The Rather Brilliant Focus RS Review

In Car Reviews, Ford by Neil Lyndon

My neighbour detested the new Ford Focus RS. This gave me an extra edge of pleasure in the car.

He and I haven’t spoken to each other for 10 years, since we fell out over a border/planning disagreement. As a man who fancies himself with cars, however, he watches closely the comings and goings of press cars for test at my house, often giving them a stare of open contempt.

Being the owner of an Escort Cosworth RS2000, he feels safe in the certainty that he’s got many of my test cars beat for class and performance. The Focus RS, however, put his gas at a peep – as Scots say.

Even at the £35135 all-in price of our test car, the Focus RS is astoundingly cheap when you consider what unutterable ordinariness that kind of money can buy.
When he sourly turned his back and slunk away, he made it obvious that he couldn’t bear to hear the Focus RS roaring up our hill and discharging a joyous torrent of pops and crackles from the exhaust gases in its massive dual tailpipes. He couldn’t stand to see it turn into our drive and watch me gingerly edge it through the gates so that its ultra-low front spoiler and air dam didn’t scrape on the bumps. He knew perfectly well that that the all-wheel drive system and the multiple choices for chassis settings in the Focus RS help to make it the outstanding low-cost, high-performance car of our age. It relegates his old heap to the museum.

This Focus RS is the third generation since 1998 and – following the Fiesta ST and the Focus ST – it is the most jaw-dropping creation yet to emerge from the Ford Performance team.

The 345bhp 2.3-litre Ecoboost petrol engine, borrowed and tweaked from the Mustang, is teamed with a four-wheel drive system that cracks out 0-60 mph acceleration in well under five seconds. Put together with an ultra high-tech suspension set-up that provides grip and agility at near supercar levels and an asking price of £31000 and you’ve got the petrolhead’s wet dream of a bargain.

Alas, there’s only one petrolhead in our house. Everybody else in my family hated the RS almost as poisonously as my neighbour because, even on their softest settings, its Tenneco dual shocks and stiff springs and dampers made the car bob up and down so much over uneven surfaces that everybody was hanging on and whining. “It’s all right for the one who’s gripping the steering wheel,” complained my wife. “That’s right,” I replied. “As a matter of fact, it’s more than all right for the one who’s driving so perhaps you could do me the favour of suffering in silence and stop ruining my pleasure. If you don’t stop mithering, I’ll switch the settings into Drift mode and take the next corner sideways.” No, I didn’t.

As a matter of fact, I never switched into the Drift mode at all. Something about getting the tail out on a corner on a public road always strikes me as deserving a prison sentence.
The Track mode setting also got only the briefest use, mostly in order to make the car even more irritating to my neighbour for its increased racket. For most of the time during my week’s test, the Focus RS was in Sport setting, where I found it to be the most delightful, rewarding, engaging car I have driven all year. It made the manufacturer’s claim of 36.7 mpg look ridiculous but my 25.8 mpg seemed perfectly reasonable in exchange for such pleasure.

My only complaint was the car’s bucket seats have supporting sides so prominent that it’s impossible to get in without snagging your bum on a hump. I loved the additional boost and temperature gauges on the fascia and the RS blue stitching and highlighting for the instruments, leather steering wheel, gearlever gaiter and manual handbrake. I was grateful for the six-speed manual gearbox operated by a stubby, snicky gearlever – rather than paddles – and the pedals were spaced perfectly for my inside-out version of heel-and-toe.

Even at the £35135 all-in price of our test car, the Focus RS is astoundingly cheap when you consider what unutterable ordinariness that kind of money can buy. My guess is that it would probably hold a lot of its value because it’s bound to be in hot demand on the second-hand market.

This is a car that’s certain to be a classic in 20 years by which time – who knows? – maybe even my neighbour might stretch to one.

Focus RS 2.3T EcoBoost, Nitrous Blue – On the road £31,000 Price as tested £35,135 0-62mph 4.7 sec Top speed 165mph Economy 36.7mpg CO2 emissions 175g/km Engine 4 cyl, 2.3 EcoBoost Power 350PS Torque (with overboost) 470Nm Gearbox 6-speed manual

About the author

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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