2017 Ford Focus RS Review

Introduction

Ford’s flagship Focus boasts steroid-pumped styling, four-wheel drive and a 2.3-litre 350hp engine shared with the Mustang. It’s arguably the most exciting hot hatchback you can buy, with ferocious performance and superb handling. A surefire future classic.

 

Body Style: Hatchback Seats: 5                    MRP £31,765       

         

Did you know? The RS (Rallye Sport) badge has adorned many of the greatest fast Fords, including the 1973 Escort RS2000, 1985 Sierra RS Cosworth and 2002 Focus RS.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7.4/10)

Everybody loves a fast Ford, right? Well, not everybody. Despite auction prices that would make a banker blush, hot Fords of the 80s and 90s weren’t always (whisper it) that good. They looked the part, for sure, but many were pretty rudimentary to drive. The original 2002 Focus RS helped banish that reputation for good, and subsequent generations have built on its legacy. This latest Focus RS is the best yet. It’s a riot to drive, without sacrificing everyday usability. This time, everybody is feeling the love.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Spec & Trim Levels

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

 

2017 Ford Focus RS

We Like

Scintillating performance

Outstanding dynamics and grip

Good value for money

We Don't Like

High running costs

Limited boot space

Lowbrow image

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

The Mk3 Focus RS is surprisingly subtle for a fast Ford. There’s no Airbus rear wing or go-faster stripes: just beefier bumpers, a modest tailgate spoiler and a smattering of RS badges. Even the signature Nitrous Blue paint is less in-yer-face than the fluorescent Ultimate Green of the Mk2 RS.  

This is the first Focus RS without custom body panels, too. On the plus side, that means cheaper repairs after accidents or parking knocks. The downside is, unless your neighbours are car-savvy, they’ll assume you’ve bought a common-or-garden Focus. At least until they hear the growl of those two bazooka-sized tailpipes...

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort:★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

The subtle theme continues inside – and for anyone who remembers the modded-by-Max-Power cabin of the first Focus RS, that’s an entirely good thing. Recaro sports seats, like those in the Fiesta and Focus ST, are standard, but trimmed in leather and Alcantara here. Blue side bolsters are available at no extra cost, or you can spec the optional hard-shell Recaro buckets for a hefty £1,145. Whichever seat you choose, the driving position is set high for a such a sporty car.

The controls will be familiar to anyone who drives a Focus; a trio of extra gauges atop the dashboard (oil temperature, oil pressure and turbo boost) are the only additions. The over-styled dials and displays don’t offer the crystal clarity of a Golf, and quality isn’t a match for Volkswagen either. However, Ford’s Sync 2 media system is straightforward to use and the Quickclear heated windscreen is a boon on cold days.  

Practicality

You can’t buy a three-door Focus any more, so the RS has five doors. Unlike the ST, however, you can’t buy an estate version.

There’s ample space in the front, and even the optional race-style Recaros accommodate all but the lardiest of backsides. Unfortunately, the news isn’t so positive in the back, where bulky front chairs and the central transmission tunnel restrict legroom. Three adults sitting abreast will have to draw straws for who gets the middle ‘hump’.

Boot space

A smaller boot is the price you pay for four-wheel drive. The rear differential results in a higher floor and a modest 260 litres of space, versus 316 litres in the regular Focus hatch – and 343 litres in the rival Volkswagen Golf R. Some superminis are more spacious.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

The Focus comes with Ford’s latest Sync 3 media system. An eight-inch colour touchscreen provides access to audio, sat nav, climate and communication functions. You can pair it with your smartphone via Bluetooth for full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Alternatively, you can use the impressive voice-control, allowing you to keep your hands on the wheel.

In general, the system is operated by an eight-inch touchscreen. It’s mounted high on the dashboard, making it easy to glance at on the move, but selecting some of the functions can be fiddly. We’d prefer a separate, rotary controller between the seats, as offered by Mazda and most of the premium brands.

Additional standard tech includes a nine-speaker Sony hi-fi with DAB radio, xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers, plus a Thatcham category one alarm. Oh, and just in case you decide to lend your high-octane hot hatch to your teenage son, Ford’s MyKey system allows user profiles for different drivers, restricting factors such as top speed and stereo volume.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling:★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

Let’s deal with Drift mode first. Having a dedicated mode that softens the shock absorbers and directs drive rearwards to make the car go sideways is either: a) brilliantly cool or b) borderline irresponsible. However, if you do have the luxury of an open race track, the RS perform long, easily-controllable tailslides until its tyres go pop. The spirit of the classic Mk2 Escort is alive and well.

On the road, with Normal or Sport mode selected, the Focus feels altogether more, er, focused. Huge cornering grip is followed by formidable 4WD traction as you blast away. There’s a still a hint of rear-wheel-drive attitude, but even backing off mid-corner won’t provoke the chassis to bite back. The fast Focus works with you, not against you, with communicative steering and feeling of adjustability that’s rare in a hot hatch.

It’s seriously quick, too. Use the Launch Control – which holds the revs, then dumps the clutch for a full-bore getaway – and you’ll hit 62mph in 4.7 seconds. You will need to shift the six ratios yourself, though; unlike some rivals, there’s no semi-automatic gearbox option.

Ride comfort? It’s as you’d expect: firm but nicely damped. It bumps and thumps a little around town, but feels less jittery than the smaller Fiesta ST.

Recommended engine: 2.3 petrol 350hp

0-62mph

4.7 seconds

Fuel economy

36.7mpg

Emissions

175g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

The biggest threat to safety in the Focus RS will be your right foot. Its prodigious performance is all-too-easy to exploit and you’ll need a cool head to avoid getting carried away. And, just to reiterate, Drift mode is for track use only...

If the worst does happen, it’s good to know the Focus gained a five-star Euro NCAP rating when crash-tested in 2012. Its individual scores are 92% for adult safety, 82% for child safety, 72% for pedestrian protection and 71% for safety assist (active accident-prevention features).

The RS also has excellent brakes: large discs and four-pot Brembo calipers. Other standard equipment includes six airbags, automatic headlights and wipers, tyre-pressure monitors and the Quickclear heated windscreen. You’re asked to pay £200 extra for Active City Stop (an automatic low-speed emergency braking system), but don’t buy a Focus RS without it.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

Colours

Bold and bright Nitrous Blue is the paint colour to have, particularly as it’s unique to the Focus RS. But it’s also the most expensive option, at £745.

The rest of the palette is quite limited. Stealth – a dark grey/blue – is the only free colour. Opting for Frozen White will cost you £250, while Magnetic (gunmetal grey) and Shadow Black are both £525.

Trim Levels

Forget the usual trim grades of Style, Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X and ST-Line, the RS is effectively a standalone model at the top of the Focus range. Notable standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, Sync 3 infotainment with DAB radio and nine speakers, automatic lights/wipers and hill-start assist.

The most significant option is the Luxury Pack (£1,000), which includes rear parking sensors, keyless entry, cruise control with speed limiter, tinted glass and power-folding door mirrors. There’s also a Winter Pack (£325), with a heated steering wheel and heated front seats.

The rest of the extras list is mercifully short, especially compared to German rivals. It comprises black 19-inch alloys (£975), the hard-shell Recaro seats (£1,145), painted brake callipers (£100) a tilt/slide sunroof (£575), Active City Stop (£200) and pop-out door edge protectors (£85).

Size and Dimensions

The RS is fractionally longer and lower than a standard Focus. It’s a relatively compact car that’s easy to manoeuvre and park – and should fit comfortably in a standard-sized garage. Watch the ground clearance over speed humps, though.

Length

4,390 mm

Width

1,823 mm

Height

1,472 mm

Max towing weight without brake

N/A

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy:★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

Nobody buys this car to save money on fuel. Official economy is 36.7mpg, but drive as Focus RS development tester – and former Stig – Ben Collins intended and you’ll be lucky to get anywhere near that. Reckon on mid-20s mpg in regular use, or high teens for a B-road blat.

The RS emits 175g/km of CO2, which equates to £800 car tax (VED) in the first year and £140 a year thereafter.

Reliability and servicing

Service intervals for the RS are identical to the regular Focus, at one year or 12,500 miles – whichever comes first. Ford has the largest network of dealers in the UK, too.

Overall Ford reliability is mid-table, according to Which?, but much will depend on how your RS is driven. If you use the car for track days, expect maintenance costs to increase exponentially. High performance consumables, such as Michelin Pilot Super Sports tyres, don’t come cheap.

Minor

12 months or 12,500 miles

Major

24 months or 25,000 miles

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Ford Focus RS

The Focus RS originally went on sale in late 2015 for a smidgen less than £29,000. Prices have crept up steadily since then, however, and the entry ticket is now £31,765. And unlike a standard Focus, don’t expect to negotiate a big discount on the RS – these cars remain in strong demand.

Nonetheless, the car is still good value when you consider the power and performance on offer. It outguns almost everything else at the price.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Cost Conscious

A ‘no-frills’ Focus RS with Stealth paint, standard seats and no options is all you need for raw driving excitement.

Luxury Seeker

Go for the Luxury Pack and Winter Pack to make the RS as cosseting as possible.

Car Enthusiast

Any RS will keep a car enthusiast happy, but many will want the optional Recaro bucket seats and Nitrous Blue paint.

Rivals

Audi RS3

A class act – and now boasting a whopping 400hp – but the RS3 can easily top £40,000 after options.

Honda Civic Type R

Fast and furious, the Civic Type R is a track-focused hot hatch with styling to match. Fun, but too extrovert for some.

Volkswagen Golf R

A more civilised – if ultimately less exciting – alternative to the Focus, with four-wheel drive and impressive build quality.

Mercedes-AMG A 45

Not your typical AMG muscle car, the A 45 is a hyperactive hot hatch that’s brilliant to drive. Like the Audi, though, it isn’t cheap.

BMW M140i

Like the rear-wheel-drive feel of the Focus RS? The M140i is the real deal. A great real-world performance car.

What others say

Autocar

Want a great everyday hot hatch? The Volkswagen Golf R is your choice. But the Focus, when in its element, is in another league, and to hell with the compromises.

Autocar

"The Ford Focus RS delivers explosive pace, engaging handling and excellent value for money.”

 

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