A siz­zling hot hatch

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Tor­pey

WHISTLING up an in­stant race­track to ex­am­ine ev­ery valve and spring of a fire­breath­ing speed­ster is a re­cur­ring dream. It’s prob­a­bly the sub­con­scious re­ac­tion to driv­ing a Ford Fo­cus RS in ev­ery­day con­di­tions, a mostly en­joy­able but ul­ti­mately frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

That’s in it­self a re­flec­tion of just how good this lat­est gen­er­a­tion of the de­fin­i­tive fast Ford is.

In the realm of hot hatches there are now plenty of contenders, but only one – the Honda Civic TYPE-R – is re­al­is­ti­cally in the same league as the Ford.

The boys at the Blue Oval have years of ex­pe­ri­ence in de­vel­op­ing, then hon­ing, fast Fords and while it’s a state­ment that’s no doubt been ut­tered many times be­fore, this RS is the best yet.

Be­neath the bon­net is a spe­cially en­gi­neered ver­sion of the 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol en­gine in the Mus­tang mus­cle car, but with an added kick of 39bhp which takes its over­all wal­lop to 345bhp.

And while its head­line fig­ures of 0-62 in 4.7 sec­onds and 165mph top speed are frac­tion­ally slower than red-hot ri­vals like the Audi RS3 and Mercedes AMG A45, the Fo­cus RS costs a full £10,000 less.

Its price tag of £29,995 is ac­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to the new Civic TYPE-R, but while that model is front-wheel drive only the Ford – un­like its two pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions – boasts AWD.

It also comes with a slick six-speed man­ual gear­box and is the first Ford RS model to be equipped with se­lectable Drive Modes – in­clud­ing some­thing called Drift Mode – and Launch Con­trol.

The AWD sys­tem has been tuned by Ford en­gi­neers to de­liver ex­cep­tional grip and the best cor­ner­ing speed and ac­cel­er­a­tion out of bends.

And boy does it de­liver. The four dif­fer­ent drive modes –se­lected via a switch along­side the gear lever – con­fig­ure the RS for op­ti­mum per­for­mance, with Nor­mal or Sport set­tings for on-road driv­ing and Track or Drift for cir­cuit use only.

While nor­mal driv­ing mode of­fers a fun, fast and spir­ited ex­pe­ri­ence, en­gag­ing the Sports set­ting sharp­ens the car con­sid­er­ably, pro­vid­ing an ex­hil­a­rat­ing but pre­cise drive as the ex­haust crack­les like a rally car.

There’s also the most pow­er­ful brake sys­tem ever fit­ted to an RS model, with 350mm ven­ti­lated front discs and alu­minium Brembo cal­lipers – painted in dis­tinc­tive RS blue.

There’s a choice of multi-spoke 19-inch RS al­loy wheels, in­clud­ing a high-per­for­mance light­weight forged de­sign fin­ished in low-gloss black and five ex­te­rior colours in­clude the Stealth Grey, Shadow Black, Mag­netic Grey, Frozen White and the exclusive me­tal­lic Nitrous Blue.

This par­tic­u­lar model came with a string of op­tions like race style RS Re­caro shell seats (£1,145 but worth the money), Ford’s SYNC2 nav sys­tem with a rear camera and 10 Sony speak­ers at £465 and a £1,000 Lux­ury Pack. But even fully loaded with kit you’re still get­ting change from £35,000 – and for such an ad­vanced and frankly ex­cep­tional car, that’s pretty de­cent value.

Okay, you’re not go­ing to get any­where near the of­fi­cial Com­bined fuel re­turn of 36.7 miles per gal­lon – 22mpg is more re­al­is­tic – and the all-wheel drive set-up eats into the cargo space, but then you don’t go for cars like the RS for shift­ing clob­ber.

You buy them for the thrill, the dy­nam­ics, the per­for­mance and the thun­der – and the Fo­cus RS has all four.

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