Yeah yeah, but what’s it like to drive?
Around town, it’s much like the Focus ST, without the wheelspin. The clutch is light but with a definite bite point, and the ride is sporty but not harsh. It’s reasonably quiet, and the engine doesn’t feel laggy; rather, it’s quite tractable. A quick cruiser on the motorway, the short gearing sees 100km/h register 2200rpm, but what it longs for is a good thrashing in the hills.
Advancing to Sport mode opens the exhaust valve and brings on the entertaining bangs and pops on the overrun. The engine note is worthy, a satisfying mix of induction and exhaust bark. Hard on the throttle and there’s no waiting for the torque as the engine pulls hard from 2000rpm and revs quickly, though is done by 6000rpm, the limiter arriving at 6700rpm. The manual slots gears easily, even when you’re shifting with the ‘wrong’ hand. In Sport, the dampers remain in normal mode which helps sort the bumps (not that we encountered many), while the body roll is well contained. You can switch the dampers between modes via a switch on the end of the indicator wand, but the hard setting is too harsh on road. The AWD is set to maximise traction in this mode and you can get hard on the gas early, the RS shooting from exit to braking point with maximum efficiency. Depending on the bend and throttle application, you can feel the push from the rear end helping you through the corner, a unique character in a somewhat affordable hot hatch. The steering is super accurate, and immediate, letting you lock on to the turn-in point while the extra steering heft helps you keep it steady as it loads up in the corner. Rounding out an all-round performance, the brakes are strong with a pedal that bites early and feels good. The only issue could be tyre roar on our coarse chip highways.