We’ve finally got our hands on a Focus RS to find out if this fast Ford can live up to its five-star road test billing in day-to-day use
1 December 2016

Everyone loves a fast Ford, right?

Indeed, this year has arguably been the year of the fast Ford, with a glorious return to Le Mans, the arrival of the Fiesta ST 200 and the addition of right-hand-drive Mustangs to the UK line-up. For enthusiasts, Ford and its Ford Performance sub-division are very exciting brands right now.

But it’s the Focus RS that’s of the most interest, for a number of reasons. On top of following its two iconic predecessors (plus all manner of legendary classic fast Fords), the Focus RS also enters a fiercely competitive sector. For around £30,000, rivals include the Honda Civic Type R, Seat Leon Cupra 290, Audi S3, Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M135i and Peugeot 308 GTi 270. All are great cars, packing more technology, speed and enjoyment into the C-segment than would have been thought possible a decade ago.

Much has been said already about the Focus RS’s advanced fourwheel drive and torque vectoring, attributes that helped it to earn a five-star road test rating. On top of that, it brings adjustable dampers, launch control and a 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine making 345bhp. To pack all this into a £30,000 car is remarkable, so it will be fascinating to explore each and every part of it as a longer-term prospect.

First things first, though, because ours isn’t quite a £30,000 car. Having been launched at £29,995, the base retail price for an RS is now £31,250 (or £31,000 when this one was registered). On top of that, our car comes with a few choice options that will most likely be added by many buyers. Most obvious is the Nitrous Blue paint, a £745 option that gives a much more vibrant look. The RS can appear a little plain in grey or black, and certainly so in the company of its brutish predecessors, so expect to see a lot of the Mk3 RSs in blue to restore the visual drama.

In addition, we have matching painted brake calipers (£100), the Luxury Pack (including power mirrors, rear parking sensors and cruise control) for £1000 and the £1145 Recaro front seats. Previous experience suggests the seats are very supportive but mounted too high, so it will interesting to see how that manifests itself day to day.

You’ll also notice the black forged wheels, which add another £595. To these eyes they’re another musthave, suiting the car better than the standard wheels. Both are 19in in diameter, a size that still seems rather barmy on a Ford Focus.

That lot makes this RS a £35,000 car, which is a somewhat pricier proposition but still competitive, given the performance. An Audi RS3, remember, with barely another 20bhp and a less advanced four-wheel drive system, is £40,000 before any options are added.

Given the demand for the Focus RS, we’ve had to wait quite a while to get hold of one. It also means this car already has just under 11,000 miles on the clock. Still, at least we don’t have to worry about running it in…

Because when you have three months with a Focus RS, it really is imperative to drive it at every opportunity. Inevitably it will be compared with its contemporaries and will most likely find its way onto a track on occasion, but it also needs to work day to day on the road. Can it feel special at ordinary speeds? And as a more mature hot hatch than the Focus RS has ever been, can it still entertain on those cheeky B-road blasts that define the modern fast Ford?

Initial impressions are largely positive. These will be investigated more thoroughly over the coming weeks, of course, but there’s no doubting the Focus’s tremendous speed and thuggish character. There’s a sense of aggression and purpose to the car, from the way it rides to the way it sounds. Certainly it feels like a more serious prospect han the relatively soft ST, as you would expect.

Early downsides? The seats are most certainly set too high, although there are rumours of a dealer-fit option to address that – and being perched so high up means you spend less time looking at the low-rent dashboard. Interestingly, Ford has already introduced an updated Sync 3 infotainment system that supersedes the £465 Sync 2 in this car; we’ll aim to try a car so equipped to see how they compare. The boot seems a little pokey, too.

Despite all that, there’s strong demand for the Focus’s key, to the point that it will be out of my hands by the time you read this. Whoever’s behind the wheel looks set to have a great time, though – but just how great we’ll aim to answer soon.

