I turned 30 last month, and I managed to obtain permission from my wife that I had earned a lavish treat. The current hot-hatch market is awash with superb offerings, delivering supercar performance of yesteryear. If you believe the vast majority of reviews, the Ford Focus RS is certainly the one to have and so, after some extremely extensive research, I visited the dealer and joined the year-long queue of eager enthusiasts.
However, the experience left me feeling numb. After discovering that you can’t just order an RS from simply any Ford dealer, I had to travel to the next county to place my order. The dealer couldn’t have been more apathetic and seemed desperate to point out that the miserly dealer commission from the sale of RS meant that there would be no discounts whatsoever. Nada. Not even the obligatory full tank of petrol or floor mats. The dealer couldn’t even confirm the monthly PCP payments owing to the fact they were liable to change with fluctuating APR’s. All this for a car that would take at least 12 months to arrive and for many, is difficult to discern visually from a Titanium X.
If you look really, really closely, you'll spot this is, in fact, the RS variant of the latest Focus jelly-mould
After I had placed the order for a white RS and the initial euphoria had subsided, the doubts began to surface. I re-visited my local Honda dealer for my second test-drive in the Type R. On paper, it’s an inferior car – most significantly the lower BHP via old-fashioned front wheel driver producing a slower 0-62mph. It’s a Honda, so the residuals will be far worse than a Fast Ford, for which prices seem to remain forever buoyant even in challenging used car markets. Yet the drive of the Type R felt more eager and the aesthetics are exactly what one expects from a hot hatch – loud, unnecessarily obnoxious and offensive to the average motorist. That, coupled with the limited run of the current FK2 shape, and an enthusiastic salesman who was only too willing for me to try out the car’s limits on a test route of my choice, sealed the deal. My RS deposit was begrudgingly refunded, and two weeks later, my Type R GT #7800 arrived at Gatwick Honda.
Now, my experience has inevitably been influenced by salesmanship. In Ford’s defence, I’ve since learned the salesman in question has “left the business”, and the advised waiting list of 12-18 months may have been over-estimated somewhat to manage my expectations.
However, to me at least, the Type R is the real-life, modern-day, affordable equivalent of the Lamborghini Countach poster that affixed my bedroom wall as a boy. The looks, the silly red seatbelts and bright red bucket seats, the dials that glow red when the R+ mode is engaged all add to the charm. The car feels like it’s ready to play at every turn, goading you to wait that second longer before engaging the gloriously slick gearshift, and yet it’s also practical. The boot is larger than the Focus thanks to the front-wheel drive, and the fuel economy is around 10mpg better.
If you look really, really closely, you'll spot this is, in fact, the Lamborghini Countach, and not a Type R!
In the interests of balance, the tyre pressure light came on within 30 miles of leaving the dealer, the hazard warning light switch is positioned in such a way that every time I push it I knock the touch-screen display and reset the SatNav, and the black wheels must be constantly kept a furlong from even the smallest curb to keep them looking their best, but this is the car I’ve lusted after since I first picked up a Micro Machine aged 4.