standard.
The Toyota Corolla has a starting price tag of $25,390 excluding on-road costs, and already in 2021 it has racked up huge sales, no doubt making the rest of its class sweat.
What's more, the Focus Active is a good-looking small car, but it's fair to say it's not the show-stopper of the pack. It is well proportioned, though, and boasts LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Perhaps the more striking element to its exterior is its higher stance, which some may consider a less intimidating option than a full SUV.
|2021 Ford Focus Active|
|Engine||1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo|
|Power||134kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||240Nm @ 1750–5000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
In the cabin, again, there isn't an abundance of personality. But it's comfortable and simple, with charcoal cloth and white stitching covering the seats, textured matte-black console components, and a chunky leather steering wheel.
Ford has packed plenty of cabin space into the compact Focus Active. Up front, there's more than enough storage with a decent-sized centre console, two cupholders, plus additional holders in the door bins that are reasonably sized. The front row also scores wireless charging and an additional USB port.
Passengers ride in comfort with an incredibly roomy second row. I'm 173cm tall and found the head and leg room more than sufficient. In the back there's a 12-volt outlet, seat-back pockets and cupholders in the door bins. Some niceties are missed including a USB port, rear air vents, and an armrest with cupholders.
The boot is decent providing 341L of cargo space with all four seats up and 1320L with the back row folded. While a big boot is a bonus, it does compromise on space for a full-sized spare wheel, instead providing a space-saver – no doubt to the advantage of anyone actually heading beyond city limits.
Unfortunately, the boot's cargo space measures smaller than the Hyundai i30 at 395L, but ahead of the Toyota Corolla hatch at 217–333L.
Some interior highlights include satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – all of which come standard in the Focus Active. The 8.0-inch touchscreen is large enough, user-friendly, and includes Ford’s responsive SYNC 3 system.
In contrast, we found Ford's rotary e-shifter a clumsy addition. The positioning can prompt you to take your eyes off the road, and on test we felt awkward using it in certain situations, such as parallel parking in a hurry in traffic. Some may prefer a more tactile feel, and if you're not accustomed to this type of gear selector, it may take some getting used to.
Behind the wheel, this Focus is nimble and packs plenty of punch by delivering 134kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1750–5000rpm. We found that in both normal and Sport modes, the torque was evenly distributed, while the drive in Sport made the Focus Active more linear and direct off the line.
Along with Eco mode, the Focus Active is also equipped with a Slippery mode aimed at enhancing traction. We switched over during the wet and noticed the immediate decline in throttle reaction, while in Trail mode the engine encounters the same reaction.
While as a two-wheel-drive hatchback this obviously isn't the ideal car for off-roading, Ford has at least provided the flexibility for tackling snow, grass and more adventurous conditions. Ford also claims a light-duty towing capacity of 1200kg.
The higher ride height was noticeable behind the wheel and provided greater visibility. The handling is smooth and accurate, and it has the ability to tuck in and out of corners with ease.
We spent a majority of our time on freeways and in stop-start city traffic, and driving the Active enthusiastically, mainly in the Sport setting and opting to use the steering wheel paddle shifters to change gear. With this in mind, the fuel reading we recorded at 6.6L/100km was very respectable, with Ford claiming a combined fuel number of 6.4L/100km.
The ride overall is pleasant and smooth, with that extra oomph from the turbo engine adding just that little bit more bite and enjoyment to the drive.
If you're after added power and performance, then you may want to opt for its sibling in the Ford Focus ST, which packs a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine.
|2021 Ford Focus Active|
|Fuel claim, combined||6.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||6.6L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (tested 2019)|
Standard safety includes city-speed forward collision mitigation (or autonomous emergency braking) with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, active lane-keep assist, and semi-automated parking assist, to name a few.
As mentioned, you’ll have to open your wallet for the optional driver-assist pack ($1250). This will get you a blind-spot information system with rear cross-traffic alert and braking, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go.
Up against its rivals mentioned, its safety features all are pretty much on par. Hyundai doesn't incorporate blind-spot collision warning until you jump up to the i30 Elite. You will get adaptive cruise control from base; however, only in the automatic variant.
The Toyota Corolla doesn't provide a blind-spot monitor in its base, only from the mid-range SX, while you will get adaptive cruise control from base in the auto-CVT only. Therefore, while you pay extra for the assist package in the Focus Active, it's not uncommon to go without these features in this segment.
The Ford Focus Active has a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while servicing will cost $350 each year, except at four years or 60,000km that will set you back $520.
As a higher-riding hatchback, this small car is a point of difference amongst its siblings. It possesses that appealing package of a raised ride height, great drive, good value for money, and everyday practicality.
However, while its price is reasonable and features are pretty much on par, its design is lacklustre and some may favour more attractive offerings in this segment like the Hyundai i30 or Mazda 3. The Subaru XV may also make this list – a good-looking crossover with AWD surety.
You may have thought that as a higher-rider it would offer a larger boot in its segment, but this isn't the case. This car may be the perfect solution for you if the Puma is too small and the Escape is too big – the 2021 Ford Focus Active can essentially be that middle point without being a full-blooded SUV.