A sizzling hot hatch
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.
TEST DRIVE FORD FOCUS RS
Ford Focus RS 2.3T EcoBoost £31,000
350ps, 2,261cc 4-cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via six-speed manual transmission 165mph 4.7 seconds 36.7 175g/km 32% 3yrs/60,000 miles