THE Ford Focus Active appears to be for people who don’t want an SUV and won’t consider a “Crossover” because it’s still too extreme. But they DO want plastic wheel arch covers and roof rails.

If that’s the case, then Ford has nailed it with the Focus Active, because it just doesn’t look like a Crossover. At first (and even second) glance, it looks like a regular Ford Focus. The 3cm increase in ride height is barely noticeable. Next to my wife’s Citroen C4 Cactus it looks like a Ford Focus. Next to a Ford Focus, it looks like a Ford Focus.

If you want a more commanding view of the road, then want it in a Kuga instead. You don’t get it in the Focus Active.

If you’re fancying some off-roading, then fancy it one of the many SUV/Crossover vehicles on the market today. The Active’s “Rugged body styling with rough road suspension and increased ride height” will help ease the pain over the worst pot-holes but anything more than a rough farm track is a definite no-no. The Active’s “Slippery & Trail” driving mode make a better case for the Active in winter conditions or muddy lanes, but that’s about it.

The Focus Active won’t make you feel any more “Outdoors-ier” like say, a Dacia Duster or SEAT Ateca might. If that’s what you’re after then check out Ford’s Puma instead.

But if you find yourself falling between the two stools of “a bit more rugged’ and “a bit too rugged” then the mild-crossover Ford Focus Active could be just the ticket.

And that’s because it’s a pleasant car to live with. Just like the regular Ford Focus.

Available in just 2 trim levels: Active (£29,320) or Active X (£31,520) they mirror the regular Focus ST-Line and ST-LineX for price and equipment.

I’ve been tootling around in the lesser-spec Active, fitted with a 125 PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit and a 6-speed manual gearbox. A host of options, such as special paint, Winter Pack, Parking Pack and Driver Assist Pack brought the price up to £32,000 on the road.

There is also the option of a more powerful, 155PS unit, mated to a 7-speed auto gearbox, which takes the price to £31,170 before any options are added.

The 3-cylinder unit is a little noisy in higher revs, but settles down once you’re up to speed. It never feels particularly quick though and it barely reaches “nippy”. Its 0-60 mph time of 10.4 seconds feels about right. The 155PS unit manages it in 8.6 secs.

The extra 30mm of ride height doesn’t spoil the Ford Active’s driving dynamic, which remains in the “fun” zone. It does lean a little more in tighter corners, but most people would never notice.

The manual gearbox is pleasant enough to use – which is good because you’ll need it quite a lot to get the most out of the 3-cylinder EcoBoost, which is happier when revs are up.

Steering feel and levels of grip remain up to muster making the Focus Active just as pleasant along fast B-Roads as its lower-sitting siblings.

Motorway driving is quiet enough to make longer journeys stress-free. The ride height and roof rails don’t add any unwanted noise, even at 70mph. It all feels very much like a regular Ford Focus, which is to say “It’s a great all-rounder”.

The interior is no different either – other than some fancy upholstery featuring a distinctive “A” – presumably to remind us that this is the Active model, in case we hadn’t noticed.

I made use of the heated front seats and heated steering wheel in my time with the Focus Active, while the Quickclear heated windscreen was very welcome during a couple of icy mornings.

The face-lifted model now has a bigger, 13.2-inch infotainment screen which dominates the top of the dash. It’s a noticeable improvement on what has gone before with sharp, clear graphics and featuring the likes of Sat Nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a premium B&O 10-speaker audio system which I thought sounded very good indeed.

The Focus Active’s seats are set a little higher than in the regular Focus but I maintain that it’s not high enough to notice. However, visibility all around remains good while a good driving position is easy to find thanks to lots of adjustment in the steering wheel and 4-way adjustment to the seat – albeit manual rather than electric.

The interior trim and finish are typical Ford, being well put together but with a little more hard plastic to hand than you might like. Overall, though, it’s a well-laid-out cockpit with the only criticism being that the climate controls are now part of the infotainment screen. At least they are always visible and quite easy to see, but you still have to glance at the screen rather than just feel for a physical knob or switch.

There’s no digital dash in the Active model, you’ll need the Active X for that but it doesn’t matter as the analogue set-up is clear and uncluttered. A 4.2-inch TFT screen sits between the main dials to show trip info, warnings, etc.

Rear passengers have the same amount of space as in the standard Focus – there is no 4-wheel-drive Active available so there is no space taken up with extra drive components. 

Likewise, the boot space is the same at 443 litres, which isn’t as much as some similarly-priced SUVs, but you’ll find those SUVs may not be as generously equipped as the Focus Active. Anyway, if you need more luggage space the Focus Active is available in estate form with a whopping 728 litres of storage or 1,620 litres with the rear seats folded. 

If you’re undecided about going the SUV route for your next car, but fancy something that won’t wallow around corners and can handle our terrible roads better than a conventional hatchback, then you may want to slide between those 2 stools and check out the Ford Focus Active. Just don’t expect to become an off-road adventurer.

Ford Focus Active Ecoboost Mild Hybrid
OTR Price: from £29,320 
Engine: 1.0-litre EcoBoost Petrol  
Power: 125 PS 
Transmission: 6-speed Manual
0-60mph: 10.4 secs   
Top Speed: 116 mph   
Combined Economy: 55 mpg

By Steve Berry

Freelance motoring writer and member of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers with a love of cars, motorbikes and running. I lied about the love of motorbikes. They scare me to death - although I would like to own a Ducati 996 in red which I would just look at but never ride. No, not ever.

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