Matt Bird

FORD FOCUS RS

Price £31,000 Price as tested £35,135 Options RS Recaro seats £1145, Luxury Pack £1000, Nitrous Blue paint £745, 19in forged black alloys £595, Ford Sync2 multimedia system £465, painted calipers £100, door edge protectors £85 Economy 30.6mpg Faults None Expenses None

Our Verdict

Ford Focus RS

Is Ford’s new AWD mega-hatch Focus RS as special as we first thought? And can it beat off stiff competition from the Volkswagen Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A45?

Join the debate

Comments
20

1 December 2016
...given the humble hatchbak origins? A lot of motoring mags complain the seat is too high in the Golf R also. Isn't it just set at the normal height of the regular hatchbacks in the range? Surely lowering it below manufacturers specs it will have a negative impact on things like side impact protection and other safety systems? I wouldn't fiddle with it.

1 December 2016
Oh no its not, never ever seen that mentioned in any UK motoring mag article.

My experience ,I'm 5'10 and my partner's son is 6'4" no problem we have zero problems.

1 December 2016
But that interior, if I owned one and looked down at the dash whilst in a traffic jam I'd forever be feeling short changed.
Nearly 31 mpg, you aren't trying hard enough guys

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 December 2016
I wonder how long before the RS gets nicked like the Golf R in the Car mags Long-term Golf R

I have driven both Focus RS for half a day very keenly test driven supplied by a local dealership - very good spec and I have personally owned 2 Golf Rs, Hatch manual and a R Estate DSG.

Trying to be unbiased here but the RS appeared a much fun - twitchy arsed weekend country roads and track day car. However the Golf is equal to or very close in terms of all round performance, not quite so much twitchy arse fun.
However , as a family car, day to day long and short commutes the Golf R kicks the RS into touch imo.

The Golf is a much better place to be, in comfort, ergonomics, quality of fit ,finish and quality materials used there in. With better useable space for holiday /shopping and kids stuff.

1 December 2016
vrskeith wrote:

I wonder how long before the RS gets nicked like the Golf R in the Car mags Long-term Golf R

I have driven both Focus RS for half a day very keenly test driven supplied by a local dealership - very good spec and I have personally owned 2 Golf Rs, Hatch manual and a R Estate DSG.

Trying to be unbiased here but the RS appeared a much fun - twitchy arsed weekend country roads and track day car. However the Golf is equal to or very close in terms of all round performance, not quite so much twitchy arse fun.
However , as a family car, day to day long and short commutes the Golf R kicks the RS into touch imo.

The Golf is a much better place to be, in comfort, ergonomics, quality of fit ,finish and quality materials used there in. With better useable space for holiday /shopping and kids stuff.

A YouTuber posts regular video updates on his new RS, and he uses it for the school run, he'll beg to differ from you - it all depends on what you want out of a car.

2 December 2016
That Suggests small kids / teenager, not socializing with other adults, the back seat is not the best in the RS from my tryout.

My three kids 25, 28 & 33 can all fit comfortably in the R for a 2hour trip. The back end twitching of the RS / suspension, even in it's softest setting, would also generate a rough ride.

School run also suggest a limited mileage run.

1 December 2016
HTFU.

1 December 2016
A free car for three months. How nice.


1 December 2016
Been out car shopping today - looked at the Golf, Passat and Tiguan. Underwhelmed by all of them inside to be honest. Their really isn't this massive chasm of quality inside that is made out in the magazines at all.

In fact, the Tiguan has the most hideous shiny black hard scratchy plastic on the back doors I have ever seen in a car.

1 December 2016
Jimbbobw1977 wrote:

Been out car shopping today - looked at the Golf, Passat and Tiguan. Underwhelmed by all of them inside to be honest. Their really isn't this massive chasm of quality inside that is made out in the magazines at all.

In fact, the Tiguan has the most hideous shiny black hard scratchy plastic on the back doors I have ever seen in a car.

You're quite right, there isn't a lot between them in terms of actual quality but there is in terms of how they look and feel. There is generally a misunderstanding, particularly in some magazines as to what build quality is and what quality or the feeling of quality is when it comes to car interiors.

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