08/07/2009 06:09 | By Kyle Fortune, contributor, MSN Cars

Ford Focus 1.8 TDCi Estate review (1998-2005)

Ford Focus Estate (© Ford)


Bodystyle: 5-door estate
Engine: 1.8 in-line 4-cyl
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: June 2002

What is it?

The most practical version of Ford’s class-leading hatchback. Still a fine looking machine in estate form, with the additional space in the rear the interior is pleasantly laid out with numerous stowage areas. The estate shares its floorpan with the hatchback - meaning even though you’re getting all that extra space it’s not to the detriment of the Focus’ legendary cosseting ride and sharp handling.

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Where does it fit?

The Focus has become such an important car the class it’s situated in is often described as ‘Focus-sized’. Slotting between the supermini Fiesta range and the Mondeo, the Focus competes against rivals like Vauxhall’s Astra, the Toyota Corolla and the VW Golf in estate form. The Focus has become a benchmark car in its class with its combination of qualities. The 1.8-litre TDCI diesel version is a top seller in the Focus estate range, the efficient and refined engine complimenting the more practical nature of the estate car perfectly.

Is it for you?

The Focus really is for everybody. The extensive range encompasses numerous body styles, transmissions and engine choices. All are impressive to drive, the TCDI diesel offers the best combination of punchy performance and wallet-friendly frugality. Combine these qualities with the practical estate body and there’s little to match the Focus. Little wonder then that it’s the UK’s best selling estate car. The styling, which caused a stir when it was launched, has stood the test of time very well, though with the larger boot on the estate you lose the distinctive high mounted rear lights of the hatchback.

What does it do well?

It’s a hugely competent all-rounder. The excellent chassis is not only a boon for keen drivers, but everyone benefits from its keen responses, compliant ride and superb overall composure. It comes reasonably specified, particularly safety equipment, with numerous trim levels and options available for those wanting to be more specific with equipment levels. It’s a comfortable drive, the firm seats front and rear giving good support. The estate version adds useful extra space, it being huge with the seats down. The recently introduced 1.8TDCI engine is a gem, powerful, smooth and refined - it’s the best engine in the Focus line-up.

What doesn’t it do well?

There’s little to criticise on the Focus. The diesel unit lacks some of the grunt of VW group rivals, but is far quieter. Some cars can better it for interior space, particularly in the rear seats, but unless you plan on carry five adults regularly it’s not a signifcant problem. The interior styling is a bit hit or miss, thanks to rather low rent plastics, and due to its popularity it depreciates faster than some of its rivals.

What’s it like to live with?

With Ford dealers everywhere you’re never far away from a service centre should you need it. There have been no incidences of major long term problems and recalls have been few. Early models suffered from patchy build quality, but more recent cars display no such tendencies. Overall a superbly competent package that’s still a stylish head turner - despite the numbers sold. Easy to drive, service and own, the Focus will do everything asked of it. With diesels increasing in popularity the TDCI should hold its value better than its petrol engined alterantives

Would we buy it?

You’d be mad not to consider the Focus if you’re in the market for a car of this type. Its top selling status in both hatchback and estate models underline this. Some newer rivals can offer slightly more interior space, but overall the Focus is still the car in this class by which all others are judged. Rightly so, few can offer the complete package on display in the Ford; it’s a great drive, comfortable, spacious and easy to buy new or used. The Ford badge may not be the most prestigious, and depreciation could be relatively costly, but the Focus would still be at the top of our shopping list.

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