It seems almost disappointing to think that Ford produced 4501 examples of the Mk1 Focus RS.
Everything from the numbered badge on the centre console to the prestige of the ‘Rallye Sport’ name suggests that it should be at least as limited as the much rarer Racing Puma.
But the numbers available couldn’t matter less when it comes to the experience on offer.
Where the Focus ST feels like a family hatch with lots of grunt, the RS feels like a rally car that conveniently carries four. It’s thrilling yet unintimidating. There’s a vivid delicacy to its controls that only the Racing Puma can rival here, and in some ways they feel quite similar, but the Focus delivers a whole other level of performance.
Power delivery from the turbocharged 2.0-litre four is quite boosty, but performance is accessible even in the wet. There’s a hint in the slightly wriggly back end that pushing the limits too far could find you becoming more closely acquainted with the Welsh landscape than you’d wish to be.
But the throttle is sensitive, if light, and used properly an RS is a joy to balance through corners, particularly with the nose tucking in on corner exit as no front-wheel-drive car without a mechanical diff will do.
It’s the ideal balance between desirability, entertainment and usability, even if the ST is a far more refined daily driver for the same price. Add to that the fact that the RS is now starting to gain value and there’s nothing that should stop you from buying one if you have the resources.
A low-mileage minter such as number ‘0001’ that you see here (we had the privilege of tipping it over the barely run-in 11,000-mile mark) would set you back around £12k. And if this example is anything to go by, it will feel solid and together despite some hard miles among those few it’s covered.
But you can find more realistic used examples showing less than 40,000 miles for around £10k, while a high-miler can be yours for around £6k.
We’d recommend spending as much as you can on the best you can find, because the RS is on the cusp of making it into the VIP fast Ford classic club and a good one will only gain in value. Just don’t let it end up as a museum piece; this classic is just too good to be a static financial asset.
Dates produced 2002-2003; Price new £19,995; Top speed 143mph; 0-60mph 5.9sec; Economy 27.9mpg; CO2 237g/km; Kerb weight 1278kg; Engine type 4 cyls in line, 1988cc, turbo, petrol; Power 212bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 229lb ft at 3500rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual
Complete Fast Ford buying guide
RS Cosworth is starting to feel its age, but can still deliver thrills; steering wheel is a tactile delight, seat trim is of the picnic blanket variety and its four-pot motor makes 204bhp.