For the price the new Focus simply cannot be beaten
For the price the new Focus simply cannot be beaten

Ford Focus RS, car review: On road and on track with super-hatch of the century

Whipping up excitement to a frenzy never before earned by a Focus, the new super-hatch has certainly made its mark

Sarah Bradley
Tuesday 31 May 2016 00:10

It’s taken two already-impressive incarnations of the RS to reach this stage – but what a stage it is. Whipping up excitement to a frenzy never before earned by a Focus, Ford’s brand new super-hatch has certainly made its mark.

Thanks to tech-rich four-wheel drive with an active rear differential, it gets its power down with super-efficiency in double-quick time. A front-mounted power take-off unit can divert up to 70% of torque to the back, while that unit in turn can send 100% to either rear wheel, which can rotate faster than the fronts. And that’s not all…

A redesigned bodyshell gives massive anti-twisting stiffness to complement the specialised drivetrain. There’s electromechanical steering, too, plus adaptive-damped suspension that’s much firmer than the standard Focus ST’s.

The Cosworth-redeveloped 2.3-litre turbo makes 345bhp and 325lb ft of torque, and given its head the Ford feels like an £80,000 sports car all the way up to fourth gear. It’s flexible, balanced and sharp, sounds great, and certainly seems stronger than all its price-equivalent rivals. The punchy six-speed manual box makes a perfect companion.

Low-speed driving brings hard steering and firm suspension, while at the other end of the spectrum owners might find excessive weight-induced brake and tyre consumption detracts from the Focus RS’s track appeal. The sweet spot is the broad, and magnificent, territory in between, where the newcomer combines the best of the Nissan GT-R and Audi R8, with a smattering of Group B rally car to add to the fun.

Even without engaging the lauded Drift setting, the Ford delivers superb engagement and excitement. It’s eminently controllable in fast corners, even when entering too fast, and in this respect it’s matched only by BMW’s M135i in the hot hatch class.

Ford Focus RS

  • Price: From £30,620
  • 0-62mph: 4.7sec
  • Top speed: 165mph
  • CO2: 175g/km
  • MPG: 36.7

That clever rear end slightly intrudes on boot space, but the impact on overall practicality is negligible. The RS is still based on a family hatchback, after all. Our only niggle is with the too-high Signature RS Recaro seats, which are otherwise superb. Standard-fit Sync2 infotainment incorporates DAB, Bluetooth, an eight-inch touchscreen and voice control. Sat-nav costs another £465, and also boasts a 10-speaker Sony audio system with a subwoofer and rear-view camera.

For the price – which is at least £10k less than those of the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3, and even betters that of the evergreen VW Golf R – the Focus just can’t be beaten. Simply view it as an affordable alternative to a supercar, which allows more than weekend use, and then exploit the hell out of its abilities on the limit.

Pros: Brilliant handling, fabulous value, beats many rivals when it comes to feeling special

Cons: Driving position is too high, unsettled low-speed ride, relatively average powerplant

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