Since l grew up and put on long trousers, l have not been a great fan of the hot hatch, with all that front wheel scrabble and horrible oversteer. But l think that is all about to change since Ford sent me the new Focus RS and then had to prise my hot sweaty hands off the wheel when they came to collect it.
It is remarkable.
First the steering. Direct is not the word for it as just the slightest hand movement sends the nose exactly where you want it. Although that can become a problem if you are not paying attention, as with a bump in the road, your hands will inevitably move and then that bus coming the other way slightly weakens your resolve to live another day, but hell it was fun.
The engine is divine with great pull all the way through the range and with a small car and 350bhp - you get the idea. 62 mph arrives in 4.7 seconds and with all-wheel drive, it goes like greased lighting and corners on rails. There are a few cars in this sector that could keep up such as the Merc AMG45, Golf R and Honda Type R but if they ain’t got AWD, this will take them in the corners every time.
Over 3000 folk ordered it without even seeing it and at £30,000 it’s not cheap but l also know of a few people who have ordered two - one to drive and one to put into storage as they feel sure it will be a future classic. They are not wrong.
The Signature RS Recaro seats hold you like glue, it’s as easy to drive at full chat as in traffic and it has a real, honest to god 6-speed manual gearbox. You recall that stick we used to have on the left hand side of most fast cars before some twit came up with flappy paddles?
The 2.3 litre turbo-charged engine is derived, but considerably developed from, the engine in the Mustang but there the comparison stops. Switches in the cockpit change the engine mode with sport, track, drift and launch control. Sorry, drift? Not sure who on earth is paying £30,000 for a car with the intention of drifting it but it certainly does work as the black marks all over the A23 Pease Pottage roundabout can attest. New tyres please.
The RS is as close as you can come to a road ready Group B rally car and it screams at you to drive it fast. I am nothing if not totally obedient and l did what it told me to do. The Focus RS is a game changer in the hot hatch market and in my fantasy seven car garage (one for each day of the week) there would certainly be a place for it.
Model tested: Focus RS Turbo
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo
Power: 350 bhp
Performance: 0-62 mph 4.7 seconds
Top Speed: 167 mph
Economy: 29.7 mpg combined
Birch Road, Eastbourne,
East Sussex BN23 6PX
T: 01323 407101