January 3, 2000
|The Ford Focus Wagon SE is the most practical of the three Focus bodystyles (hatchback, sedan, wagon). Starting at $17,595, or about $1000 more than the Focus Sedan SE, the Wagon has three times as much cargo room, comfortable raised seating positions, and an economical 2.0 litre four cylinder engine.|
A practical family wagon for under $20,000
If you’re looking for a practical family vehicle for under $20,000, a compact station wagon makes a lot of sense. Though they’re usually a little more expensive than their sedan counterparts, they offer two or three times as much cargo room, and often more rear headroom. Wagons are great for transporting cargo that accompanies family activities, such as picnics, music lessons, skiing trips, hockey and soccer games, biking, gardening, shopping, and vacations. When it comes time to pick up your new TV or barbecue from the department store, a station wagon is a ready-made delivery vehicle. If it’s something that won’t fit inside the wagon, like a mattress, it’ll probably go on the roof rack.
In fact wagons are so darned useful, I often wonder why sedans are more popular. Some people prefer having the security of a trunk, but most wagons now have retractable cargo covers which hide the contents of the cargo compartment.
Focus Wagon Starts at $17,595
In Canada, there are a half dozen wagons priced under $20,000, including the new Ford Focus Wagon, Saturn SW1/SW2, Hyundai Elantra Wagon, Daewoo Nubira, and Suzuki Esteem Wagon. You might also include the Subaru Impreza hatchback because it’s kind of half wagon/half hatchback.
The Focus Wagon, Sedan and Hatchback models are new for the 2000 model year. These front-wheel-drive compact cars replaced the Escort and Contour, however they are bigger and more expensive than the Escort was, and roomier than the Contour sedan. The Ford Focus was voted “Canadian Car of the Year’ for 2000 by the Automobile Jouralists Association of Canada.
All three Focus bodystyles have high rooflines, elevated seating positions, and distinctive ‘New Edge’ styling inside and out. Focus models are sold worldwide, but the ones sold in North America are built in North America.
The Focus Wagon is available in one SE trim level, and has a base price of $17,595 – about $1000 more than the Sedan SE. Standard equipment on the Wagon includes a five-speed manual transmission, AM/FM radio, air conditioning, power door locks and remote keyless entry with Panic alarm, intermittent wipers, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks with flip-up cushion, and 185/60R-14 inch all-season radials. A retractable rear cargo cover, rear window wiper/washer/defroster, and roof rack are also standard equipment on the Wagon.
Popular options that were included on my test car were a 4-speed automatic transmission ($1,100), AM/FM/cassette ($212), power windows and mirrors ($600), cruise control, tilt steering wheel and front seat armrest ($600), and anti-lock brakes ($779).
With $100 federal excise tax on the air conditioning and $700 freight charge, the grand total comes to $21,686 – a little more than my goal of $20,000.
Roomy Cargo Area
The Focus Wagon is 84 mm (3.3 in.) longer and 18 mm (0.7 in.) taller than the Focus Sedan – most of that extra length is at the rear. This, combined with its wagon bodystyle, gives the Wagon 27% more total interior volume than the Sedan.
The Wagon’s 1062 litre (37.5 cubic feet) cargo compartment is three times the size of the sedan’s 365 litres (12.9 cubic feet) trunk. More room can be created by folding down the 70/30 split folding rear seats and pulling up the rear seat cushion. This creates a flat loading surface that is 1676 mm (66 inches) long, 1771 mm (45 inches) wide, and 1260 mm (32 inches) high. With the rear seats up, the load floor is 1654 mm (42 inches) long.
Access to the rear cargo area is by a lift-up hatch door, which when open, provides a large, wide opening for luggage and grocery bags. The hatch can be opened with a button on the dash, or with a key from the outside. Once unlocked, there is a hand-insert in the hatch door to help pull it up, but there is no rear door handle. The rear glass does not open separately from the hatch.
The cargo floor is covered with an indoor/outdoor type carpet, but I would recommend buying an optional net or rubber cargo mat to prevent items sliding around the cargo floor when driving.
Interior Is Passenger-Friendly
Like other Focus models, the Wagon has raised seats that provide more comfortable upright seating positions. Their extra height makes them easier to get into and out of, and provides more footroom for rear passengers. The driver’s seat is manually height-adjustable, which makes it easy to find the right driving position. Front seats are cloth-covered bucket seats that proved very comfortable on drives of half an hour or more.
In the rear seat, the Wagon has 38 mm (1.5 in.) more headroom than the sedan, and as I mentioned there’s plenty of footroom because of the raised front seats. The rear bench seat is more comfortable that most rear seats because it is higher, and the passengers’ legs point down rather than out in front.
Outward visibility is excellent, due in part to the high seating positions and in part to the full glass perimeter of the Wagon bodystyle.
The dashboard has a simple gauge cluster consisting of a large, centrally-positioned speedometer, and smaller fuel gauge and coolant gauges. A tachometer is not offered on the wagon. A large button to the left of the instruments opens the trunk. The centre dash area has extra large, protruding buttons for the radio, and large dials for the heater and ventilation controls. One small complaint: the radio’s minimum volume detente was too loud for my tastes.
Front passengers have two cupholders mounted down low near the gearshift lever, and there is a single cupholder at the rear in the centre console. Other noteworthy features include a small coin tray on the upper dash area and a penholder on the console.
The optional 4-speed automatic transmission has a floor mounted shift lever with an on/off overdrive button on the lever.
Standard safety features include standard dual front airbags and five seatbelts: four three-point seatbelts and one rear centre lap belt. The front seats have height-adjustable head-restraints, but the rear seats do not have head restraints.
The standard engine in the Focus Wagon SE is the 110 horsepower 2.0 litre OHV four cylinder powerplant. For those who want more power, the Wagon is available with an optional Wagon Sport Group which includes a 130 horsepower 2.0-litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine, tachometer (manual transmission only), 15-inch tires with 5-spoke aluminum wheels and AM/FM single disc CD.
The Wagon’s standard 2.0 litre OHV four cylinder engine was carried over from the Escort, with some refinements and a little more horsepower. It’s a durable, competent, fuel-efficient engine that’s not particularly refined but powerful enough for this automobile. The engine lets out a mild growl under light acceleration at low speeds, but at a steady 50 km/h on city streets, or 100 km/h on the highway, the Focus engine is barely audible.
Acceleration is acceptable for an economy wagon, however the Wagon is 74 kilograms (163 lb.) heavier than the sedan, which affects performance slightly. Fuel consumption is very good: 9.5 l/100 km (30 mpg) in the city, and 6.4 l/100 km (44 mpg) on the highway. The Focus Wagon uses regular fuel – I noticed that it doesn’t have a locking gas cap or filler door.
Handling is surprisingly good, in part due to its standard fully independent suspension: MacPherson struts in front, and multi-link ‘control-blade’ suspension at the rear. Standard brakes are front disc/rear drums, and anti-lock brakes are optional.
The Focus Wagon combines passenger car attributes like good fuel economy and a comfortable ride with the practicality of a large, covered cargo compartment. Though it’s more expensive than the Escort Wagon which preceded it, the Focus Wagon can still be bought for under $20,000 – that’s much cheaper than a mini-van or sport utility vehicle.
For more info about the Focus Wagon, log on to www.Ford.ca.