With looks inspired by the firm’s World Rally Championship contenders, the RS is a real head-turner.
Few new models were as eagerly anticipated as the first-generation Focus RS. Delayed in development for two years, the production model finally appeared in 2001.
Thankfully, the fastest-ever Focus was well worth the wait. With looks inspired by the firm’s World Rally Championship contenders, the RS is a real head-turner. There’s a deep, vented front bumper, large 18-inch alloys and a neat spoiler mounted on the rear hatch. Build quality is first rate and the interior is as well put together as any rival in the class. You’ll find high-backed racing seats, a blue leather-trimmed steering wheel and an alloy gearlever.
Hit the green starter button, and the 212bhp 2.0-litre turbo unit burbles into life. On the road, the Ford’s hard-edged character is immediately obvious. Acceleration is strong in any gear, while the five-speed gearbox has a slick shift.
But it’s not until you tackle a series of demanding bends that the ability of the chassis really shines through. Razor-sharp steering, immense grip – even in the wet – and perfect balance help make the RS hugely entertaining.
The only downside is the Quaife limited-slip differential, which causes the front-wheel-drive Focus to torque steer wildly on bumpy surfaces.
Very fast, but just a little flawed, the Focus narrowly misses out on our top 10.
* Performance: 4/5
* Heritage: 2/5
* Style: 3/5
* Driver appeal: 4/5
Model tested: Focus RS
Chart position: 11
In this review
- 1IntroductionThe Blue Oval’s performance hits From 1963-2009.
- 2New Focus RSThe latest – and possibly greatest? – addition to the blue oval’s stable.
- 31st Sierra RS CosworthAs with all the best fast Fords, the Sierra RS Cosworth exists because blue oval bosses wanted to go racing.
- 42nd Escort RS CosworthIf our top fast Fords were picked on visual impact alone, then the Escort RS Cosworth would be a clear winner. With its bulging wheelarches, aggressive nose and wild rear wing, it looks like nothing else on the road.
- 53rd GTIntroduced to celebrate the blue oval’s 100th birthday, the GT has the performance, power and looks to take on exotic rivals from Ferrari and Lamborghini.
- 64th GT40The sunning GT40 took Le Mans victory spoils four times between 1966 and 1969 – and racing pedigrees don’t come much better than that.
- 75th RS200Jaw-dropping styling, fearsome performance and rarity – the RS200 has it all.
- 86th Escort RS1600To the casual observer it might appear to be a humble entry-level model, but the plain looks hide thoroughbred racing mechanicals.
- 97th Escort MexicoWith racy looks, a lightly tweaked engine and a family-friendly saloon body, the Escort Mexico served up a winning blend of performance and practicality.
- 108th Lotus CortinaFor many fans, this is the first fast Ford. With its powerful engine, motorsport pedigree and affordable pricing, it set the template for the blue oval’s future high-performance models.
- 119th Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4It looks like a sober-suited saloon, but beneath this four-door Sierra Sapphire’s low-key lines lurks supercar-rivalling performance.
- 1210th Racing PumaWith bulging aluminium wheelarches, a deep front spoiler and 17-inch multispoke alloy wheels, the Racing version is certainly a head turner.
- 1311th Focus RS - currently readingWith looks inspired by the firm’s World Rally Championship contenders, the RS is a real head-turner.
- 1412th Capri 2.8iBilled as the car you always promised yourself, the rakish coupé was a sales hit the minute it was launched in 1969.
- 1513th Escort RS2000 MkVShocked to see the MkV Escort RS2000 finish so high up the order? Well, you shouldn’t be – this is a fast Ford through to its very core.