The hot hatch. If you were to ask me, the greatest segment in the car industry. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some super-fast, super expensive Mclaren and Lamborghini content
… but there’s something special about a quick, practical, fun to drive hot hatch back. And the RS is one of the best on the planet.
This is the first RS badged Focus that we’ve had the pleasure of seeing on our side of the pond, but certainly not the first one in existence. The MK1 (2002-2003), and the MK2 (2009-2011) were both available in Europe, and were massive hits. Especially the MK2, sporting 300hp and 324lbs ft from it’s awesome 2.5 litre inline-five.
The MK3 (2016-2018) hit the scene by storm, with some impressive numbers; 350hp, 350lbs ft, and sprinting to 60 in a scant 4.6 seconds.
Acceleration comes on hard, but with very little drama, thanks to the impressive AWD system. Passing power is always available, seemingly from any gear, thanks to the gobs of torque and very little turbo lag.
Exterior styling is spot on, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a larger rear wing than its Focus ST brother. Its damn near perfect. Not too tame, and not too in your face (I’m looking at you Civic R...). And the black 19inch split 5 spoke wheels finish off the exterior styling nicely.
Stepping inside, your met with fantastic Recaro seats, which are the same as you would find in the ST, albeit with the addition of some alcantara inserts. Beyond that, the interior is a bit of a let-down. Apart from some RS badges, it is exactly the same as the ST. Its ok, but when compared to that of the Golf R or even the Civic, it falls a bit short.
Sticking with the interior, my second favourite feature, after the Recaro’s, has to be the switch found next to the gear lever that lets you control the different drive mods. There are 4 to choose from; Normal, Sport, Track, and Drift.
Normal is what you would expect… Normal. Dampers and set to the softest setting, throttle response too.
Sport mode sharpens everything up. Exhaust sound is enhanced, including the very enjoyable cracks and pops when lifting off throttle. Steering feel and throttle response becomes sharper. Dampers are stiffened too, approximately 44% over the normal setting. The difference is noticeable, and if I owned one, it would stay in this mode most of the time.
Track mode is very similar to that of Sport. In fact, there are no changes to the throttle response, dampers or exhaust note. It does, however, modify the parameters of the AWD and ESC systems, allowing the driver to stretch the limits of the RS, at the track of course.
And then there’s Drift mode. The first of its kind, inspiring similar modes to be included on many new vehicles today. Everything from the Mercedes E Class AMG and the new M5, all the way up to the new Mclaren 720s. This setting is there for one thing, sweet sweet drifts, sending the maximum amount of power (70%) to the outer rear wheel when the drift is initiated, then splitting the torque equal to both rear wheels to help maintain the slide. Closed course or track only seems like an obvious disclaimer. If you don’t believe me, feel free to search RS Drift gone wrong on YouTube, to catch an overzealous journalist getting it very, very wrong.
I love hot hatches, being a fan of them for as long as I can remember. The Europeans were the lucky ones, getting plenty of offerings from VW, Honda, Ford, and Renault to name a few for years, but we’re starting to see them slowly here. The Golf R has been offered for a few years now, and the all new Civic Type R is finally available to us for the first time. I mean what’s not to love, they seat 4 comfortable, or in my case 3 plus a baby seat. They’re relatively inexpensive, reliable, can be driven every day all year around, but perhaps most important, always be able to put a smile on your face.
The Focus RS is a great car, and with the inclusion of AWD, a very capable, year-round daily driver. You’d be hard pressed to find anything to dislike about it.
2018 is the last model year for the MK3 RS, and will surely go down in hot hatch history as one of the greatest!