First Drive

Ford Focus Active X Vignale 1.0 Ecoboost MHEV 2020 UK review

With minimal weight penalty through the adoption of that hybrid system, the Focus also maintains its dynamic edge over all comers in its segment, its steering rack quick to react and nicely weighted in the name of engagement. The suspension, too, even with the Active’s 30mm height advantage over the standard car, is agreeably pliant without giving way to excessive amounts of lean or bouncing slowly over ondulations. The broth is nearly spoiled by the Vignale’s 18in alloys, however – we won’t go so far as to call it “crashiness”, but primary ride quality takes a knock courtesy of the slimmer rubber, and there’s a pervasive, though not overbearing, rumble at speed.

The fizzy little Ecoboost engine has not been dulled by the onset of electrification, either – for better or worse. It’s still eager to respond to even slight throttle inputs, and while not as punchy as the Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre triple, this 153bhp unit has enough puff to pull the heavier Focus around without too much aggro. The tangible accelerative assistance provided by the electrical system helps in this regard, filling in for the turbo at low revs and going some way to compensating for the smaller engine’s power deficit over the keener 1.5. 

On the other hand, the ceaseless off-beat thrumming of Ford’s smallest engine can quite quickly grate – especially as it likes to be kept ‘on the boil’ – and the regenerative deceleration is just intrusive enough in stop-start situations to have you reaching for the frustratingly non-existent adjustment switch. Which, on the flip side, is how you know it’s working. Swings and roundabouts. 

In reality, of course, any economic benefits are best viewed over the course of several thousand miles, being subtle enough to pass you by on an individual journey basis. We saw 48.0mpg over the course of a 150-mile test route, including motorways, back roads and city streets, which isn’t far off the official 51.0mpg average, but not all that different from what the outgoing engine might have achieved in the same circumstances. 

Talk of saving money, however, seems almost immaterial in light of the decadently equipped Vignale car. It’s no top-of-the-line Cullinan, for sure, but the luxuries that come as part of the package – among them a Bang & Olufsen sound system, flip-out door edge protectors and a load-through ski hatch – will be coveted by some but largely unnecessary to most. Actually, in some cases (take the wheels and obstructive head-up display, for example), they’re actively inhibitive. If you genuinely need to load this much kit onto your car, it might be worth stepping up a segment. 

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