Ford Focus RS 2021 review

The Focus RS is a seriously hot hatchback sold on-and-off between 2002 and 2018.

£31,910
Average price
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2
Out of 5

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Superb to drive
  • Everyday usability

Cons

  • Interior lacks polish of rivals
  • Firm ride
  • Boot is smaller than a standard Focus
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Fast Fords seem to have been around since the dawn of time, and have one of the most cult followings of anything in the automotive world outside of brands like Porsche and Ferrari. 

So whether it’s a Fiesta ST on the more affordable end of the spectrum or a V8 Mustang at the other end, they’re bound to be very appealing. 

That’s certainly been the case for the Focus RS hot hatchback – those two letters standing for a lot in the performance Ford world. In the Focus, the RS is the most powerful option available – sitting above the ST in the range. Typically arriving in showrooms near the end of a generation’s model run, the first Focus RS arrived in 2002, with the second-generation arriving seven years later. 

Like clockwork, another seven years gets you to 2016, which is when the third Focus RS arrived in showrooms. Boasting a new 2.3-litre petrol engine and a specially-developed all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring for maximum cornering ability and a bolder design to exert its ‘RS’ credentials.

Latest model

Various tweaks to the Focus would follow in the third-generation Focus RS, despite having a relatively short time on sale between 2016 and 2018. The first came in the form of a new ‘Edition’ model, which brought a Quaife limited-slip differential, along with a matte black roof and mirrors and additional standard equipment. 

 A ‘Red Edition’ would also be introduced, bringing a Race Red body colour with contrasting black alloy wheels and grey callipers. Just 300 of these would be produced. The last hurrah for the Focus came in 2018 with the Heritage Edition, which celebrated 50 years of the Ford Escort. The final 50 right hand drive models to roll off the production line were these editions, which came painted in a Deep Orange colour, along with part leather Recaro seats and a Mountune power upgrade to 370bhp. 

 Though we might be in the fourth-generation of Focus now, Ford confirmed in 2020 that there would not be a new RS model, with tightened emissions regulations putting a stop to a new Focus RS. 

Value for money

At its launch in 2016, the Focus RS actually represented rather good value for money – priced from £28,940. With brilliant performance on offer and a generous amount of standard kit, such as 19-inch alloy wheels, Recaro seats and Bi-Xenon headlights. Prices would rise for the edition models, though – rising to almost £40,000 for the Heritage Edition, though that was a model reserved for elite Fast Ford enthusiasts. 

 Prices have held up well, too, with even the highest mileage examples still worth £22,500, while models with a modest 30,000 miles on the clock can easily be worth £25,000 and upwards. Models that have received a Mountune power upgrade (something offered by Ford itself) are also thought to be more desirable. Meanwhile the collector-ready Heritage Editions are worth an astonishing amount – we saw a couple of barely used examples for sale for an eye-watering £80,000, double what they would have cost new. 

Looks and image

Fast Fords have an image you’ll either love or hate. For some, when spending around £30,000 on a used car, they’d much rather it was for something premium, but a Focus RS appeals to a different type of buyer – likely an enthusiast. The Focus RS is also suitably different to the regular Focus, too – gaining a big spoiler, large alloy wheels and completely different front end to make it stand out. The bright Nitrous Blue colour is particularly appealing, too, with the bulk of models specced in this shade when new. 

 The interior isn’t quite so appealing, though, and it’s really the RS’s achilles heel. It’s ultimately just too similar to the regular Focus, as aside from some Recaro front seats and a sports steering wheel, it really is little different to the standard diesel hatchback. That’s not bad in some ways as the ergonomics are pretty good and you get all the kit you need, but you'd expect Ford to change it up a bit more for its flagship hot hatch. 

 But where the Focus RS certainly doesn’t disappoint is when it comes to the way it drives. It’s one of the best sporty hatchbacks in recent years, being incredibly quick both in a straight line and when cornering, feeling fun and adjustable and easy to exploit. It really is a delight on a back road. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the RS is quite firm, even in the most compliant suspension settings.

