The new generation of the Ford Focus spawns a range of its own, including a sporty ST Line variant, rugged Active model and this, the more luxurious Focus Vignale. In addition to the five-door hatchback, it can be had in practical estate form, as tested here.
In the metal
We've already gone through the design of the new Ford Focus in detail in our main review, but several visual differences set the Vignale model apart. At the front, the lower bumper gets what Ford's designers call a 'coast-to-coast' aperture, appearing to make one full-width intake below the grille. In the Focus, it adopts an aluminium mesh look that is made up of subtle V-symbols.
Chrome strips surround the side glass, while the roof rails have the same satin aluminium finish of the grille. If you needed further reminding that this is the upmarket version of the Focus, Vignale badging appears on the front wings and tailgate.
Only the materials used inside differentiate the Vignale from the rest of the line-up. Fine-grain wood-effect inserts and plenty of leather lift the ambience of the interior even further than the standard car. In comparison to the five-door hatchback, the Focus Estate is longer by 290mm, or around a foot. It still fits into most regular car parking spaces with ease. The passenger space is unchanged except for rear passenger headroom, which increases by 43mm due to the longer roofline of the estate body. That estate shape was designed with practicality in mind from the outset.
One design feature we're not as fond of is the dual exhaust detailing at the rear. In the case of this model, only the right-hand-side exhaust is real, with the left serving as a blank that is there for the sake of symmetry and nothing else. Discreetly directing the exhaust downwards behind the bumper and having none of this design superfluity would have be better we think.
The new 1.5-litre diesel from Ford is a cracking engine that is noticeably quieter and smoother than the venerable 1.6-litre TDCi it replaces. More than 90 per cent of the components have either been modified or replaced. In addition to suppressing more noise, the engine feels smoother to drive with more linear acceleration. As with previous Vignale models, the new Ford Focus gets some added features to improve the sense of refinement inside. Noise levels on the move aren't that loud, though this is also true of the other Focus versions in this new generation.
Shifting gears with the six-speed manual highlights another area in which this Focus has improved; the changes are accurate and smooth. Just like in the hatch, the steering is sweeter in comparison to the previous model. At every angle of turn, it feels like a more natural setup, and there are good levels of feel and feedback through it. The steering is one of the parameters that is affected by the three standard drive modes, allowing you to artificially add a more weighted feel by selecting the 'Sport' mode. Having tried them all, we still think it's fine when left in its default 'Normal' setting.
Despite having to reposition the rear suspension components to accommodate the packaging needs of the estate, there is very little difference in the handling stakes between it and the hatchback, though we didn't get the opportunity to drive the car laden with cargo.
What you get for your money
Ford Ireland has confirmed that the new Focus will have a starting price of €24,900 when it goes on sale later this year, but it hasn't expanded on that. Nonetheless, while we don't yet know the full pricing for the Ford Focus range in Ireland, we do know that the Vignale will be at the expensive end of it. We also expect the diesel engines to command a price premium, as will the estate body style. Once the prices are confirmed, we will update this section and give it a score.
The Ford Focus Estate has enough carrying capacity to warrant second-thoughts of an SUV purchase. We're not entirely convinced that the posh Vignale version will justify its expected high price tag, though if you're looking for something upmarket and don't want any of the usual premium brands, then this could be what you're looking for.