The Ford Focus RS is a landmark hot hatch that sits proudly on the top shelf. Forget starter hot hatches such as the Seat Leon FR or Ford Focus ST-Line, or even middleweights like the Volkswagen Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST: for full-fat hot hatch thrills, you need something like a Honda Civic Type R, Audi S3 or the current king of them all, the Focus RS.
One of the biggest draws is its incredible power and performance. 345bhp from a 2.3-litre engine shared with the Ford Mustang nails just about every rival on acceleration. 0-62mph takes just 4.7 seconds: you need a £40k Mercedes-AMG A45 to better that. Or a Porsche.
It handles astonishingly well too, with massive grip giving the driver enormous confidence. It’s benign and detailed – and, of course, has the famous Drift mode that alters the four-wheel drive power delivery to serve up a load of power to the rear wheels, for on-demand sideways action.
Ford has managed to blend this sports car sharpness with unexpected comfort. This isn’t the teeth-rattling hot hatch of old, but a great-handling car whose two-stage adaptive dampers also take the edge off rabid road surfaces. The ultra-flexible engine complements this approachability, serving up its power throughout the rev range rather than in a hysterical rush.
Like all good hot hatches, it’s very practical, seating five people and their luggage with just as much hunger as a regular Focus – whose owners will recognise the same excellent cabin layout, albeit enhanced with extra dials, an 8.0in infotainment system and the most gorgeous set of part-leather Recaro seats.
It’s even easy to drive and park in town, thanks to good forwards visibility and the affordable option of rear parking sensors. Rear visibility actually isn’t great but when are you likely to be worrying about what’s behind in a car this potent?
All of which makes the £31,000 asking price an absolute bargain. OK, you won’t get anything off at dealers, so in-demand is the Focus RS, but depreciation is all but guaranteed to be glacial, such has been the enthusiastic response to this car. Indeed, the owner’s community that’s building around it is likely to make the ownership experience even more rewarding going forwards.
These are the same people that cosset the previous two generations of Focus RS. You can buy a first-generation one from them for upwards of £8,000, but will need to fork out a hefty £18,500 for the second generation car, if you want one with less than 50,000 miles on the clock.
Buying from such people should get you a well looked after model, but it’s still worth checking the maintenance carefully on such a high performance car. Oh, and try to find out if any tuning work has been carried out. It’s not unknown for wild power figures to be chased with the Focus RS…