Hot Hatch Heaven

FRS2_4b8acd1857813-lightboxI immediately phoned my wife and asked her very nicely if I could buy one – she said no. Her argument had something to do with the fact that I’d only just bought a new Porsche 911 and still had my Focus ST, which I’d modded up to around 300bhp. Unfortunately I couldn’t deny her logic and resigned myself to life without a new Focus RS, at least for a while…

If you’re a car enthusiast you’ve probably read a great deal about the second generation Focus RS already. It has been hailed as one of the greatest hot hatches ever built, and rightly so. But does it really live up to all the hype, and can Ford’s hottest ever Focus really be used as an everyday family car?

The answer to both those questions is a very simple yes, but for the sake of completeness, I’ll expand a little. First up, the Focus RS is a truly great drivers’ car, and anyone who is adamant that you can’t pump 301bhp through the front wheels should get themselves a test drive. Of course you get torque steer, how could you not? But Ford’s RevoKnuckle system really does reduce it to a completely manageable level. Yes, you’ll still get a tug as the diff loads up, but once that Quaife is doing its stuff it will drag the RS around a bend like it’s on rails.

I drove a MkI Focus RS for three years and I firmly believe that it was one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. It was something of a handful, and you had to give it your full attention all the time, but if you were willing to make the effort, the rewards were nothing short of staggering. The new car lacks some of that raw appeal, and the extra weight it carries can definitely be felt when pushing on, but it’s a much more rounded proposition and far easier to live with as a result.

Then there’s that five-pot engine that sounds simply intoxicating. If you’re old enough to remember the dominance of the Audi Quattro on the rally circuit, you’ll have an idea of just how great the 2.5-litre lump in the FRS sounds. The stock exhaust also adds to the occasion, but not in an aftermarket, obtrusive kind of way. Lift off and you’ll be rewarded with a few pops and crackles, and when the engine is cold, you can expect a satisfying bang on each gear change.

The car only comes in three colours – Ultimate Green, Performance Blue and Frozen White. I’m usually pretty brave when it comes to colour, after all my Focus ST was Electric Orange and my Clio 197 F1 was Liquid Yellow, but even I had to draw the line at a bright green Focus RS. Performance Blue looks great, but my MkI FRS was that colour, in fact they all were since that’s the only colour they came in. So, Frozen White got the nod.

There were a few other advantages to going for white too. For a start Frozen White wasn’t a cost option like the other two colours. It also looks the best coupled with the gloss black spoiler, diffuser, mirrors and grilles. And since I already had one white car, I thought it would be nice for them to match. Unfortunately I soon realised that Ford Frozen White looks nothing like Porsche Carrara White – oh well, you live and learn.

I bought the Focus RS as my practical car, so it needed to be as adept at taking my family out for the day as it is at hammering around the Evo Triangle. Many would argue that no two door car can be considered practical for a family, but I disagree. In fact a two door car gives me the option of climbing inside and standing in front of the rear seat while I strap my kids in, something that’s nigh on impossible in a four door. That said, I do appreciate that getting children out of a tight parking space in a two door car is far harder, but then I always make sure that I never park in a tight space, regardless of whether I have my children with me.

As with any Focus, you can specify ISOFIX mounting points when you order, although Ford has a habit of only supplying the mounts on one side for free, leaving you to stump up the cash for a second kit from your dealer. By contrast, my Clio 197 came with ISOFIX on both sides as standard. I’ve opted for Recaro Young Sport car seats, since they’re good for children from nine months all the way up to 12 years old. The only potential issue with the Young Sport is that it’s not ISOFIX compatible, so if ISOFIX gives you extra peace of mind, you’ll have to opt for the Young Expert Plus, but that’s only good up to four years old. Of course it’s no coincidence that the Recaro child seats match the Recaro interior in the Focus RS quite nicely.

Talking of the interior, I specced the half leather option, which means that the seat bolsters are finished in black leather, while the centre section has a dark grey suede-like finish. The effect is enhanced by the Performance Blue stitching that matches the RS logo on the steering wheel. There have been some reports of the leather creasing and splitting, but mine seems to be holding up ok so far. The front Recaro seats are simply brilliant, offering superb lateral support and comfort. The seatbacks have a hard shell too, which is great news for anyone who has children that like to kick the seat in front.

It’s not all great news with the seats though, as the driving position is far from perfect – you’re just too high up in the Focus RS, and there’s no way of lowering the seat without attacking it with an allen key, and even then there’s only one lower setting. Compounding the seating position is a pedal box that couldn’t be laid out worse. The throttle pedal is just too far away from the brake, as well as being far lower, making any hope of heel and toe downshifts almost impossible. Add to that the fact that the brakes lack feel and progression, and it’s only realistic to heel and toe when you’re practically standing on the brake pedal for a tight hairpin.

But annoyances like those are, well, just annoyances, and certainly can’t spoil the party when the rest of the ingredients are just so good. So am I going to leave the Focus RS completely standard? I’m trying hard to do so, especially since I managed to get it insured through Ford for only £350. But if I’m honest, I’m already hankering after a Milltek exhaust and brake upgrade – the former because I’d like it to be just a little louder and the latter because I crave more progression to my anchors.

With just under 3,000 miles on the clock, the engine is starting to loosen up nicely and it definitely feels quicker than when I picked it up in September. Fuel economy is also better than I expected with the average mpg hovering around the low 20s – my old Focus ST turned in around 18mpg or lower for most of its life with me.

Luckily I ordered my Focus RS a year ago, which meant that I got it at the original price of £24,995. However, if you were going to order one today, you’d be looking at a base price of £27,575. So, a fully loaded RS will now crack £30,000, which seems pretty steep for a Focus, even to a fast Ford fan like me. On the plus side, Ford’s incessant price increases have done no harm to the residual value of my car, so who am I to complain?




Riyad Emeran