Review: Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018)
Supercar performance for £30k. Outstanding four-wheel drive, with huge levels of grip. Lots of everyday usability.
Bland and uninspiring interior. Hard ride will be too much for some. Boot space has been cut to accommodate four-wheel drive.
Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018): At A Glance
The Ford Focus RS isn’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 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.
Power – all 350PS of it - comes from a 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine with peak torque of 440Nm. This is overboosted 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 Sport mode.
Unlike previous incarnations of the Focus RS the latest model has no trouble transferring all of its power to the road, since it has all-wheel drive. Ford, though, has 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, even on uneven, broken 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 track 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 Brembos 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. It 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 – the RS is produced on the same line as other Focus variants.
The upside is a significantly lower list price than rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In fact the Focus RS costs about the same as the less-powerful, front-wheel drive Civic Type R – also hugely impressive. But really, the Focus RS is the more capable, well-rounded car. In fact, we think it’s the best hot hatch you can buy.
What does a Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018) cost?
Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 316–1215 litres
The Fords Focus RS is as almost as practical as any other Focus, with five doors and plenty of useful standard equipment, but a smaller boot care of the all-wheel drive system. Aside from that the cabin is so similar to more mundane Focus models it’s actually a little disappointing – there isn’t as much drama as you get in the cabin of the Honda Civic Type R.
There are differences between mundane Focus models and the RS though. The most notable change is the addition of bucket front seats, which offer loads of support in high-speed corners but are quite uncomfortable to get in and out of. There is also blue upholstery stitching (provided you pick blue exterior paint) and a pod of extra gauges at the top of the centre stack.
Aside from that it’s all familiar Focus, with reasonably spacious rear seats, fairly durable materials and an easy-to-use infotainment screen. Creature comforts include a nine-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control and voice control that tends to work quite well. Some things are notably missing though – including navigation which costs £465.
Unfortunately, making the Focus RS all-wheel drive has reduced rear load space from more than 300 litres to 260 litres, though thankfully the load deck is flat. There’s enough space for a couple of cases or for a shopping trip, plus the rear seats can be folded to free up more than 1000 litres of load space to the roofline.
Options include forged alloy wheels, a sunroof, alternative shell-backed Recaro front seats, painted brake calipers, a luxury pack with rear parking sensors, cruise control and keyless go, plus active city stop and door edge protectors. These add to the list price, but even with a fair few options boxes ticked the Focus RS costs less than all-wheel drive rivals like the Audi RS3.
Focus RS models come with two-mode dampers, four driving modes, launch control, Brembo brakes, xenon headlights, auto lights, Recaro front seats, dual-zone climate control, SYNC2 touchscreen, additional gauges, auto wipers, Quickclear windscreen, heated door mirrors, electric windows, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, hill start assist.
Child seats that fit a Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 20–31 mpg
The Ford Focus RS uses the same 2.3-litre turbocharged engine fitted to the Mustang, but it’s been very heavily revised. Peak power is 350PS and peak torque is, officially, 440Nm. However, the RS has an overboost function that increases torque to 470Nm for up to 15 seconds. Lifting off the throttle for a split second resets the overboost, so in reality, most of the time peak torque is 470Nm.
What’s more, it’s available from 2000rpm right up to 4500rpm. That means the engine is responsive almost regardless of what gear is selected – not that working the six-speed manual gearbox is an unpleasant experience. The gear change is snappy and accurate, although the clutch is a little sudden until you get used to it.
0-62mph takes just 4.7 seconds and top speed is 165mph – so the Focus RS has serious pace. The downside is, of course, fairly poor fuel economy. Officially the Focus RS is capable of 36.7mpg, but in reality it’s likely to be closer to 30mpg – or even worse when driven hard or in urban traffic.
Fortunately the RS is no more difficult to drive in town than any other Focus. The suspension is – for a high-performance car - surprisingly compliant over potholes and speedbumps, while the steering is nicely-weighted and the brakes are progressive and smooth. Stop-start traffic jams and supermarket car parks are no problem at all.
But the RS is really meant to be driven out of town. The suspension is on the firm side, but it still does a great job of balancing acceptable comfort with good body control. Furthermore, the responsive, torquey engine makes threading together a serious of corners a great experience, not least because the all-wheel drive system provides extra reassurance when using the throttle.
The computers and systems are exceptionally quick to react to changes in road surface, steering inputs and throttle inputs, making the car feel balanced and poised, but with a huge level of traction to keep the car pointing where the driver wants it to go. You don’t have to work too hard to enjoy the Focus RS and yet it’s still exciting and involving.
This is especially true in Sport mode, which sharpens up throttle response and adds some extra drama to the exhaust note, opening a flap to increase volume and wasting a few extra drops of fuel for the sake of some fun pops and crackles on the overrun. Ford also has two more driving modes – Track and Drift – but they aren’t suited to road use.
The chief difference between Track mode and the rest of the drive modes is damper settings – they stiffen up by 40 per cent in Track. Ford says this setting is meant for purpose-built circuits, like Silverstone, while places like the Nurburgring are better in a road-biased setting. Ford is obviously expecting buyers to go on some track days, also evident in the addition of launch control.
Drift mode, which is practically useless in almost every environment save for an abandoned airfield, gives the RS handling more like a rear-wheel drive car, but with assistance from the front wheels to make dramatic, tyre-smoking slides relatively easy, though still far from effortless. In reality it’s largely pointless, since there’s nowhere to use it.
But the fact the engineers and marketing people at Ford elected to include it at all says a lot about the Focus RS. It’s a car that has been designed with fun and enjoyment as top priority and it really shows. Its rivals might be swifter around a circuit, but the RS will put a bigger smile on its drivers’ face.
|2.3T EcoBoost 350||37 mpg||4.7 s||175 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Ford Focus RS (2016 – 2018)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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