Focus RS

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

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Details

Model tested: Focus RSChart position: 11

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