With all the excitement surrounding the new Focus RS and its sub-£30k price, the time is right to look at Ford’s RS-badged past masters

The all-new Ford Focus RS is set to redefine the hot hatchback genre when it arrives next year. It'll be the latest in a long line of RS-branded Ford models and, luckily, the used car market has one to suit every budget.

1 - Ford Sapphire RS Cosworth (1988-1992)

Prices for Sierra Cosworths have skyrocketed in the past year or so. With RS500s now commanding well in excess of £60,000 and good examples of the ‘normal’ three-door Cossie comfortably topping £30,000, the Sapphire looks a relative bargain.

Sharing the same 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘YB’ lump as the earlier cars and later Escort Cosworth, the Sapphire was intended to provide a stiffer platform for rallying. Early cars were rear drive, but in 1990 four-wheel drive became standard. You can pick up a minter for less than £15,000 and project cars are much, much cheaper.

2 - Ford Focus RS Mk1 (2002-2003)

Few modern hot hatches seem to court as much controversy as the Mk1 Focus RS. Depending on what you read or who you talk to, it’s either one of the most entertaining front-drive chassis of this century or a torque-steering liability.

Still, with modern cars more insulating than ever, lots of people see the appeal of the raw RS. Thanks to a nominal 212bhp and standard limited-slip diff, 0-60mph falls in just 5.9sec, and it looks like it just drove off a rally stage.

Ford made 4501 examples, and a good chunk of them still live. About £7000 will net you a high-mileage car, but budget nearer £10,000 for a tidy one.

3 - Ford RS200 (1984-1986)

If we’re being brutal, the RS200 homologated rally special was a bit of a flop. Late to the Group B party, it got a best result of third on the 1986 Swedish Rally before the class was banned for 1987. Even so, it looked like no other rally car at the time, as it made no effort to look like any Ford production vehicle.

While Ghia should be thanked for the strangely attractive styling, Cosworth was once again in charge of the engine, with a turbocharged development of the BDA fitted amidships. Power ranged from 250bhp for the road cars to more than 600bhp for the Evolution models.

If that sounds tempting, you’ll need deep pockets. The cheapest currently out there is a quarter of a million quid.

4 - Ford Fiesta RS1800 (1992-1997)

Entry to the RS club doesn’t have to break the bank, as demonstrated by the Fiesta RS1800. Launched in 1992 as a replacement for the wayward Fiesta RS Turbo, it replaced the laggy CVH turbo engine with a 130bhp version of Ford’s new 1.8-litre Zetec motor.

The 0-60mph sprint increased by 0.2sec to 8.1sec but it was still rapid for such a small car back then. As well as the boy-racer bodykit, you got Recaro seats and tweaks to the suspension.

You can pick up one for comfortably less than £5000 today, but the challenge could be finding one. Only a few thousand were made and fewer still remain.

5 - Ford Escort RS1600 (1970-1974)

This may not be the first RS-badged Ford (the German-market 20M RS takes that honour), but it is the one that cemented the brand’s reputation.

A car truly developed for motorsport, it shouldn’t be confused with the simpler and cheaper RS2000. Not only were all RS1600s specially built by Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operations and fully seam welded for strength, but they also received Cosworth’s famous BDA twin-cam powerplant. Good for 120bhp in the road cars, they went on to produce well over 200bhp in competition cars.

With any three-door Mk1 Escort now in great demand, the RS1600 has become seriously expensive, at £50k-plus. This or a pair of new Focus RSs?

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


29 September 2016
Yet again another motoring magazine that seems to not have a clue when it comes to the Fiesta RS Turbo. I am the Fiesta RS registrar for the owners club and have owned my Fiesta RS Turbo for 20 years and believe me these cars are not "laggy". The Fiesta RS Turbo had a T2 turbo charger fitted rather than the T3 on the escort, this smaller turbo charger spins up very very quickly and gives virtually no turbo lag at all with boost coming in from 2000rpm. My girlfriend has a MK1 Focus RS with a Bluefin running 270bhp and my Fiesta which is standard is always away first from the lights. Just because a car has a turbo charger please do not make assumptions about performance, maybe you should have tried driving one before you wrote the article.

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