Road Tests

Road Test: Ford Focus RS

Time 13 years ago

Click the image for a gallery of pics

Click the image for a gallery of pics

The editor made the mistake of buying a Focus ST in November – after reading this RS road test he regrets it!

THE very fact this car has made it into production in these green-focussed times is a surprise.

With most mainstream manufacturers installing fuel-sipping, eco-friendly diesels under the bonnets of their best sellers, the Focus RS is a pleasant surprise.

But then it makes sense. Nothing seems to excite the motoring masses like a fast Ford. And the new Focus RS is the fastest of the lot. 

The new model is pitched straight into Porsche Boxster territory. Beneath the bulging bodywork sits a 2.5-litre turbo with a full 305bhp. But there’s one obvious problem – all that mighty grunt is channelled through the front wheels. 

Think back to the 2003 original and you’ll remember the torque-steering animal looked pretty cool but couldn’t handle its inflated power. Its front tyres just didn’t get on with three-quarters of the power, let alone the new monster Focus’ 300-plus figure. 

But there’s good news. Ford is claiming it has the technology to deal with this problem now – and without resorting to the extra weight, complexity and ‘less pure’ solution of four-wheel-drive. It’s fitted the Focus RS with an intensely clever suspension design and differential, which it says will put that massive power down with utter tenacity.  

It all comes together beautifully because this machine is a very different prospect to the original model. Pootle around town and you could even describe it as docile. And I bet you didn’t expect to read that. 

Sure, with its huge double-decker rear wing, massive front air intakes and pumped-up stance, there’s visually no missing it. Particularly if you take the near-fluorescent green paint. But, beneath all the air scoops, that Focus ST-sourced five-pot burbles meekly, good as gold. 

Open it up, though, and you soon realise the extent of Ford’s changes – there are new cams, conrods, intake and exhaust manifolds plus a bigger turbo. Drivers can take one of two approaches: Utilise the strong torque, stay in the 3,000-4,500rpm band, and experience simply astonishing in-gear acceleration. 

Much more exciting, though, is to head for the 7,050rpm redline. It’s truly exhilarating. The Focus RS explodes, doing 60mph in just 5.9 seconds, and not giving out until 164mph.

Yes, this really is the 164mph Focus! And the great thing about this is that if you take it to the redline, the engine is still in its maximum power band when you’ve engaged the next gear. The acceleration is almost seamless in its intensity.

And the chassis? Superb. Control is first class, with a reasonably compliant ride coupled to progressive, unflustered power delivery. Sure, when you are demanding all 305bhp, the steering wheel gives you a sense of involvement, giving you the knowledge that something pretty dramatic is taking place.

But the tyres simply grip and the RS lunges forward. Bumps don’t upset the composure and there’s real feel through the steering wheel in the bends that weights up as you wind on lock. Incredibly, the Focus RS just doesn’t seem to understeer, but instead pulls you tighter to the apex the harder you try. It’s sensational.

Fabulous Recaro seats apart, the interior is pretty much unchanged from a standard Focus ST. They have side bolsters that match the exterior, with black leather also available. Standard on all RS is ample space for four and a decent boot. It is a Focus, after all. 

It is a five-cylinder Focus at that, too. So, while the official economy figure is 30.5mpg, the reality is that you’ll see two-thirds of that or less. At least the CO2 band of 225g/km is more reasonable than group 19 insurance. 

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But whatever it costs to fill, tax and insure, you’ll still be quids in. See, the mighty Ford Focus RS, with its sensational pace, its other-worldly looks and beguiling chassis, costs just £25k. For the most special fast Ford in years, that’s a bargain.

A thrill-to-drive, recession-beating family holdall that just so happens to take on Porsches in its spare time? How can we fail to give it five stars? No wonder the UK’s Ford dealers are going to be selling half the production run for the whole of Europe!



James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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