Space and practicality

Hot hatchbacks are all about everyday usability, and largely the Focus RS doesn’t disappoint. There’s a decent amount of interior space, with adults likely to be able to sit in relative comfort in the rear seats, even with the chunky Recaro sports seats. 

 The boot, however, is quite small. This generation of Focus has quite a small boot anyway – measuring 316 litres – but things go down a level with the RS thanks to its four-wheel-drive system eating into space. It cuts the room down to 260 litres, which really isn’t a lot by class standards.

Engines

 Just a single engine option is available in the Focus RS, but it’s a rather good one – a turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, which produces 345bhp and 440Nm of torque – or 470Nm for a short overboost for maximum performance. A six-speed manual gearbox is also used, with power being delivered to all four wheels. 

 That allows for some rapid figures, with the Focus RS able to reach 0-60mph in just 4.5 seconds and head on to a top speed of 165mph. Some owners chose to give their cars a further upgrade from Mountune – something Ford offered officially – with many taking their car’s power up to 370bhp. 

Running costs

Though running costs aren’t one of this Ford's greatest strengths, it shouldn’t prove too ludicrously expensive to run. The firm claims it will return 36.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 175g/km. 

 Annual road tax will vary between £150 and £240, depending on when it was registered, though insurance premiums will likely be quite hefty – the Focus RS unfortunately being quite susceptible to being stolen, so sits in a high insurance group of 42 (out of 50) for that reason. 

Things to look out for

Despite its performance status, the Focus RS has largely proven to be quite reliable for owners. As with any sporty model, though, you should check it’s been regularly maintained and serviced, and also ensure it’s sitting on high-quality tyres and not budget ones instead. 

 There have been a few isolated head gasket issues, which are signalled by white smoke on start up, so check out for this when looking at any model before buying. 

Rivals

The hot hatchback market remains as competitive as ever, and at this extreme end of the spectrum key rivals include the Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M135i, Audi S3 and RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45. 

 Both the Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N are fantastic options, too, while the Peugeot 308 GTI and Renaultsport Megane could be worth drawing up on your shopping list as well.

Depreciation

Though regular Fords might depreciate quite heavily, fast Fords often hold their value rather well. That’s true for the Focus RS, which continues to prove an appealing used option, which continues to keep prices high. Any limited-edition model will also prove even more lucrative, and it’s a reason many consider this Ford a solid investment for future years, providing you don’t put too many miles on it and keep it in good condition. 

Trims explained

Only one main trim level was offered on the Focus RS, though there have been a choice of special editions, too. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.

RS

All Focus RS models come with a generous amount of standard kit, including 19-inch alloy wheels, a performance exhaust system, automatic Bi-Xenon headlights, a heated windscreen, Recaro sports seats and an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation. You also get keyless start, a reversing camera, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and a Sony sound system.

From £22,500 (used)

RS Edition

Upgrading to the RS Edition brings usual optional extras like a Quaife limited-slip differential, rear parking sensors, electric folding mirrors and cruise control. Keyless entry, a heated steering wheel and autonomous emergency braking. In terms of styling changes, it’s singled out by its Nitrous Blue paint colour, matte black roof, new matte black 19-inch alloy wheels and Recaro shell seats with blue side bolsters.

From £33,000 (used)

RS Red Edition

The spec on the RS Red Edition is broadly similar to the Edition, though comes painted in Race Red with a gloss black painted roof.

From £37,500 (used)

RS Heritage Edition

The flagship Focus RS, the Heritage Edition, was limited to just 50 examples and is rare to find. It’s singled out by its Deep Orange paintwork and comes with an electric sunroof, black forged 19-inch alloy and a Mountune tuning kit that takes the power up to 370bhp.

From £80,000 (used)

Summary

  1. Superb to drive
  2. Brilliant performance
  3. Bold exterior styling…
  4. Though the interior does little to inspire
  5. Plenty of standard kit
  6. Held its value well
  7. Edition models offer great investment potential
  8. Small boot
  9. Unlikely to be another Focus RS
  10. One of the best Fast Fords ever produced

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