Ford’s new anti-SUV tested
The Focus Wagon comes only in sporty mid-spec ST-Line grade. At $34,850 drive-away, there's a $2000 premium over the equivalent Focus Hatch. With plenty of small and medium SUVs at about $30K, it's little wonder the Australian wagon market is floundering as buyers gravitate towards the more desirable high riders. Standard on the pricey but generously appointed Wagon are auto gearbox, ST-Line body kit, 17-inch alloys, roof rails, 10mm lower Sports suspension, LED lights and auto heated mirrors. Inside is an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav, voice control, dual zone climate control, keyless entry and start, wireless phone charging, flat-bottom steering wheel and metal-finish pedals.
Warranty is strong at five years/unlimited kilometres and servicing at 12 month/15,000km intervals cost a reasonable $299 for each of the first four visits.
If feels like a proper roomy family car inside with ample space for two adults or three kids in the back. You score an SUV-baiting 608L of boot space and a mighty 1653L with rear seats folded. Cloth seats have red stitching for some visual flair, a rotary selector rather than gear shifter frees up centre console space and the touchscreen looks sharp and has superb functionality and features. The steering wheel is busy with buttons and cabin plastics and general ambience don't feel quite so premium.
It gets five stars, six airbags, auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist and departure warning, 180-degree split view reversing camera and automatic post impact braking. A $1250 option adds blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, speed sign recognition or evasive steer assist as found on the flagship Focus Titanium.
Ford doesn't shout about the new Focus range's 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo. Some may consider a triple cylinder too weedy but not so - outputs are 134kW/240Nm and it's a peachy, refined job with a pleasing thrum. The sole transmission is the slick eight-speed auto with paddle-shifters helping it hit 100km/h from rest in a respectable 8.0 seconds. The premium comes in part from the Wagon using pricier independent rear suspension, making it feel agile and sporty good fun to drive. Ride isn't the most comfortable in the class but few rivals match it for driver engagement.
Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Comfortline $32,990 drive-away
Similar to the Focus in specification, roominess and dynamic excellence. The turbo four produces 110kW/250Nm. Fuel economy trumps the Focus but service charges are a lot more.
Holden Astra Sportwagon LT $32,200 drive-away
A better car than sales suggest, the UK-built Astra has such goodies as heated leather seats and hands-free power tailgate and even parks itself. Economical, sensible but not that much fun.
Renault Megane 1.2 GT-Line $35,990 drive-away
Looks great inside and out but not quite as roomy and its turbo four manages just 97kW/205Nm. Stylish but slow and pricey.
It's feature-packed and an excellent alternative to an SUV in terms of space and driveability but the Focus Wagon's price will turn off many buyers.
Ford Focus ST-Line wagon vitals
Price: $34,850 drive-away
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, lane-keep assist, post impact braking
Engine: 1.5-litre 3-cyl turbo, 134kW/240Nm
Thirst: 6.4L/100km (95 RON)