At last! After years of awe, speculations and stigmatization of Ford’s Hottest hatch yet, Motor Trader magazine has officially driven the crème de la crème of the Focus genre, the heart wrenching turbo charged sled RS; a first in East and central Africa.
It’s definitely a looker by all means; new design language by Ford, bulged out fenders, curvatious bodywork couple with faux pas bonnet slots and a mean ass rear diffuser. This is the ultimate 12 year old poster car.
The interior swiftly reminds me of Fuji’s ImprezaSTI; lots of blue and black in the cabin. The hugging Recaro seats enhance that ‘Race mode’ feel and the well laid out front dash has lots of creature comforts like climate control, audio system and a sat nav.
The RS is powered by its legendary and reliable 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo unit which is shared with numerous Volvos, but it’s got almost 80bhp extra here and is thoroughly re-worked: new pistons, cams, turbo, intercooler, engine management and more. All 380bhp is channeled to the front paws by a 6 speed close ratio ZF gearbox that exploits the 5 cylinder engine fully.
The Focus RS is an absolute blast to drive; it’s astoundingly quick from point-to-point. Front-wheel drive was definitely the way to go according to the RS engineers. There’s so much front-end grip that you just don’t need driven rear wheels. And, to be honest, the RS is already a heavy at 1467kg – an all-paw drivetrain would take that kerb weight to around 1600kg.
Steer- feel is excellent as it provides positive feedback. At around 2.2 turn’s lock-to-lock, it’s noticeably quicker than the standard Focus and, while every small input has an effect, it’s not nervous and there’s a beautiful, elastic resistance that builds in proportion to your efforts.
The suspension is a little rigid for the daily commute, but it’s not brittle, and its composure over quick curvy roads in Karen suburbs is impressive, offering enough compliance and suspension travel to soak up tricky roads at high speed. Disappointment came with the brakes, yes the dual pot brakes hold well under extreme conditions, but Ford would have opted for a pair of Brembo’s stoppers at the front for assured and ultimate stopping power.
Well, despite all the hype that surrounds Ford’s trick differential that actively sends torque where needed and RevoKnuckle ; a system that allows MacPherson strut suspension to behave with the purity of a multi-link set-up I can conclusively report that this car does torque steer. It’s not violent like the Golf GTI but the steering wheel will firm up noticeably under hard acceleration and the wheels scrabble for grip in the lower gears ; the ESP system allowing the driver to dictate when power should be cut in most situations, rather than cutting in early and spoiling the fun. A disappointment, perhaps, but then what did we expect with 380bhp going through the front wheels? It surely suffers from a smoking problem.. Too much torque at the front would simply shred the tires after a few burnouts.
I am deeply impressed with the new Ford Focus RS. Yes, it battles to put power down more than we were led to believe and its styling is a little overdone like over toasted bread, but I will forgive that as an RS must live to its hype.
Overall, it is an amazing package. It’s easy to live with day to day while delivering an incredibly intense adrenaline hit when you’re in the right mood. If you’re after thrills, the new Focus RS hot hatch makes the current Subaru STI hatch, Golf GTI and the rest of the herd seem positively pedestrian.
The RS, then, is a great hot hatch. But is it the best? Be the judge. I rest my case.
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