Ford Focus RS: road test

Posted on February 19th, 2016 by James Luckhurst

A performance bargain that outpaces rivals costing a third more.

Ford Focus RS: road test

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What is it?

Ford has brought a ballistic missile to the current knife fight among super-hot hatches, taking on the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R.

How safe is it?

The RS may be all about performance but it has all of the safety features found in other Focus models, so there plenty of airbags, stability control and the added appeal of four-wheel drive.

Who should buy one?
Die-hard Ford RS fans will be in the vanguard, but anyone looking for a high performance car capable of daily use at a reasonable price will love this Focus.

Road test by Al Suttie published 20 February 2016

 

 

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Ford Focus RS: road test

Ford really has come out all guns blazing at its major rivals with the Focus RS. Its Mustang-derived 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 345bhp to deliver a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds that nips at the heels of supercars. Add in the superb traction of all-wheel drive and the RS is nigh on irresistible to keen drivers.
However, Ford isn’t finished there and the RS comes with a six-speed manual gearbox rather than the more fashionable dual-clutch semi-automatic transmissions of most rivals. It gives the Focus an interaction with its driver the likes of the VW Golf R, Audi S3 and Mercedes A45 AMG all miss.
There are also four selectable drive modes comprising the default Normal mode, Sport, Track and Drift. The last of these is purely for fun on closed circuits, while the Race mode will appeal to those who indulge in track day action as it turns all of the car’s systems up to full alert, including steering, throttle and suspension. The Sport mode, however, sharpens up the steering and throttle responses while also giving the exhaust more of a vocal say in the driving experience. Ford worked very hard to get the right ‘pops and burbles’ from the exhaust and it gives just the right aural appeal to the RS.
In Normal or Sport modes on the road, the Focus RS offers superlative grip and steering feel to immediately put it at the head of its class. The same can be said for the acceleration in-gear and through the gears, with overtaking accomplished quickly and safely. There’s also a Launch Control should you wish to make a perfect getaway every time.
In more mundane circumstances, the Focus RS is comfortable, refined and more than able to mooch through town or down the motorway with consummate ease. For such a purposeful machine, the RS is very comfortable on all types of road and easy to live with.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Ford Focus RS: road test

Just like its mainstream hatch sibling, the Focus RS comes only as a five-door hatch instead of its predecessor’s three-door format. It means the RS works well as a family car, with reasonable but not class best rear seat space and a front cabin that is comfortable and quickly tailored to the driver’s preferences. It should be noted the more heavily bolstered front seats do steal a little rear legroom. However, the rear seats split 60/40 and tumble forwards to increase boot capacity for quick trips to the DIY store.
A small demerit for anyone choosing the £1145 optional Recaro sports seats is they are not adjustable for height, though they do provide excellent support. Another demerit is the boot is smaller than a standard Focus’s to accommodate the RS’s larger fuel tank.
There are some subtle RS touches to the cabin, such as badging on the seats, steering wheel and dials, but the cabin is not especially compromised by the performance leanings of this Focus model.

SAFETY
Ford Focus RS: road test

As well as the expected airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control as fitted to every other Focus model, the RS comes with Hill Start Assist to prevent the car from rolling backwards when pulling away on an incline. It also has a tyre pressure monitoring system, Quickclear windscreen and heated washer jets. On top of this, the RS is the only Focus to offer all-wheel drive providing added traction in poor weather conditions.

EQUIPMENT
Ford Focus RS: road test

It may have an extremely competitive price, but the Ford Focus RS does not stint on kit. The standard seats have half-leather upholstery, while 19-inch alloy wheels set off the exterior. Ford’s eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes with DAB radio and voice control. There are also rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, heated door mirrors and climate control. You can upgrade to race-style leather-trimmed front bucket seats for £1145, which more than half of buyers have chosen to do.

COSTS

Ford Focus RS: road test

Ford could be forgiven for letting economy slip with such a potent hot hatch, but combined consumption of 36.7mpg is commendable for such a quick car. Carbon dioxide emissions of 175g/km mean a first-year VED bill of £295, while company car drivers are not excessively penalised thanks to the Focus RS starting price of £29,995. Ford is also offering a personal lease deal starting at £299 per month for the RS.

WE SAY

A performance bargain that outpaces rivals costing a third more.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £29,995
Performance: 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds
Economy: 36.7mpg combined
Insurance: tbc
Tax: Band H (£295 first year)