The 2016 Ford Focus RS stands at the pinnacle of the Mzansi hot hatch landscape, a turbocharged high performance marvel that brings with it a history of dominance in the European and American markets. Of course, with Subaru no longer producing a hatchback version of its venerable STI and Mazda long having put the Mazdaspeed3 out to pasture, there’s really only one other boy-racer compact hatch around with the specs to tackle the RS head-on: the Volkswagen Golf R.
Well, while the Golf R might be its competitor, this review is solely on and about the Focus RS.
The Ford Focus RS makes for a formidable adversary. Its 2.3-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine produces 260KW and 258Nm of torque, shuttled through a standard six-speed manual transmission to an all-wheel drive system that’s capable of moving power front, rear, and side-to-side in order to maximize traction and handling.
There’s even a ‘Drift’ mode that pushes as much as 70 percent of engine torque to the back axles and softens the car’s adjustable suspension dampening to facilitate smoky slides around a skid pad (if you’re so inclined to roast the car’s optional, ultra-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, that is. Besides, they came a little roasted).
In a straight line the Focus RS makes an stunning first impression, what with its ability to leap to 100km/h from a standing start in just 4.6 seconds with its launch control program engaged. Slip the car into Sport or Track mode and you’ll enjoy increasingly sharp steering suspension, and AWD response. The car is phenomenally quick in almost every situation, whether you are on the street or the road course, and it remains a practical daily driver, too, with ample interior room (albeit forcing you to accept a stiffer ride even in ‘Normal’ drive mode). I’ve exaggerated my claim on the cabin room, only for I am monstrous (taller) compared to the average Joe.
Despite a lack of direct competition (aside from the Golf R), the Ford Focus RS is still on the cross-shop list with compact sedans like the previously-mentioned Subaru, as well as a luxury surprise or two hovering just above its price point. Check out our list of key attributes that we loved from the Focus RS.
Killer Features: The Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3 are the only other high performance, all-wheel drive turbocharged hatchback with a manual transmission you can compare the RS to (in our books). In fact, Ford and VW are the sole remaining players in the hot hatch game, period, with the front-wheel drive Focus ST and Golf GTI rounding out the list of available options.
Is There Anything Better Than The Focus RS? The Focus RS is skilled at balancing day-to-day comfort with sheer speed. Around town it’s quite a compliant car to drive, with a suspension system that’s less harsh than what you get from the Golf. Interior trappings are a little bit on the plastic side, compared to that of VW Golf RS, which makes it hard to differentiate its cabin. Have a look at the VW Gold RS and Audi S3 when shopping around.