Got the RS blues

Ford Fo­cus RS £31,250 OTR/ £35,765 as tested

Top Gear (UK) - - GARAGE - JACK RIX

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

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