focus - ford focus st line wagon 02 - Ford Focus: Wagon the tale

What is it?

You’d think Mustang and the Ranger utility are the only vehicles that Ford make, given the amount of press they receive.

It helps explain why we haven’t come across this little gem before, even though it’s been on the market for some 12 months.

We were headed up the coast for a well earned break and that generally translates into a diesel-powered SUV, but Ford offered us the Focus ST-Line wagon instead.

Given its three cylinder power plant, we were a little sceptical to start with, but our fears were unfounded because the wagon is a delight to drive — sporty, practical, with punchy performance and excellent fuel consumption.

In fact, it’s one of those rare test vehicles that we were reluctant to give back — and we’ve driven literally thousands over the years.

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What’s it cost?

Focus starts from $23,490.

The grades range from Ambiente, Trend, ST-Line, and Active to Titanium, but there’s just the one wagon and it’s in ST-Line trim which at $30,990 is $2000 more than the equivalent hatch.

For your money you get a 1.5-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine that develops a surprising punchy 134kW of power and is paired with an 8-speed auto.

Standard equipment includes cloth trim, dual-zone climate air, smart keyless entry and push-button start, adaptive cruise control, daytime LEDs, cornering fog lights, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, tyre pressure monitoring and wireless phone charging.

The voice-controlled Sync 3 infotainment system features an 8.0-inch touchscreen, DAB digital radio, satellite navigation, road sign recognition, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — with 6-speaker audio.

Sporty bits include a stylish body kit, dark 17-inch alloys, 10mm lower sports suspension, LED lights, high-bolster sports seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, red stitching throughout, dark roof lining, and metal finish pedals.

Safety include six airbags, Auto Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Lane Keeping Aid with Lane Departure Warning, 180-degree full-colour high-resolution reversing camera, rear parking sensors,  Post-impact Braking, and MyKey — that lets you limit the car’s functions it is borrowed, for instance, by younger members of the family.

The load area in the wagon offers a substantial 1653 litres of flexible storage space, which includes conveniences such as:

  • Cleverly integrated remote seat release as part of the ‘Easy Fold Seats’ system, eliminating the need to lean into the vehicle and/or search for hidden, heavy under-seat handles
  • A two-tier floor, allowing small items to be stowed securely, and out of sight
  • Tonneau cover for privacy
  • Load compartment loops
  • Exterior roof rails

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What’s it go like?

The 1.5-litre, three cylinder turbocharged engine puts out an impressive 134kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque from a low 1600rpm.

It’s paired with a standard 8-speed auto (no Powershift here), with rotary-style e-shifter and wheel-mounted paddle shifters, as well as selectable drive modes — Sport, Eco and Normal.

Fuel-saving auto engine stop-start is also fitted.

It’s a snappy combination that delivers brisk, off the line acceleration and the requisite punch to overtake with confidence.

But, at the same time, it also settles happily into overdrive, with an easy stride for relaxed highway cruising — the tacho showing less than 2000 revs.

In fact, engage the adaptive cruise control system and it virtually drives itself, keeping the car centred in the lane and at a reasonable distance from the car in front.

All that is required of the driver is to maintain a light contact with the wheel, otherwise you incur a warning.

There’s no annoying tugging on the wheel, like some systems — it just steers itself with a natural motion.

It’s one of the best systems of its kind that we have encountered.

Sitting long and low, however, the Focus wagon can be difficult to get in and out of and requires some planning and precision to slip neatly between the seats bolsters and the steering wheel.

Once you’re in, it’s all good, but the start button is located in an odd angled position to the left and below the instrument cluster where it can be difficult to see.

Engaging drive is accomplished with a rotary-style, console-mounted knob instead of the usual stick shift — first seen in Jaguars.

It works well enough, but can be challenging when it comes to quick three pointers when the transmission seems uncertain whether to go backwards of forwards — that’s if you rush it.

Reversing parking against a wall is also interesting.

Don’t park too close because after putting the transmission into park and switching off, the car has a tendency to jump back slightly.

The ride quality is Euro firm with a chassis that is wonderfully communicative, leaving the driver in no doubt this item doesn’t come from Japan — it’s not uncomfortable.

The 17-inch alloys are shod with Continentals that offer plenty of grip and allow the driver to tackle corners at speed with confidence, with a solid, comforting performance from the brakes.

The satnav, although it warns of approaching speed cameras, doesn’t specifically let you know what the hazard is — there’s just a little safety triangle displayed on screen.

Putting the transmission into park applies the electric handbrake automatically, at least if you park on a hill — with a graphic confirming the operation.

But on flat surfaces you need to engage the brake yourself, or at least there’s no graphic.

This could lead to confusion.

With a 52-litre tank, it takes Premium 95 unleaded and gets a claimed 6.4L/100km.

We were getting 7.0L/100km after 999km including a long drive up the coast which included motorways, highways and secondary roads.

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What we like?

  • Sporty looks
  • Punchy performance
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Communicative chassis
  • Almost steers itself

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What we don’t like?

  • Awkward location of start button
  • Rotary gear selector needs practice
  • Random auto handbrake
  • Low height and seat bolsters make entry and exit difficult

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The bottom line?

The Focus wagon is a great alternative to a high-riding SUV.

It’s relatively cheap, delivers the same practical advantages, but none of the drawbacks.

For the driver, it offers a much more satisfying experience and in the long run will be cheaper to run and maintain.

That’s a yes from us.

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Ford Focus 1.5 ST- Line wagon, priced from $30,990
  • 8/10
    Looks - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Comfort - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
8/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.