How does the Ford Focus Estate fare alongside two competitive, well-priced alternatives?
If a friend asks you to recommend a good family-sized estate car, it’s easy to advise the Ford Focus without fear of reprisal. It’s a best-seller and for good reason: it consistently performs well alongside rivals, and when you throw in great-value secondhand prices, you may think you don’t need to look anywhere else.
But on the used market, things aren’t quite as clear-cut as when new. That’s because there are several great-priced alternatives that manage to outdo even the Ford for value. The Kia Cee’d SW is one, which stands out for its super-long warranty and many more reasons besides. And the Vauxhall Astra-derived Chevrolet Cruze SW also looks exceptional value for money these days. Is it time to start offering a few more recommendations to friends?
Kia Cee’d SW 1.6 CRDI 128 2
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Price when new: £19,295
Price today: £6000
Torque: 192lb ft
Top speed: 119mph
CO2 emissions: 116g/km
If they like a bit of oomph, they’ll immediately be drawn to the Chevrolet. Its diesel engine is more powerful than the others, and feels the quickest on the road, so long as you don’t let the revs drop too low. The Ford’s power, in contrast, tails off the quickest, making it the slowest overall, although it does counter this with the best refinement – the Kia is a bit coarse when revved and the Chevrolet is generally rattly all the time.
Indeed, there’s more noise overall in the Cruze, with the others offering considerably better refinement. The Kia also rides smoothly on roads where the Cruze is crashy and unsettled. Neither drives as well as the superb Focus though, which has great steering, lots of grip, excellent body control and a ride that smooths out nicely at speed.
In terms of driving environments, the Cee’d has the clearest dash layout, while both it and the Focus feel tactile and classy. The Cruze has a fussy layout and its plastics are hard and low-rent. It’s also hard to adjust its seat to a position that suits, and there’s no clutch footrest.
Ford Focus Estate 1.6 TDCI 115 Zetec
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Price when new: £19,895
Price today: £6500
Torque: 199lb ft
Top speed: 113mph
CO2 emissions: 109g/km
All three are roomy though, particularly where it matters – in the boot. The Focus has the widest and deepest load bay, with our tape measure putting the Cee’d in last place, but each car has a practical boot with a low floor for easy loading. We like that all three have retractable load covers, although the Chevrolet has one that folds up and down, rather than back and forth – so if you forget to put it back down, it will block your vision in the rear view mirror.
If you need more space, all three have folding rear seats. They’re easiest to use in the Chevrolet, as you simply drop down the seatbacks: you have to lift up the seat bases in the Ford and Kia, although this does mean their load spaces are flatter.
The Chevrolet scores big points for affordability – new car buyers will have suffered heavy depreciation, but this is to the benefit of the used car buyer. It’s considerably cheaper than the Focus here and also delivers impressive real-world fuel economy of 50-55mpg.
Chevrolet Cruze SW 1.7 VCDi 130 LT s/s
Engine: 1.7-litre diesel
Price when new: £18,925
Price today: £3500
Torque: 221lb ft
Top speed: 118mph
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Of course, there’s a downside – and it’s a big one: Chevrolet no longer sells new cars in the UK. Service and backup is thus much more limited than in the other two cars, and insurance is pricier as well. We’d thus look to the Kia if you want a bargain, as it too is cheaper than the Focus and also delivers good fuel economy.
Indeed, the Focus actually struggles to return 50mpg, although offsetting this are low service costs and slightly cheaper road tax. It, like the others, comes with standard air con, alloys and stability control, adding in the unique features of a heated rear window and DAB radio, although it does lack the rear parking sensors and cruise control fitted to the others.
If should be clear by now the Chevrolet has struggled here. It’s simply not good enough in too many areas, and the cheap secondhand prices are offset by high running costs. It’s not a patch on the Focus, which is a far nicer car to drive and is a much more reassuring long-term ownership proposition – although there’s certainly a heavy up-front cost to be paid for this.
Which means our top buy here is the Kia Cee’d Sportswagon. It’s a great all-rounder, with good equipment levels and even some official manufacturers’ new car warranty left. It’s comfortable, practical and delivers good economy in everyday driving. Throw in good-value prices and you’ve our victor here.
Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing