Having now put 150km on my Ford Focus RS, including a little strap over Mt Dandy – and having come from my Ford Focus ST – I can say they are two very different cars to drive. I have the Mountune kit, lightweight wheels and King Springs on the ST, which give it more poke and less body roll than the ordinary, while the RS sits on Whiteline springs and has the forged wheel package fitted.
I can say that from a roll, foot flat, there's not a huge difference, with the extra weight being the downside to the RS. That extra weight can also be felt in corners, but it's not all bad. It feels way more planted with a noticeably stiffer chassis. Previous cars have taught me this is 'grip, grip, grip, violent slip', but I am yet to test this. The ST is softer and you can feel the line of slip coming.
Acceleration from a dig does not even compare. The ST is useless in comparison with wheel hop, torque steer and more spin than necessary. The RS just goes. Even my wife smashed a GTI that lined up at the lights, and she shifted well before it came on song.
Their dynamics in corners, or should I say mid to exit, are different breeds. You can plant the RS out of a corner and the only thing slowing you is not having the balls to keep it pinned. The ST is a delicate modulation of the accelerator to not break traction.
I haven't had a big enough chance to play with more twisty roads, but I can already say the RS makes the ST feel like it is a stock Trend set-up. My mode of choice has been Track mode with the dampers set to soft. It is super accurate and the steering wheel feedback is amazing with it being more weighty to turn. The ST now feels daily commuter in comparison, soft and easy to spin. The solid padding in the Recaros suit it as they give you even more feedback. The ST Recaros feel soft and again set up for the everyday commute.
The RS throttle response is quicker, making the ST feel laggy in comparison. The engine rumble and pop-pops make you smile and know the car means business. The ST's Sound Symposer now sounds funny – maybe even sad because I know it's not motor noise. The first thing I said to my wife was the ST needed a louder exhaust.
Having driven over some roads with tramlines to highways, the RS does not bother me with its bumpy ride, but I can see why people whinge. Coming from EG/EK Civics on coilovers, I like things bumpy. My wife hit a pothole and man they sound mean in the RS. In the ST, though, they're not a big worry. Tramlines and highways aren't a concern or even items to cross my pre-rattled brain.
The ST is my daily, but I wish my RS was. It is rougher, the seats aren't as soft, but the feedback and fun it gives make it so much fun to drive. I can't begin to describe how fun it is to drive with such good feedback and response.
Undoubtedly, the ST is better on fuel with its smaller-capacity motor and less body weight. But the RS has the crackle map and the exhaust pop-pop that only happens when you give it a bit and rev over 3500rpm. That makes it addictive. I could change gear, but I sit in second a bit longer, then give it a squirt at the end to get the pop-pop. I see this again wasting fuel. The ST has none of that. None of that fun.
I will plan a track day in both for a proper comparison, and also Sandown is hard on brakes so it will be good to see how they fare. Mid-corner speed and balance will be interesting.
I love the ST, but the RS just means so much more business when it comes to feel. The feel in the ST does seem daily commute, which is perfect for most wanting a fun fast hatch, but the RS isn't really sensible for most people. For those wanting all your senses tingling and a smile on your face from its exhaust pop-pop, the ridiculously grippy and quick get up and go, or that it can churn through corners like it's your personal rollercoaster, the RS can't be beaten.