Ford Focus RS 2016 -

First Drive

Ford Focus RS, track, front
Ford Focus RS, track, slide
Ford Focus RS, track, head on
Ford Focus RS, track, front, action
Ford Focus RS, track, corner
Ford Focus RS, track
Ford Focus RS, side, static
Ford Focus RS, nose, static
Ford Focus RS, nose, action
Ford Focus RS, front
Ford Focus RS, rear, action
Ford Focus RS, rear
Ford Focus RS, side, action
Ford Focus RS, rear, static
Ford Focus RS, front, action
Ford Focus RS 2015, dashboard
Ford Focus RS 2015, seats

ITS development has been documented warts and all in a series of YouTube videos and now the Focus RS is about to stake its claim as Ford's hottest hatch ever.

With 350 horsepower blasting out through all four wheels this is a Fast Ford like never before.

A taste of what's in store came at last year's Goodwood Festival of Speed when rally ace Ken Block put the new RS through its paces on the legendary hill climb.

Now it's ready for public consumption and we have just been among the first to sample the awesome credentials of the third generation Focus RS.

On the road and on the track the new RS proved itself as a Focus that can be fast and furious but most important of all, it is pure fun.

Moreover, it is an example of automotive brilliance that is going to put this Focus at the top of the performance pack.

A multi-mode drive control enables it to be three cars in one and in every guise the Focus RS is honed for performance.

In everyday trim the Focus RS is set up to deliver a spirited drive that's right out of the top drawer.

Engage sports mode and it snaps into life, feeling sharper all round with an exhaust that crackles and pops on the over-run.

There is grip aplenty, great balance and a precise feel through the steering all inspire confidence.

Near the limit and the electronics hold the car in check allowing the RS to corner briskly without compromise.

The Focus RS is nudging supercar territory with a 4.7 seconds 0 to 60 time setting a new sub five second standard for RS cars.

Quick it is with a huge amount of mid-range torque and although on paper it is not quite as swift as the likes of the Audi RS3 or the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, Ford has taken a bold step and allowed the Focus RS to have an unfettered top speed of 165mph.

Unlike Audi and Mercedes, who fit semi-automatic transmissions to their super hatches, Ford has opted to stay pure and the Focus RS comes with a slick-shifting six-speed manual box.

While it is massive fun on the open road its full potential can be experienced only on the track so Ford elected to introduce the new RS on the demanding Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia in Spain - only a stone's throw away from the Ford factory where the RS engine is produced, the car itself coming from the Focus production line in Saarlouis, Gerrmany.

Out on the track the Focus flexed its muscles with gadgetry including launch control for maximum take off speed, a track setting which slackens off the electronics and a drift mode for lairy manoeuvres.

In the hands of masters such as the ‘Hoonigan' Block and racing driver Ben Collins - the one-time Stig on TV's Top Gear, the RS has been filmed at the limits but such is the technology it flatters the less experienced. Even a novice can feel like a track star.

While it flatters it does not deceive and there is no doubt this is a masterpiece of auto engineering.

The latest Focus RS is much more driveable yet no less exciting than its two predecessors and priced from £29,995 it is hugely affordable for a hot hatch of such calibre.

Even with extras such as race-style Recaro shell seats, sat nav, forged alloy wheels and a luxury pack which includes cruise control you'll still get change out of £34,000.

Fast Ford fans will love it and so will anyone else who enjoys genuine performance cars.

The engine is an uprated version of the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo Ford fits in the Mustang and despite the extra grunt it is still rated at an official 36.7mpg with a 175g/km CO2 figure.

That is quite remarkable for such performance and ahead of anything produced by the German big hitters - and that also includes BMW with the M135 and the Volkswagen Golf R.

Real world figures are bound to be different given that this is a car which is going to be driven hard. We achieved an average of just 19 to the gallon on an 'enthusiastic' road drive and on the track - just for the record - it was sub-10mpg.

With plenty of aeros the Focus RS is dressed to look the part.

A big spoiler - though not quite as large as those on the legendary Sierra RS Cosworth or the Escort RS Cosworth of the 1980s and 90s - large front vents and a rear diffuser with wide-mouthed exhausts are de rigueur for RS fans but the newcomer lacks any bonnet glitz. There's just a discreet RS badge in trademark blue on the front bumper.

Inside it is as sanitised as any other member of the Focus family with full onboard connectivity, air con and plenty of plug-in points although there is an RS light show in the instrument panel on start up and the characteristic triple dial display on top of the dash for oil temperature, pressure and turbo boost.

You get those instruments on a Focus ST and incredibly the RS costs only £3,500 more - but what's under the skin is a world apart.

The only compromise comes in the boot where the all-wheel-drive set up has pinched almost 60 litres of space taking it down to supermini proportions of 260 litres - although the rear seats do fold if necessary.

That's not really going to trouble RS enthusiasts who have on their hands the finest Ford hot hatch to date.

The Focus RS is a rally-honed machine packed with electronics to make it sing - and as you strap yourself into the specially supportive Recaro sports seats you can't forget that this is a car to savour.

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