The original Ford Focus was launched here in Ireland as far back as 1998.
Since then the Ford Focus has been on Irelands top selling car list.
We have had “hot” versions of the Focus before, the ST and there was a previous RS.
Both good hot hatches but the previous RS was a little bit unruly as it struggled with so much power going through the front wheels.
This latest RS is different! Powered by a 2.3 litre petrol EcoBoost turbo with all wheel drive and a host of new technologies it promises much for the performance orientated driver. But does it deliver?
Distinctive black satin finished alloys, a rear diffuser with twin exhaust pipes, a full body kit, with front and rear spoilers give the new RS a “means business” style that sets it apart from the rest of the range without making it look to ‘tarted up”.
The cabin is pretty much that of a standard Focus until you look more closely and notice the Recaro sports seats, the colour coded stitching, (Blue on my test car to match the “Nitrous Blue” exterior paintwork,) the sports steering wheel and aluminium pedals.
Frankly it could be made to feel a bit more special, I think they missed an opportunity here. Its too standard looking.
The new RS is well kitted out including Ford SYNC, with USB connectivity, Bluetooth, power heated door mirrors; body colour door handles, quick clear windscreen, keyless push button start; cruise control including speed limit function; dual-zone auto temperature control; power front and rear windows; global opening / closing; and front and rear LED reading lights.
Other features include Auto Start Stop, Torque Vectoring Control, and on my car the optional reversing camera.
The cabin of the new RS then does feel that little bit more sporting than the standard car and certainly those Recaro seats offer great support in fast corners. The driving position is excellent.
Powered by a 2.3 litre Ecoboost turbo petrol engine producing some 350 PS the Focus RS is certainly quick. With drive to all four wheels with dynamic torque vectoring via a 6-speed manual gearbox it accelerates from 0 to 100km in a blistering 4.8 seconds, but its the mid range torque that impresses most. No matter what gear you are in when you floor the throttle response is instant a result no doubt of the 347lb ft of torque.Top speed is claimed at 265km/h.
There is also launch control and three different engine modes, Normal, Sport, Racetrack, and Drift.
Each mode sharpens the responsiveness of steering and throttle while also setting the adaptive dampers to a firmer setting and in Race and Drift mode disconnecting most of the stability control system.
It feels very quick and it is but unlike its predecessor power delivery via the intelligent all wheel drive is simply amazing! Its fast with masses of traction.
Road tax is €750 per year and fuel economy, well if you drive it on expect low 20 mpg, driven with restraint (which is difficult) expect 30mpg plus.
The suspension set up is of course firm, but not unduly so. However it does feel rather fidgety over say minor bumps. That said the grip is tenacious whether n wet or dry roads. It impresses with limpet-like grip even in the wet. There is a naturally neutral balance to the handling with mild oversteer if provoked. The steering is beautifully weighted and the powerful Brembo brakes provide reassuring stopping power.
This really is a fun car to drive, its fast, sounds great, and handles very well.
In my opinion the new Ford Focus RS is now quite simply the best high performance hatchback on the market, beating both the Honda Civic Type-R and the Golf-R.
It has some shortcomings, it needs to feel a bit more special inside and the ride can be fidgety on poor surfaces. But grab the new RS by the scruff of the neck and drive it and the driver is rewarded with superb performance, enthralling handling, fantastic brakes and a smile wider than the Grand Canyon. Prices start at €52,600.