These two machines approach a similar goal in very different ways
These two machines approach a similar goal in very different ways

Ford Focus RS vs BMW M2: Super-hatches launch into a battle of thrills

The new RS has been heralded as the second coming – but can it beat its rival from BMW?

Sarah Bradley
Tuesday 31 May 2016 00:00
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The new Focus RS is being lauded by its manufacturer as something akin to the second coming. We get it, Ford – your brand new super-hatch is very impressive indeed. But is it accomplished enough to beat its rival from German performance specialist BMW, the coupe-styled M2? We pitch the adversaries head-to-head on some of the UK’s quickest A-roads and most challenging twisties, to find out which takes the prize in the driving stakes.

Mid-Wales is renowned for its entertaining tarmac, which makes its fast, winding roads the pair’s natural environment. The 365bhp rear-drive BMW hatch positively invites tail-out antics with its M-car credentials, while the 345bhp Ford engages four-wheel-drive know-how to provide the fun. Oh, and a specially honed Drift mode, too. Fifteen grand in favour of Bavaria separates the two, at £44,070 and £30,000 respectively.

On the face of it, the price differential shows in the Focus RS’s less finely honed cabin, less pliant ride, and faster, occasionally even exhausting steering ratio. And sorry, Ford, but that fire-breathing 2.3-litre four-banger still can’t match the M2’s effortlessly fast and assertive 3.0-litre six-cylinder.

The Beemer is quicker in swift, sweeping driving conditions, and sounds better too. Dynamically, the German also wins out when the pace picks up, from its excellent Servotronic steering to its amazing agility at speed. It remains relaxed, as does the driver.

Yet the Ford fights back as the roads tighten and narrow. When it’s at the hands of a committed pilot, quick, vicious bends are no match for its razor-sharp reactions and brilliant balance of powertrain and 4WD platform. Push, push and push some more; the rewards come thick and fast from this virtuoso of handling and adhesion.

The M2 is supremely accomplished but can’t compete when it comes to engagement at full chat on real roads. As for drifts, forget it; the BMW instinctively appears to do its very best to spoil your fun. In contrast, the Focus RS joins in the excitement, egging you on and, thanks in part to superb stability control, providing the means for you to push it to the limit. On the twists and turns of Powys, the Ford is simply the better car here.

These two machines approach a similar goal in very different ways. The more complete M2 delivers breathtaking pace and excellent dynamics in a way that will accommodate everyday driving as well as weekend thrills. The RS comes into its own only when the stakes are high – at which point it becomes the perfect playmate. It’s that essentially unbeatable character – for a third less money than its rival – which wins out here. The Beemer is brilliant, yet the Focus is sublime. We concur, Ford – your latest super-hatch has assured its place in the history books.

Ford Focus RS (*****)

Price £30,000; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Top speed 165mph; Economy 36.7mpg (combined); CO2 emissions 175g/km; Kerbweight 1599kg; Engine layout 4 cyls, 2261cc, turbo, petrol; Installation Front, transverse, 4WD; Power 345bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 325lb ft at 2000-4500rpm; Power to weight 215bhp per tonne; Specific output 152bhp per litre; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Front suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; Rear suspension Control blade, coil springs, anti-roll bar; Brakes 350mm ventilated discs (f), 302mm discs (r); Wheels 8Jx19in; Tyres 235/35 R19

BMW M2 (****)

Price £44,070; 0-62mph 4.5sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 33.2mpg (combined); CO2 emissions 199g/km; Kerbweight 1570kg; Engine layout 6 cyls, 2979cc, turbo, petrol; Installation Front, longitudinal, RWD; Power 365bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1450-4750rpm; Power to weight 232bhp per tonne; Specific output 122bhp per litre; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar; Rear suspension Five-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar; Brakes 380mm ventilated discs (f), 370mm discs (r); Wheels 9Jx19in (f), 10Jx19in (r); Tyres 245/35 R19 (f), 265/35 R19 (r)

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