Video: How the new Ford Focus kicks RS
It’s true what they say– the new Ford Focus hot hatch certainly kicks RS.
As a boyhood fan of fast Fords, yes my two dream cars were the 1984 Escort RS turbo and the 1985 Sierra RS Cosworth, I was delighted to hear that Ford was bringing back the famous badge.
So it was a dream come true for me last week when I got behind the wheel of the new 2016 Ford Focus RS in Valencia, Spain.
The Ford RS (Rallye Sport) badge fell by the wayside for a number of years, with the last outing model coming back in 2009.
Ford, for some bizarre reason, decided to tame down its beauty and beast during times of recession and instead opted for a more toned-down ST badge.
However, last year Ford announced it was bringing the famous badge back and a new Focus RS premiered at the Geneva Motor Show in March of last year.
And, to highlight its performance, professional rally driver Ken Block was flown over from the U.S. to show exactly what the car can do at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last summer.
On the outside, the new RS is not a million miles away from its two more Ford Focus ST siblings.
It doesn’t scream out at you that I am a hot hatch like a Honda Type R or Golf R but, then again, it doesn’t need to.
One of the main changes now though, is that the new RS is only available in five-door model.
There’s a new front bespoke free-flowing mesh grille that aids with airflow and downforce, and the famous RS badge is pinned to it to ward off any traffic-light racers.
At the rear, the RS still gets a unique roof spoiler that decreases lift, while the large rear diffuser decreases drag.
It is very obvious that Ford has put a lot of thought in to this latest version, and every aerodynamically designed panel serves its purpose.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the interior. Step inside and apart from the Recaro seats and some gauges on the dashboard for oil pressure and temperature it isn’t a whole lot different from the standard family hatch.
I always find that a little disappointing when you have got such a specialist car and then it gets a Ford Galaxy dash.
Then again, this RS is not about its interior or exterior looks – it’s about its performance and, I have to say, Ford has nailed it in every department.
The new RS is fitted with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost 350bhp petrol engine – the exact same one that is fitted to the more conventional new Ford Mustang that’s built for the European market.
But it’s Ford’s technology that makes it stand out from the crowd. There are four modes to choose from – normal, sport, track and, my favourite of all, drift.
Leave the car in normal mode and you can potter around town in everyday driving conditions.
Flick the switch, which is located next to the gear leaver, over to sport mode and you will hear the burbles from the exhaust mode increase an octave or two, while the bespoke chassis, steering and AWD system kicks in.
Hit the button a third time and the car’s settings switch over to track mode, where every single sport mode is on. There is even an option to override damper and electronic stability control (ESC) settings, but it’s designed solely for track use and won’t exactly cut it on the M50 or M1.
Last is my favourite – drift mode. Also only for track use, it helps the car go into controlled over-steer drifts, while the AWD system helps initiate and control drifts.
I got the chance to test out this mode (see video) in the Circuit Valencia last week and, I have to say, it’s the best bit of fun I have had in years.
On top of that, the new RS is also fitted with a launch control settings that can sprint it from the starting line to 100kph in just 4.7 seconds – it certainly pins your shoulders to the Recaros.
However, it’s only when you put the RS through its paces on track that you realise how good a job the engineers have done – it really is close to perfection.
If I was to give this performance car a mark out of ten it would have to be a nine – shaving just one point for not making the interior different from your run-of-the-mill hatch.
Overall, I will stick my neck on the line and say it is possible the best hot hatch out there at the moment.
What will let it down is the price compared to the likes of Volkswagen’s Golf R or Renault’s Megane Sport.
Prices for the new Focus start at €52,600 but, believe me, if you are willing to spend this kind of money on a hot hatch then this is the ultimate.