The Ford Focus RS Driven – All Hail The King Of Hot Hatches_
the way the RS drives is a remarkable engineering achievement, the fact that you get so much useable performance from a car that is so easy to drive
The latest entry into Ford’s greatest hits catalogue of RS-badged superfast Fords – cars based on humble beginnings bringing absolute performance and power to the masses at a reasonable price.
Essentially the RS is a performance car for the everyman, what Ford have given is a Focus that is still as useable as a standard Focus but with huge and absolute power. All of the wonderful power comes from a tuned version of the Mustang’s 2.3 litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbo motor, total power output is a staggering 345bhp, this makes it to the road via a six-speed manual gearbox attached to a super-tricked out all-wheel drive system, this system has switchable modes available to the driver essentially making the RS drive like rear-wheel drive car (sending up to 70% of the power to the rear wheels) if the mood takes you. Add in such advanced tech as adaptive dampers, launch control, a menacing looking aero kit and all the normal practicality of a standard five-door Focus and you have a genuine everyday useable hatch that produces supercar numbers. All of this massive power and ease of use comes in at a shade over £31,000.
Now, I do have a confession to make, the nice gentleman from Ford UK handed me the keys to the RS and I must have been so in awe of the car that I promptly stalled it twice in quick succession, once I got the hang of the clutch I then attempted to exit the car park by the wrong exit, this is more down to me being a blithering idiot than the car, god only knows what the Ford reps thought as I stalled and then got lost in their prized RS, sorry chaps.
The Focus RS is all about performance, and Ford has done a spot on job with the restyle to ensure the RS stands out above the rest of the less powerful models in the range. The front is adorned with a massive air intake which looks like it would suck up small animals as you do your daily commute, to say the aero kit is aggressive is an understatement, when you see it in the metal it merely looks every inch as an RS should, super aggressive and super quick looking.
Make your way around the car and you are greeted with deeper side sills with 19-inch multispoke alloy wheels, you can spec black lightweight forged rims if you wish for £595, I, however, would go with the standard rims as everyone seems to spec the black forged ones, also the standard wheels really set off the cars look nicely, but, your money, your choice.
At the back, you get a pair of massive dual exit exhaust pipes, a deep rear diffuser and a massive rear wing with embedded RS logo’s in case you forget what car you’re driving.
The whole aero package just screams RS, it screams aggression and speed in huge amounts, Ford has done an epic job here as undoubtedly they could have gone more insane, but, thankfully they didn’t and the styling is spot on.
On The Inside
The RS interior is basically a Ford Focus set-up, as in you everything is where it’s meant to be and within easy reach, no complexities just a nice and simple layout.
Ford have improved the quality of their interiors in recent years, to me, they have a very Germanic feel about them in respect of their fit and finish, the RS is no exception in this regard, everything feels good quality and well screwed together.
On the dash you get the three pressure gauges lifted out of the ST, aside from this and the RS logo embossed on the steering wheel the dash is pretty much standard Ford Focus, as I said earlier this is a good thing.
Overall the interior design is more toned down than the previous gen RS, as in it no longer looks rather shouty, this is helped by the optional slimline Recaro seats which are absolutely worth the £1,145 premium, I am fairly tall (I’m 6’3) and I just found them to be super comfortable and had no issues at all while driving, they hug you to a certain extent but again this is a good thing. Some other writers have confessed they found the seating position to be slightly high, now, I lowered the seat as low as it would go (my preference in most cars) and I just didn’t feel it was too high at all, I have not tried an RS with the standard seats so maybe there different, who knows.
In the back it's all standard Focus, reasonable amounts of space for rear passengers, the boot, however, does lose some depth due to the housing of the all-wheel drive system, you also don’t get a spare wheel, and I say this doesn’t matter at all. For the performance you get it’s a very minor trade off if any loss at all.
The first point of call is the engine, it is an absolutely stunning piece of engineering, honestly, it’s that good.
As you plant the noisy pedal you are greeted with a substantial booming from the twin exhausts, the sound emitted is magnificent, Ford’s engineers have thankfully left in all of the turbo hisses, crackles and other such aggressive sounding noises, the best which is the cracking from the exhaust as you plant your right foot to high revs and then back off. The whole essence of the car is laid out with this sound, it’s truly a magnificent soundtrack.
While planting your right foot, you will become aware of an intense gathering of pace as the scenery in front of you starts to blur massively, the RS is a very quick car indeed, whilst Ford quote 4.7 seconds for the 0-60 dash, I feel it’s a touch quicker than that in the right conditions. Either way, the RS has absolute power.
The manual gearbox in the RS is just excellent; the changes feel precise and crisp and you’d have to be a blithering moron to miss a gear during quick driving, the clutch is very sharp, as I said earlier I did indeed stall the RS upon getting the keys, however after just a few minutes of driving I had no issues, even stuck in the heavy traffic of York it was simple and easy to drive. In fact, it’s just like driving a Ford Focus in town because even with all the performance extras as that’s exactly what it is.
The RS also features various driving modes, Normal, Sport, Track and Drift mode, moving through these modes is just like saying how insane you want your RS to be. I have another confession to make, as I could only drive the RS on the road I stayed away from Drift mode as Ford asked me to return the car in one piece so I duly obliged them.
I suspect that Sport mode is where you will spend most of your time in an RS, given that when you select Track a big warning flashes up telling you that you should be on a track and not on a road, now in Sport mode the RS comes alive, accompanied by that soundtrack and the all-wheel drive system the level of grip is insane, huge amounts of traction are available, as you corner you can feel the all-wheel drive system working away underneath you, the steering is also excellent, even with 19-inch rims at low speed the turn is well weighted and easy, at higher speeds the turn in is as near makes no difference utter perfection, perfectly weighted with plenty of feel and feedback.
The handling set-up along with the steering and the all-wheel drive system just encourages you on, at no point does the RS ever feel like it’s about to get out of shape, to put it bluntly, the RS is exceptionally quick in the corners, this cornering ability is made far easier by the excellent Brembo brake set-up, the massive 350mm front discs helped by four-piston callipers are just magnificent to use, plenty of feel and feedback with tonnes of stopping power.
Drive the RS normally and it shines with energy: take it on some real roads and it will reward you with tonnes of driver feedback and feeling, the RS just feels alive when you drive it. If you find yourself on a closed road or a track then you will certainly use all of that power, as Ford have given us a chassis that can handle it easily and likely more if they gave us the option, the RS is just staggeringly good to drive whether you’re on a short hop to the local shops or a cross-country run.
There is no doubt that Ford has done an amazing job with new Focus RS, it is everyday driveable with supercar performance that simply lay’s waste to its rivals.
My experience of driving the RS was a brief one, however, it was an absolutely memorable one, the way the RS drives is a remarkable engineering achievement, the fact that you get so much useable performance from a car that is so easy to drive is staggering. The accompaniment of that soundtrack just adds to the experience.
The Ford Focus RS is a properly useable daily driver that will reward you every single time you drive it, it’s an absolute monster performance wise, it could be called a weapon of sorts, overall it’s a proper fast Ford, it’s a proper RS absolutely worthy of the fabled RS moniker, buy one, drive it and you will not be disappointed, all hail the new king of the hot hatch.
Engine: 4-cylinder 2.3 EcoBoost, Turbocharged
Power and Torque: 345bhp, 325ibft (347ibft overboost function)
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1,599kg
Top speed: 167mph
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Economy: 36.7mpg (combined)
Price: £31,250 (As tested £34,485)