Chief operating officer for Ford of Europe, Barb Samardzich, has dropped the biggest hint yet that a new Ford Focus RS – based on the recently facelifted Focus hatchback – is in the development phase.
“I can’t give you any confirmation today, but let’s say there’s a strong desire. Something like that makes a great halo car,” she told us.
A Ford spokesman backed-up Samardzich’s comment, saying: “We have a rich heritage of RS cars and we’re not about to let any competitors overtake us in that respect. You can rest assured that Martin [Smith, director of design, Ford of Europe] and his team are fully focused on the future of our performance strategy.”
A refreshed Focus ST is scheduled to go on sale this summer, but while the styling is expected to be more extreme than the current model, there won’t be any power boosts for its 247bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, leaving room for a more potent RS model above it.
The most likely engine to feature is a new 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost unit, developed for the entry-level version of the new Mustang. While it will produce 304bhp in the Mustang, it could be tuned to around 350bhp for the Focus RS.
To save weight and keep the price as close to £25,000 as possible, the new RS will stick with a front-wheel drive layout and employ an electronic differential to maximise traction in all conditions. Whether it will be offered with a six-speed manual gearbox only, or come with the option of Ford’s twin-clutch Powershift ‘box, is still the subject of an internal debate.
Whichever mechanical package Ford decides to go with, we won’t see the Focus RS in showrooms anytime soon. If it does get the greenlight it should appear towards the end of the car’s lifecycle – which is due for replacement in 2017. A new Focus RS will battle it out with leading hot hatch lights like the Volkswagen Golf R, Vauxhall's Astra VXR Extreme and BMW's 135i M Sport.