I’ve had my Focus RS for a little over a year now, during which time I've covered 22,000km, so I figured I may as well share a few of my experiences with the car. There’s been plenty said about what they’re like at full noise, but what are they like to live with?
I ordered the car sight unseen back in January 2016, after the first lot of five-star reviews started dropping. By no means am I a “Ford guy”, but having owned an XR5 and driven some of their other cars I quickly worked out Ford had the chuckable, fun, hot hatch thing figured out. And, with quick steering, the new AWD system and a Cosworth-honed 2.3-litre engine, I couldn’t really imagine it being all that dull.
With a newborn, I also needed something practical… it needed to get me to work each day, and lug a baby around on weekends. And besides, with the excellent resale values of the previous-gen RS, if for some reason I didn’t like it, I could probably do moved it on with minimal financial loss.
The next eight months were spent waiting, reading reviews and watching videos on Youtube. They were almost unanimous in their praise for the way the thing drove, but there were more than a few comments that indicated it was a wildly impractical weekend toy, rather than a day-to-day proposition.
“The boot is smaller than a Golf R”, “the suspension is BONE RATTLING” and the most serious and solemn warning of all... "there’s a clutch pedal to the left of the brake”.
Hang on, I thought I’d bought a Focus. Why is it being described as though it was like trying to daily drive a CLK GTR? Is it seriously this bad?
The flame-spitting, bone-rattling car with a mysterious third pedal arrived in August. With much trepidation I hit the starter button for the first time and it barks into life. At cold start it sounds like a WRC car so maybe the reviews were right!
But once on the move, it’s quickly apparent that a lot of the comments about it’s capability as a daily driver were hyperbole. In normal driving, it’s just a Focus with fast steering, a rifle-bolt gearshift and firm (not bone-rattling, none of my teeth have fallen out as yet) suspension.
There’s plenty of space – I reckon the Recaro buckets actually might add to rear legroom on account of the fact they’re so thin – the suspension, while firm, is never harsh (unless you put it in race mode), the gearbox is a joy and the boot is decent (there is a massive amount of foam padding that can be removed to add a good four inches of depth to the boot).
In the 12 months I’ve had the car, it’s done plenty of early morning mountain runs, got me to/from work every day, done a few family road trips (three people and a week's worth of luggage and beer), and a track day.
I’ve had the thing power oversteering out of hairpins (on the track day, of course) in the morning and loaded to the brim with bags of soil from Bunnings in the afternoon. It’s a perfect all-rounder, and I can’t help but get the feeling that many have become accustomed to dual clutch gearboxes, numb steering and boat-like suspension. When faced with a car that feels a bit more raw (isn’t that what we want?), it gets a bit much.
Driving it is the obvious highlight. The amount of grip available is just staggering. You can throw it at a corner at what feels like excessive speed, then simply get on the throttle and feel the torque transferring to the outside rear wheel where it somehow finds more and more drive and rockets you out.
Get greedy on the loud pedal and you’ll be catching a nice little slide. It really does cover ground like little else I’ve driven. The engine is a riot, with huge torque available from about 2500rpm through to redline. It makes a good noise too, in an obnoxious rally car sort of way.
Best of all though, it’s a fun and engaging car to drive at any speed; you don’t need to be sideways at full boost to enjoy yourself. All the controls are satisfying to use – steering is nicely weighted, fast and direct, the brakes (as well as being hugely powerful) are feelsome and progressive, and as mentioned the gearbox has that mechanical ‘rifle-bolt’ feel. Everything about it fizzes and feels alert. Launch control is brutal. I can’t imagine there are many cars that get off the line as violently fast as this.
So it’s an absolute laugh to drive and it’s as practical as any other Focus. What’s not great?
The interior (seats aside) is standard-issue Focus. It gets a pass, but is a long way short of a Golf R or especially, Audi RS3. The sat-nav is fine, it’s not great but gets the job done. I can’t imagine if you’re buying one of these cars, interior and sat-nav rates as high on your priority list, however.
The wheels are HORRIFIC to clean. I have never known pain like it. There is so much brake dust, and so many spokes. If you buy one of these cars (on the standard wheels), get a Gerni.
The turning circle (on account of the bespoke steering rack) is a shocker. And while it doesn’t really grab the average motorist's attention (aside from the odd enthusiast asking questions at servos), it seems to be a magnet for every idiot who wants to win the traffic light GP. It’s tiring.
It’s been reliable, however I had a squeaky clutch pedal and one of the window switches stuck on me (both replaced under warranty). The only real change I would make would be to fit a set of OZ Superturismo LMs.
If you care about driving (not 0-100 stats or sat-nav or any of that rubbish – but actually enjoying the process of driving), I can’t think of a better car for the money. It’s a practical family car when you want it to be, and a barking mad rally weapon when you feel like.
If you are considering one but have been put off by the apparent lack of practicality, in my experience you can safely ignore those concerns and go and have some fun.