Got the RS blues
Ford Focus RS £31,250 OTR/ £35,765 as tested
And so it is, with a heavy heart and a marginally lighter wallet, that the time has come to wave goodbye to the Focus RS. I loved it before, and I love it still, but the question is: has it gone up in my estimation or slipped slightly from its perch in the past six months? Unfortunately, it’s the latter, and I’ll tell you why.
During my frst introduction to the Focus RS (2,500 miles across Europe in issue 279), problems that come into sharp focus during day-to-day running of a car in and around London weren’t exactly front and centre in my mind. Yes, I know I’m a professional motoring journalist and should be considering the relative merits of every possible attribute of any car at any moment, but when you have an empty Route Napoléon and a 345bhp hot hatch you’ve been waiting to drive for years beneath you, you’ll understand why the engine, gearshift, balance and hoonage potential were more immediate concerns.
Back to everyday reality and fuel economy under 25mpg and a ride over speedbumps and potholes that’s robust at best (my wife eventually refused to travel long distances in it, although our four-month-old loved the constant vertical jiggling, so did I – it sent her straight of to sleep) isn’t great. Forgivable, ignorable even, for brief adrenaline-soaked encounters, but in the long run it grinds you down.
And there were other issues. The seat is perched too high and the Recaro buckets have no vertical adjustment. This has been well documented, and mine also developed a squeak every time I hit a bump, but only in the exact tooth of the forward/ back seat rail that worked for my 5ft 8in frame. That’s just malicious. I should probably mention that a company, JCR, has now stepped up to the mark and will sell you SuperLow seat frames for the MkIII RS that lower both the driver and passenger seat by up to 55mm, for £545. Buy them.
And then there’s the gimmicky nature of the car. Ford decided to ft the RS with a trick 4WD system, and take the chunky weight penalty that brought. As a result it had a car that could easily handle 345bhp (and more, as the 370bhp Mountune upgrade proved – you should buy that too) and fies in the face of convention by being able to throw 70 per cent of its power to the rear axle in Drift mode. It captured the imagination of us all, and was as much a clever marketing trick as a smart piece of engineering.
There are those out there that shun the RS, dislike what it stands for – a world obsessed with electronic trickery and synthetic sensations. Some say a true hot hatch shouldn’t cost much over £20k, be front-drive and disappointingly cheap in some way. To those people I say get with the times, Grandad.
Because every time I wrung that engine, heard the exhausts explode on the overrun, snicked another gear, gave it a bung and caught a smooth powerslide without fear of the front and rear axles swapping positions, I wasn’t thinking about electronic intervention. I wasn’t thinking about fuel economy, or ride comfort. I wasn’t thinking about anything in fact, I was just grinning like a little kid.
Jiggly ride, high seating position, sqeaks and rattles – still love it, obvs