Regular readers may remember that last year I tested the new Ford Focus ST-Line hatchback and earlier this year I tested the Focus Active estate. Well, guess what? I’ve reviewed another one! This one is also the estate but the word Focus is nowhere to be found. Instead, you have plenty of references to ‘Vignale’, but what exactly is it?
More plush, more upmarket
The Vignale is the trim level reserved for Ford’s range-topping models, and as such buyers receive more luxury. These seats for example, are only found on this model, as well as these 18″ ‘Liquid Aluminium’ alloys, which I find rather chintzy. The front grille is also different to other Focus models in the range as are the bumpers, and I also have this exclusive ‘Dark Mulberry’ paint, although this is a £550 extra. It’s also quite an unusual shade, and I’m still not quite sure I like it, although that’s subjective.
This extra luxury does of course come at a price, though, more specifically it starts from £26,145 for the five door hatchback, and £27,245 if you go for the estate. Standard features include the extra Vignale touches I’ve already mentioned, and on top of that you also get LED headlights, LED front fog lights with cornering function, 8″ touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB radio, smartphone connectivity and navigation, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual zone climate control, head up display, rear wide-view camera, park assist and a B&O premium sound system with 10 speakers and a 675 watt amplifier.
The car seen here is £31,575 as it has the 1.5 litre EcoBoost engine as well as a few options including the Dark Mulberry paint, adaptive front lights, wireless phone charging pad, hands free tailgate, panoramic roof, drive assistance pack, and blind spot monitoring.
So, the Vignale is just some chintzy alloys and some fancy leather?
Erm no, not quite. It’s a different type of ownership experience, as Ford would be keen to point out. For example, you are entitled to free car washes at Ford dealerships, the car itself goes through 100 additional quality checks compared to a non-Vignale Ford, and you even get your own Relationship Manager. Does that mean you get marriage counselling? I might need that to get through the stress of moving house.
That’s enough about the price, let’s talk about the drive
As I touched upon a few moments ago, this model has the 1.5 litre, three cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost petrol. It offers 182hp, with 240Nm of torque (177 lb ft.), which is fed through the front wheels via a 6-speed manual, although an 8-speed auto can be selected if preferred. This unit is essentially a detuned version of the one used in the Fiesta ST, but even so, it still feels pretty punchy.
62mph is dealt with in 8.5 seconds and the top speed is 137mph, not that you’ll ever get the chance to hit speed, of course. The engine pulls well, the delivery is linear and it’s difficult to detect any serious turbo lag. In gear performance is decent as well, so shouldn’t have to use the gearbox any more than you’d want to. That wouldn’t be too much of a chore, though, as the gearchange is slick and pleasing, but the 8-speed auto may the better choice for some buyers.
In case you don’t quite fancy this engine, there’s also a choice of a 1.0 litre three-cylinder EcoBoost which offers 125hp, and like this engine, can be mated to either a 6-speed manual, or an 8-speed auto. There’s a choice of two diesels; a 1.5 litre EcoBlue unit that offers 120hp, and a 2.0 litre EcoBlue unit that offers 150hp. Both these engines have the choice of either a 6-speed manual or the 8-speed auto.
This engine makes a nice meaty thrum as you go along thanks to its three cylinder characteristics, but it’s never shouty or boomy when you work it hard. The inside is a pretty quite place to be, but it’s not quite as quiet as I would have hoped for a car like this. There is definitely some road noise due to the 18″ alloys, and the wing mirrors do create audible wind noise, especially on the motorway.
Vignale models offer Active Noise Control as well as thicker windows to try to subdue any unwanted noise, but I’m not convinced it’s making a massive difference as I wouldn’t say it feels drastically quieter than the ST-Line or the Active models I’ve driven prior to this car. I don’t know made I would to drive them back-to-back.
I’ve also noticed that my seatbelt height adjustor like to rattle and buzz from time-to-time, which is a little disappointing. However, it’s far from noisy in here, and I certainly think you’d have little trouble driving this long distance, especially as these seats are so pleasant to sit in. They’re supportive, too, but it would have been nice to have a massage function, they really would have been the cherry on top.
