Ford Focus RS Review
Ford’s latest iteration of the Focus RS is released in the UK.
- Five door practicality with power...and lots of it
- Phenomenal levels of grip
- Well priced and finally a successor to the Escort Cosworth!
- Limited rear leg room
When four wheel drive technology made it into rallying and then filtered down to the high street, the cars that have always been ‘B Road’ killers have forever been held by purists of thrilling acceleration and grip for a relatively cheap price. The Lancia Delta Integrale, Sierra Sapphire and Escort Cosworth, Toyota Celica GT-Four, Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evolution have always brought a massive grin to so many. And yet even when Ford signed Colin McRae for a multi million pound deal in 1999, there still hasn’t been a Ford ‘Impreza’ people could get their hands on. Even the years of being in the WRC with the Focus hasn’t kick started the idea to make another ‘homologation special’ so it took the success of Ken Block and his Gymkhana video sensations to get the ball moving again for the first time in 25 years for Ford to make an all wheel drive ‘homologation special’.
On the Road
It’s been seven years since the last Focus RS and now Ford have thrown all their design and engineering at a new third generation model. As part of their Ford Performance stable, which includes the Fiesta ST, Mustang and Le Mans running GT, the manufacturer had to produce an RS that had to be affordable yet functional. Have they achieved this?
Does 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds sound appealing? The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine which features in the Mustang has been re-engineered for the Focus RS, it produces a stonking 350PS with 440Nm of torque....and remember this is a five-door hatchback. Add the catapulting launch control and the drive modes which include, normal, track, sport and drift, the latter letting you hoon like Ken Block without the risk of binning it off into a wall, and yet you have a car that wants to pull you all the way through the gears with no let up on power, even from the off. The Focus RS is much more than just a road car; it is a landmark alongside its older Sierra and Escort brothers.
The steering is superb on the Focus RS, very balanced with plenty of feedback. Throwing it into corners and it does just that with no understeer either. How does it do that? With this generation Focus RS being all-wheel drive it benefits from torque vectoring, so you can exit corners with plenty of speed and traction as it throws more power to the rear wheels.
Ford have revised the suspension, it’s quite stiff and the ride is firm while dampers can be adjusted on the move for even more precise handling. With the most powerful brake system ever to feature on an RS you have a car that comes to a full stop faster than it can accelerate.
Take the RS letters away and the Focus rates very highly, the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise and the only intrusion to the interior noise is from the twin performance exhausts so that’s a good problem to have isn’t it? The pops and burble were worked on extensively just to get the unique RS sound, so hats off to the engineers for not being content with the first sound they produced and pushing themselves further. These sorts of things really make a car special adding to the already larger-than-life character of the Focus RS.
In the car
Jump behind the wheel and you’ll be sat in Recaro sports seats with the option to go for the even cooler £1,145 race style Recaro shell seats. Whichever you choose they are hugely comfortable with plenty of snug support, besides, we loved the blue stitching throughout the interior.
With a driver focussed cabin laid out simply, everything is to hand. Mounted gauges showing boost, oil pressures and oil temperature sit on the centre of the dash, while the important instrument dials flank a settings screen - to set that all important launch control. The Focus RS comes with a an 8-inch touchscreen featuring the Ford Sync 2 system which controls all entertainment, navigation, phone and car settings. Their Sync 3 system is available on the Focus RS in the autumn.
With plenty of generous space upfront it seems to be lacking in the rear as legroom is slightly limiting so if you’re tall it’s likely to be a struggle as the optional Recaro shell seats seemed quite bulky intruding on rear space.
The boot is of a decent size so if you’re thinking it’s not ideal as a family car, think again. There is plenty of room for suitcases, bags, pushchairs, and probably the kitchen sink. Who says you can’t have power and practicality?
What makes the Ford Focus RS so appealing is the price, which from £31,000 is extremely affordable. Bear in mind the last all-wheel drive from Ford was the Escort Cosworth costing £22,050 in 1992, which in today’s money would be just over £40,000.
What speaks volumes is over 3,000 orders have already been taken in the UK from people who haven’t even driven it. Expect to see quite a few Nitrous Blue ones - over 60% have ordered this colour.
Ford predict a combined mpg in the mid thirties and road tax falls into tax band H so will cost £300 for the first year then £210 annually as it emits 175g/km of CO2.
Recent Ford models like the standard Focus and Mondeo have seen an improvement in quality, with less tinny, weak materials used making recent cars noticeably more refined although Ford still need to improve their reliablity as they don’t always excel in this area.
Ford do tend to manufacturer award-winning models as already the Focus RS has taken the Top Gear Car of the Year and we doubt this will be the last accolade they win.
If you do over-hoon it, the Ford Focus scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP tests, it took 92% in adult occupant protection with 82% for children and safety is one of the areas Ford excel at.
Ford’s Intelligent Protection System features airbags, an impact absorbing bodyshell and cleverly for the driver, in case of an impact the pedals and steering column collapse away for further protection.
With ABS, a speed limiter, Active City Stop, which helps to avoid an accident in slow-moving traffic, a tyre pressure monitoring system and a Thatcham Category 1 alarm, the Ford Focus RS is as safe as it is secure.