Two jobs turns out tnod be one job too many

It ex­cels in one role. But the RS doesn’t even turn its alarm clock on for any­thing else.

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars - By Ben Pul­man

FOR­GET ABOUT THE fam­ily 4x4 be­ing a Swiss Army knife, it’s the hot hatch we de­mand most from. It’s got to be com­fort­able for the school run yet able to carve round the Nür­bur­gring in un­der eight min­utes.

It’s why so many man­u­fac­tures go down the route of mak­ing a hard­core hot hatch. It’s why Honda and Re­nault chase ’Ring lap times, why Hyundai’s first hot hatch – in­deed, its whole per­for­mance divi­sion – is named af­ter that Ger­man track, as is Toy­ota’s Yaris GRMN, or at least the N.

Do­ing it this way, with a nar­rower re­mit, is eas­ier. It’s why when Ford’s Per­for­mance team first got their hands on the Fo­cus, they prob­a­bly took one look at the cramped in­te­rior and crappy plas­tics, and knew they’d be on a hid­ing to noth­ing if they went chas­ing the VW Golf R. Bet­ter to stick to one end of the spec­trum and make some­thing rather ri­otous…

Which is ex­actly what they did. With clever four-wheel drive, 345bhp, and even more torque, the Fo­cus RS is fe­ro­ciously fast. Its party piece is the old hot hatch favourite turned up to 11: de­mol­ish­ing any given road with a speed that a low-slung, rear-drive sports car couldn’t ever hope to match. While a GT3 might be strug­gling for trac­tion or scuff­ing its nose, the Fo­cus RS just flies along.

There’s more to like too. It’s by far to­day’s best-look­ing hot hatch, and in black, with black wheels, it’s both sub­tle and sin­is­ter. I love that the in­takes (of which the front end is pre­dom­i­nantly made up) are all real too. And – and this is very geeky – when you pop the bon­net, even af­ter 7000 miles, it’s clean. No wa­ter splashes, just a pris­tine piece of plas­tic cov­er­ing the en­gine. That shows how well sealed it is.

Yet how­ever much I en­joyed the Fo­cus RS on the right road, I didn’t much en­joy it for most of the rest of the time. It doesn’t even start to do enough of the hatch­back stuff well.

The big is­sues are: the aw­ful in­te­rior qual­ity (a Ford Fo­cus fault, rather than an RS-spe­cific fail­ing); the woe­ful range and fuel con­sump­tion (250 miles at best, and never bet­ter than 30mpg); and the ride, which is ter­ri­ble. It never hin­ders you fly­ing down your favourite B-road, but day-to-day it’s dread­ful. Plus the Re­caro seats are set far too high, are far too tight, and are so thick they rob the rear pas­sen­gers of any de­cent legroom. And at that point the Fo­cus RS be­comes a com­pro­mised sec­ond car, rather than a hot hatch with a lit­tle ex­tra edge. For £30k, you’d be bet­ter off buy­ing a mint E90 M3 saloon – the BMW will ride bet­ter, have just as much space, and while the fuel con­sump­tion won’t be any dif­fer­ent, the flip­side is M divi­sion’s chas­sis magic and a 4.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8.

I’ve heard ru­mours that the next Fo­cus RS will be a 400bhp hy­brid. I hope not. I want them to shoe­horn the ex­ist­ing pow­er­train and four-wheel-drive pack­age into the classy, roomy new Fo­cus, and spend the de­vel­op­ment money on the sus­pen­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.