FORD FOCUS RS
There's no denying it: 2016 has been the year of the hot hatch. With a contingent of hyper-speed hatchbacks from the likes of Audi and Mercedes-AMG, small supercars have come into their own, thanks to all-wheel drive and vastly powerful turbocharged engin
DRIVING This is the Focus RS’S calling card. Its all-wheel-drive system and super-sticky tyres grip with the vim of a magnetic limpet, hurling you along almost any road surface with no real penalty, barring a little wiggle if the stability control is backed off. Planting your foot offers a moment’s repose before the turbo spools up and fires you into the middle distance at breathtaking, cackle-inducing speed. The feedback is incredibly sharp and, ahem, focused, a blissful reminder of how good steering feel can be. Its tech involves, rather than insulates, the driver. ENGINE The RS follows the modern super-hatch formula: a huge turbocharger, bolted to a small engine, producing absurd outputs – 257kw and 440Nm. The RS powerplant sits between Audi and Mercedes-amg’s efforts in terms of displacement and cylinders – bigger than the A 45, at 2.3 litres, but smaller (and one cylinder down) on the 2.5-litre, five-cylinder RS 3. It’s an absolute tower of power, delivering a giddy, boosted rush to the rev limiter. At small throttle openings, it’s a docile creature, but loosen things up a bit and prepare to surrender your licence. PRICE/DELIVERY Let’s get this out of the way before any further ado: the Focus RS is perhaps the best performance bargain on the market right now. Sure, you can get higher outputs (and definitely a more upmarket experience) from the Audi RS 3 and Mercedes-amg A 45 but, for just $50,990, you won’t find a true hyper hatch any cheaper than the fast Ford. Unsurprisingly, this means that the waiting list for the Focus RS stretches for months. STYLING Well, it’s not exactly a wallflower. Especially in the iridescent ‘Nitrous’ blue, with attendant 19-inch wheels and gigantic rear spoiler, expect a lot of attention – be it from pedestrians or police. Twin exhaust pipes, large enough to lose a grapefruit in, command their own kind of attention when they’re spluttering like a Spitfire on throttle-off moments. It’s a definite boyracer’s car, as subtle as a sledgehammer and just as fun to wield. INTERIOR The familiar Focus cabin feels pretty dour compared to its Euro rivals. That said, there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces and it feels like it’s built properly – there aren’t any errant squeaks or rattles like Fords of old. Slim racing seats and a lot of RS badging remind you that you’re in the most potent Focus but, at the speeds it can carry, you’re best off looking out the windscreen.