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Ford Focus RS Review

Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS

1/7

Ford Focus RS

2/7

Ford Focus RS

3/7

Ford Focus RS

4/7

Ford Focus RS

5/7

Ford Focus RS

6/7

Ford Focus RS

7/7

1 / 7

heycar review

      Launch year
      2016
      Body type
      Hot hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Supercar pace in iconic RS

Best bits

  • Superb driving abilities
  • Potent engine
  • Still very practical

Not so great

  • Fuel economy
  • Some engine problems noted
  • Low-speed ride

Read by

Ford Focus Estate Exterior

Overall verdict

Ford Focus Estate Interior

On the inside

Ford Focus Estate Front

Driving

Ford Focus Estate Exterior

How much does it cost to run

Ford Focus Estate Side

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The Ford Focus RS wasn’t just a triumph of a hot hatch in comparison to its rivals, it’s also likely to go down in history as an all-time great. Like the Escort Mexico and Sierra Cosworth, it’s that good and important for its given period in time. It’s fantastic fun, offers serious performance and yet it’s affordable next to competitors. The only thing that lets it down a little is the fairly conservative interior."

Ford Focus Estate Exterior

There’s nothing restrained about the RS’s power, however. All 350PS of it comes from a 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbo petrol engine with peak torque of 440Nm. This is over-boosted to 470Nm for up to 20 seconds, with a very short cooldown period, so in reality the higher figure is what you’ll typically get under full throttle. Acceleration is accompanied by a great, characterful exhaust note, particularly in the selectable Sport mode.


Unlike previous front-wheel drive incarnations of the Focus RS, the latest model has no trouble transferring all of its power to the road because it has all-wheel drive. Ford, though, cleverly calibrated the onboard computer and mechanicals to prioritise pure fun over supremely fast lap times, unlike Audi with the RS3 or Mercedes-Benz with the A45 AMG.


The result is a car with huge, confidence-inspiring levels of traction, helped by a very well-judged suspension set up that keeps body roll at bay without being too harsh on uneven British roads. Adaptive dampers are fitted as standard, but they only firm up in Track mode which, along with Drift mode, is genuinely meant for racetrack driving only.


A six-speed manual transmission is fitted as standard, instead of the paddle-shift automatics common on other all-wheel drive super hatches. The brakes are hugely powerful Brembo units that can shave off speed as alarmingly quickly as the engine can build it up. It’s a real, bona fide performance car, yet it’s easy to drive in town and it’s reasonably practical. 


Inside, the Focus RS feels a little subdued in comparison to the likes of the vibrantly upholstered Civic Type R of the same period. The Ford has supportive buckets seats and a pod of extra gauges, but is otherwise as staid and reserved as a normal Focus. That’s partly down to the cost-saving production process as the RS was produced on the same line as other Focus variants. That production stint lasted two years, which means the RS is already considered a car worthy of collecting and hanging on to, which is good for used values.


When new, the Ford was significantly cheaper than rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In fact, the Focus RS cost about the same as the less-powerful, front-wheel drive Civic Type R, which was also hugely impressive in its own way. But really, the Focus RS was and is the more capable, well-rounded car. It remains one of the very best hot hatches you can buy bar none. 

Is the Ford Focus RS right for you?

If you’re looking for a stealthy way to slink down back roads and make swift progress, the Ford Focus RS is not the car for you. This 30th model from Ford’s RS engineering brains was also its most outrageous, and not just for the jutting front splitter and prominent rear spoiler. At the back are two large bore exhausts that are there for good reason rather than show.


As well as being needed to deal with the engine’s power, the exhausts also make themselves known with the noise that emanates. Growls, barks and pops are all part of the RS repartee, which some will love and make others cringe. Us? We love it because this car is all about purpose and that means incredible straight-line performance.


The RS isn’t some straight-line missile that comes unstuck at the first corner, either. It’s at its very best in the bends where all-wheel drive, huge traction and nigh-on perfect poise make it sensationally quick and entertaining. Ah, and it will also trundle through town and commute to work with ease, though you will need to brace for some hefty fuel bills.

What’s the best Ford Focus RS model/engine to choose?

The Ford Focus RS comes with just one engine and transmission option, which is a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol motor. It produces 350PS maximum power and a nominal 440Nm peak of mid-rev shove. However, Ford gave the Focus RS an added slug off punch to help with overtaking that boost the maximum torque figure to 470Nm for 20 seconds under full throttle. As you’re unlikely to ever use the accelerator for more than that, it’s effectively the real top figure.


The six-speed manual gearbox was the only transmission option and it’s a slick shifter. It’s coupled to a four-wheel drive system as standard that uses a clever rear differential to deliver superb driving thrills.


Although the RS came in a single specification, it was also available with a Luxury Pack that added parking sensors, cruise control, keyless ignition, and folding door mirrors. You could also add optional Recaro front seats and 19-inch forged alloy wheels, both of which were popular and desirable additions when new and as a used buy.

What other cars are similar to the Ford Focus RS?

Sitting at the top of the hot hatch hierarchy, the Ford Focus RS has very few real rivals. Those that do give it a close run are the Audi RS3 and Mercedes A45 AMG. The Audi uses a five-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, but is not as full of feel or fun as the Ford.


Mercedes-Benz's A45 is massively quick in a straight line, but it’s not as good in the corners as the Focus RS. Another option is the Volkswagen Golf R, which is not as powerful as the Ford but has the same supreme cross-country handling and composure. Or, for outright in-your-face looks, the Honda Civic Type R does the trick but is not as swift or sure-footed as the Focus RS.

Learn more

Ford Focus Estate Interior

On the inside

Ford Focus Estate Front

Driving

Ford Focus Estate Exterior

How much does it cost to run

Ford Focus Estate Side

Prices, versions and specification

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