It’s impossible to come to a car such as the Focus RS without big expectations, both subjective and objective. Only considerably more expensive and more powerful cars, such as Mercedes-AMG A 45, the facelifted Audi RS3 and even the TT RS, prevent your enthusiasm from running away with itself, and then only by the narrowest of margins.
We’ll deal with the subjective impressions first: how fast does the new RS really feel? Given its head, you’d say about as quick as an £80,000 sports car until you hit fourth gear. As strong as an RS3, probably the most heroically endowed hot hatchback of all time? Not quite. But it’s stronger than the Ford’s like-for-like competition by price, and unmistakably so.
Truth is, the RS’s engine isn’t one to keep you awake at night. It isn’t the car’s greatest asset and it doesn’t possess the kind of firepower needed to take on Quattro GmbH and AMG on level terms. But it’s got more than enough power, response and aural presence to hold its own.
For such a hard-working four-cylinder unit, the power delivery is pleasingly flexible and balanced – not at all dominated by turbo boost and surging mid-range torque, but crisp-feeling under your foot and willing to rev out. And to listen to, there’s an offbeat thrum to the engine’s exhaust note that you don’t expect from a four-pot unit, bringing a certain richness to the driving experience.
Ford tuning specialists Mountune has already created two upgrade packs ready to be fitted to the RS, and fully approved by Ford Performance. The ‘phase one’ kit includes a set of 19in Oz Racing wheels, upgraded parts for the air intake system and an optional Quaife gear-based differential – to replace the clutch system fitted to the RS as standard.