The sen­si­ble choice. Well, sort of…

All 345bhp of it. As hot hatches go, the lat­est Fo­cus RS is a sur­pris­ingly practical propo­si­tion. By Ben Pul­man

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars - @theben­pul­man

THE LOG­I­CAL AN­SWER wasn’t in doubt. What else but a Golf? We needed a new car, some­thing en­joy­able to drive, both small and sub­tle enough for life on the streets of Lon­don, and still practical for what­ever our im­pend­ing mar­ried life might hold. It’s what a group test would con­clude, after all, and would save us vis­it­ing a se­ries of in­dus­trial es­tates when we should be fret­ting over favours and how much money to put be­hind the bar.

As things turned out, or­gan­is­ing a wed­ding was a dod­dle com­pared to shop­ping for a car. My wife wanted to come too, as she didn’t trust me not to come home with a sec­ond­hand Cay­man. So off we went, vis­it­ing the lo­cal show­rooms, seven days be­fore the big day. We crossed off BMW, Merc was dis­counted too, and while we wa­vered over an A3, our an­swer was in­evitable: we should get a Golf.

Then it was a case of fig­ur­ing out which Golf. Or in my eyes, whether it was to be a GTI or an R. An R Es­tate, I thought, per­haps on one of those ab­surdly cheap leases that oc­ca­sion­ally pop up. I even got a text from a mate while we were away on hon­ey­moon, tip­ping me in the di­rec­tion of just such a deal. Only the new Mrs Pul­man didn’t want it in white, and then I wa­vered, and 24 hours later the of­fer was gone. Drat!

I’d been mo­ments away from com­mit­ting to a Golf R Es­tate for three years – but now CAR’s new long-term-test Ford Fo­cus RS is mak­ing me ques­tion whether I was do­ing the right thing.

I never re­ally con­sid­ered the RS; th­ese days it’s not Fords and Vaux­halls that are the de­fault choice. But a 2.3-litre en­gine, shared with the Mus­tang but up­graded with a 10 per cent power hike to 345bhp, says I should have at least looked this way. And it’s not like a Fo­cus isn’t a practical car. Plus it’s got four-wheel drive (de­spite Ford telling us for two gen­er­a­tions of Fo­cus RS that all-whel drive added cost and weight at the cost of fun), big 350mm Brembo front brakes, Re­caro seats, and four driv­ing modes in­clud­ing a Drift Mode that the hype will have you be­lieve trans­forms even the most in­ept driver into Ken Block. All this, for just £28,940. Sorry, £29,995. No, wait, £31…. Oh, ac­tu­ally, er… it’s £32,265. Be­tween the Fo­cus RS be­ing un­veiled and ac­tu­ally go­ing on sale in the UK there was a price rise, and then a pub­lic vote last sum­mer and its sub­se­quent eco­nomic im­pact de­val­ued the pound to the ex­tent that this fast Ford is now over 10 per cent more ex­pen­sive.

You’ll have spot­ted that it’s not blue. Ap­par­ently more than 60 per cent of RS buy­ers opt for Ni­trous Blue (and I’ve never seen a Mk3 RS on the road in any other colour) while

only about 10 per cent choose the Shadow Black hue we had our car painted in. It’s a lot less lairy in the dark colour, both sub­tle (like we wanted) and rather sin­is­ter. That, and it helps dis­guise just how much of the nose is in fact a gap­ing air in­take.

The op­tional gloss-black forged wheels (£975, and taken up by nearly ev­ery buyer) suit it well and are nicely un­der­stated when com­pared with the stan­dard sil­ver al­loys, while the blue brake calipers are an­other al­most-de­fault op­tion (at £25 per cor­ner) and about the only hint of colour on the out­side.

And here’s the point where we’d usu­ally make a joke about the dark, drab and dreary in­te­ri­ors of Fords. Ex­cept it’s great. The lat­est Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is good, ditto the Re­caro seats (we don’t have the £1145 Re­caro buck­ets, which look fan­tas­tic, ex­cept this isn’t a two-day group test thrash in Wales – it’s six months of real life) and you’d be hard-pressed to spot any in­fe­rior plas­tics or sub-par ar­eas of fit and fin­ish.

To the stan­dard list of equip­ment (in­clud­ing bi-xenon lights, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, 10-speaker Sony stereo and a re­vers­ing cam­era) we’ve added park­ing sen­sors, cruise con­trol, pri­vacy glass, en­gine stop/start, heated front seats and a heated steer­ing wheel, which adds £1525 to the list price, for a to­tal price of £35,390.

The days of the £19,995 Mk1 Fo­cus are long gone, but while a Mk5 Golf GTI cost the same back then, spec a new Mk7.5 Golf R to the equiv­a­lent level of our RS and it’s more than £37k.

Silly money. Un­less you get a cheap lease deal. Which is ex­actly what the Fo­cus RS has to con­vince me not to do six months from now…

Blue paint turns out not to be com­pul­sory on the RS. We paid ex­tra for those calipers

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