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You've got to feel for the marketing peeps at Ford tasked with cooking up a catchy one-word description for the new Focus Active.
The others models in the range are easier, of course. The Focus ST-Line? "Sportiness", says Ford. The Titanium trim? "Elegance", they shout.
But the Active? "It's like a hatchback, but with more capability..." It isn't quite as catchy, is it?
That capability they speak of arrives in the form of more ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear), as well as standard roof rails and two new drive modes, Slippery and Trail, which are designed to help the front-wheel-drive Focus better handle light off-road conditions like sand or icy roads.
But the weird thing here is that, for a car so focused on light off-roading, the place the Active really shines is glued firmly to the tarmac.
|Ford Focus 2019: Active|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
You're not exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to the Active; the high-riding Focus is available in just the one trim level, and with a single engine/gearbox combination.
And for it, you'll pay $29,900. But for that spend you'll get plenty of high-end niceties.
There's a rotary dial instead of a T-bar gear-shift, for example, and the Active adds some extra exclusive touches, too, like Nordic Blue stitching on the seats (which also wear a new pattern) and branded scuff plates at the doors.
There's also dual-zone climate control up front, as well as a wireless charge pad for your mobile. And while the Active arrives with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that runs Ford's Sync 3 with standard navigation, it also runs both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Those alloys are 17 inches, and there's remote unlocking and push-button start, as well as LED DRLs up front.
But it's not all great news. While the technology is great, some of the cabin materials are less so, and while it's certainly very comfortable, it's doesn't always feel like a $30k car probably should.
Ford has done a commendable job of wrapping most of the cabin surfaces in soft-touch materials, for example, but some hard plastics creep in, and the cloth seats don't do much for Active's premium aspirations.
Like the look of the Focus hatchback? Then have we got some news for you. Because the Active looks a lot like one, just a little higher off the ground.
The 17-inch alloys are fitted with higher-profile tyres, and there is some black wheel-arch cladding and side skirts that are designed to convey an adventurous spirit, but outside of that, it's Focus through and through.
That's not a bad thing, mind. The new Focus is a handsome small car. More that you can see where the marketing department might struggle to call this anything but a hatchback.
Climb into the cabin and you're met with an equally Focused experience, though there are some exclusive Active niceties on display. That Nordic Blue piping on the seats, for example, or the 'A'-stamped seat patterns and the Active-stamped scuff plates at the doors.
The Active stretches some 4.4m in length, 1.8m in width and 1.5m in height. In other words, it's very much the Focus hatch you're familiar with, no matter how much the ride height has been lifted.
And that means your key figures are largely unchanged, too; you'll get 375 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place (about on-par for the segment), and 1354 litres with the seats folded flat, though that's measured all the way to the roof line.
Up front, you'll find two cupholders, and a storage pocket in each of the front doors. On the tech front, there's a USB point in front of the wireless charging pad, and another hidden in a deep, covered central storage bin.
Ford says there is more shoulder room in the backseat, and they've tried to design an airy-feeling space, thanks to larger rear windows. And if you've ever spent time in a car like the Toyota C-HR, for example, then you'll know how important a little lightness and brightness can be for backseat riders.
That's about where the good news ends for backseat riders, though. There's no cupholders (nor a pull-down divider to house them in) and no USB points either. Also missing are rear air vents.
There are two ISOFIX attachment points, though, one in each window seat in the back.
There's just the one engine and gearbox combo on offer here, but it's a peach. A woeful sounding on paper, but utterly charming in real life, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine good for 134kW and 240Nm, which is fed through an eight-speed automatic to produce an 8.7 second sprint to 100km/h.
You also get improved independent rear suspension that's missing from most Focus models. Plus the key difference that makes this Active more, well, active, is the increased ride height, but we're really only talking a handful of centimetres at each end.
It might be a tiny three-cylinder engine, but Ford has still thought hard about the fuel use equation, including a cylinder deactivation function that, when cruising, shuts down one of the cylinders to save petrol.
As a result, the claimed/combine fuel use figure is 6.4 litres per hundred kilometres - and it's a believable quote, as we scored 6.5 litres after a day of pretty enthusiastic driving.
The Co2 emissions are pegged at a claimed 148g/km, and the fuel tank will hold 52 litres.
"Would you take a regular hatchback on sand?" Asks one of the Blue Oval's reps, as we point the noise of our Active at a stretch of commendably soft sand.
And if we're honest, the answer to that question would be a resounding "no". Not least of which because we've just watched the Active in front of us getting pulled out of this very sand pit, the front tyres dug into the soft stuff like they were burrowing their way to China.
But no sooner was it pulled out than the Active was tackling that very obstacle again, this time with a bit more speed, and sure enough, the high-riding Focus was through the sand and out the other side, the front tyres somehow finding a way to keep the Focus moving.
And then we followed, and with the same successful result. As did the car after us. And so on.
Now, a true off-roader it ain't. The Active is a front-wheel-drive only proposition, but it's two new drive modes (Trail and Slippery) are intended to give you just a little more confidence as you pull into a campsite or turn onto an unsealed road.
But for mine, the real charm of the Active isn't how it performs off-road, but rather on it. It's not a particularly sporty-feeling drive, and to be fair, there are other cars in the Ford range that can tackle those duties, but the steering is engaging, and it's a composed, comfortable and quiet drive experience.
Part of the reason for that is the new independent rear suspension setup (also found in the ST Line wagon). We piloted the Active over some pretty harsh and broken country roads on our drive program, and it proved plenty comfortable, disposing of most road imperfections with little bother.
A final word? I bloody love the engine. A tiny little three-cylinder unit, sure, but it never feels underdone, even when overtaking uphills. And for bonus points, it makes a delightful little burble when you plant your right foot.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Focus Active lacks for little in the safety department, with AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, speed-sign recognition and a 180-degree rear-vision camera all arriving as standard.
They're joined by six airbags (twin front, side and curtain) and the usual suite of traction and braking aids - enough to earn the Active a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Opting for the $1250 Driver Assistance Package adds active cruise control with evasive steering and stop and go, and rear cross-traffic alert with rear AEB.
The Ford Focus Active is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with servicing required every 15,000kms or 12 months.
Service pricing is capped for the first four years, too, with each service costing a maximum $299 for the first four years or 60,000km.
While It might be hard to explain exactly what micro-niche the Active falls into, it's less difficult to understand it's appeal.
Let's face it, the vast majority of us will never have need for the complex four-wheel-drive systems that appear in some SUVs.
And so a car like the Active makes obvious sense. Whatever the hell it is.
|Active||1.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$18,800 – 26,180||2019 Ford Focus 2019 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Ambiente||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,500 – 20,460||2019 Ford Focus 2019 Ambiente Pricing and Specs|
|RS (5 YR)||2.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$34,400 – 44,550||2019 Ford Focus 2019 RS (5 YR) Pricing and Specs|
|Sport (5 YR)||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$16,600 – 23,100||2019 Ford Focus 2019 Sport (5 YR) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|