The seats may be comfortable, but the ride isn’t quite as smooth or supple as I expected. The low speed ride is actually rather firm and busy, which took me by surprise. At first I thought I was being a bit too critical, but my wife said the same thing when she was a passenger. The car’s suspension does flow better once you’re at speed, and it definitely becomes more agreeable.
The damping is good, but sadly the estate is not available with Ford’s Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) and it’s optional on the hatchback, which I personally find rather cheeky. This is the Vignale for Pete’s sake, make it standard, it’s what the car deserves. On the plus side, I do get independent rear suspension, which may sound like a bit of a given, but don’t forget, not all of the new Focus models get such a setup – the cheaper ones get a torsion beam at the rear. Mind you, even they offer a good level of comfort, so it’s not all bad news.
As standard on the Vignale, I have a selection of driving modes; Eco, Normal or Sport, which are pretty self explanatory. Even in Normal mode this car feels responsive and alert like a guard dog, but Sport dials that up a notch, and it also makes the steering more weighty, although even in Normal it’s quite satisfying. One thing I will say about the steering though, it’s a bit too eager to self centre itself, which does take a bit of getting used to, and if I’m honest, I don’t remember this being an issue in the other Focus models I’ve tested.
However, it doesn’t spoil the handling as the Vignale tackles corner with no major concerns, but let’s face it, this is a Focus. As I’ve mentioned, the steering offers a good weight, and the feedback is pretty decent, the body roll is well controlled, plus there’s a decent amount of grip, thanks to the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
Let’s put the brakes on for a few moments to deliver another instalment of Ask Aaron, the segment where you guys get to ask my questions about whichever car I am testing. The Focus Vignale has proved to be rather popular when it comes to questions, so I’ll try my best not to ramble on. Right, first question.
Do you age after driving it? That’s a bit random. I don’t think so, but I am starting to notice more grey hairs, so who knows.
Why is it an awful colour? Well, looks are subjective, but yes, the colour is not my cup of tea. Why is it this colour? Ask Ford.
Could you review a Renault next? No, I’ve got an Audi TTS coming next 😀
Is it worth the money? Hmm good question. I would say yes, but I think a Titanium or a Titanium X could suit most people’s needs just fine.
Do the front seats feel more comfortable than those from Titanium or ST-line? I’ve not driven an Titanium so I can’t comment on that, but I would say these seats are more comfortable than an ST-Line, not that the ST-Line is in anyway uncomfortable.
Space and practicality
Time to speak about fuel economy. This engine on a combined run should offer 44.1mpg and in my experience I’ve come pretty close to getting that. In regard to emissions, this engine puts out 126g/km, meaning for the first year of VED you’ll be required to pay £170. For those of you seeking more economy, you’ll want to have a look at the 1.5 litre EcoBlue diesel, as that offers 62.8mpg, with CO2 emissions coming in at 99g/km. Those figures are for the 6-speed manual by the way.
Like other Focus models, the Vignale offers a five star safety rating awarded by Euro NCAP. Standard safety features include six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, speed limiter, intelligence speed assist, and post collision braking. This was enough to gain the car five stars from Euro NCAP, but the car on test had added features such as head up display, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, and auto high beam.
The Vignale is certainly a nice place to be, and I imagine it will be a very pleasant companion in which to pound mile after mile of tarmac. However, can I confidently say this is that much more worth having than a Titanium X? No, I don’t think I can.
It offers plenty of kit, it’s comfortable, spacious, practical, and good to drive, but to honest, the same could be said for the other Focus models.It’s not the best value Focus going, depreciation is likely to be a big issue, and for me personally, the chrome wheels are too blingy and the paint is questionable.
Don’t get me wrong, the Vignale does have something to offer, and I think it will make prospective owners happy, but I wouldn’t say this feels head and shoulders above the rest of the range. I think this car should feel special, but for me, it doesn’t feel as special as it should.
Car Obsession Rating: (4 / 5)
- A more premium Focus experience
- 1.5 litre engine performs well
- Spacious and practical
- Strong safety levels
- Plenty of kit
- Not the best value focus
- Road noise is higher than I expected
- Lumpy low speed ride
- Depreciation is likely to be an issue
- Chrome wheels are…questionable…