It’s as wild as a firecracker, and it sounds like one too. This is the 2018 Ford Focus RS. And it is, essentially, Ford’s idea of a WRC car for the road. Bonkers with number plate. While many hot hatches on the market at the moment are front-wheel drive, the Focus RS is all-wheel drive. It’s also a bit old-school, coming only with a six-speed manual.
2018 Ford Focus RS: What is it?
This is the top-of-the-range Focus. Although, you wouldn’t really describe it as luxurious. The better term would be to say it’s the fastest Focus in the range. Engineered by Ford Performance and perfected by ace rally driver and YouTube sensation Ken Block, almost every element of the RS is bespoke and built for the purpose of going extremely quickly from point A to point B.
Just one variant is available at the moment, and it retails from $50,990. Ford Australia did introduce a limited edition model last year, featuring a black roof (among other things). Interestingly, the local hub has just launched the 2019 Focus range which is built on a new platform. Our guess is this RS, which is based on the previous platform, will go out of production by the end of next year.
2018 Ford Focus RS: What does it come with?
You get most of the frills and features that the top-line Focus comes with, albeit the previous generation. In this standard version the dash incorporates SYNC 2 via an 8.0-inch touch-screen, while the Limited Editions and 2019 Focus range upgrade to SYNC 3. It still packs in most of the usual apps, including voice activation, sat-nav, digital radio, and a rear-view camera.
What you won’t find are big, soft leather seats. In the front are a pair of proper, kidney-squeezing Recaro bucket seats. They are recline adjustable, so that’s a bonus, but there’s no electronic adjustment or heating or any of that fancy stuff. Fitting inside isn’t bad at all, as it offers pretty much the same cabin space as the regular Focus. But, in the back it is little tighter due to the scale of the big front seats and due to the driveshaft tunnel that runs to the rear differential.
On that topic, the rear differential takes up a decent amount of space. To the point where boot space is reduced from 375L in the equivalent Focus ST to just 260L in this RS. It’s still large enough for the weekly shopping or for a couple of luggage bags.
2018 Ford Focus RS: Fun factor
This is where the Focus RS comes alive. The fun factor is mega. For starters, there’s a drift mode. Honestly. One of the four driving modes available is called drift mode. Ford’s engineers must have been having a laugh when they engineered this one. And laughed even harder when it passed the red tape of the accounting and legal departments.
Basically, this modes sends more power to the rear axle to help encourage a bit of tail-out action. It works, too. You can come hot into a corner, jam the throttle and the back will surprisingly kick out. Right out, if you leave you boot in it and don’t dial in too much counter-steer. It’ll also perform AWD donuts this mode. If you haven’t experienced AWD donuts, we’d encourage you to get onto an empty carpark and try it out. Just don’t drink a lot of milkshakes before hand.
Another element that really lifts the fun factor is the exhaust sound. This thing farts and belches like a rally car. Crackles on the overrun send nearby pedestrians jumping in fright, while the flat-out bark up through the gears is very exciting. It’s a nice, deep soundtrack too, and not over-done like in some cars.
In straight line we recorded 0-100km/h in just 5.08 seconds. This is seriously quick. We reckon with a dual-clutch auto that time could be slashed by up to 0.5 seconds, as it’s all down to how quick you can shift the stick and work the clutch. And take into account you want to be able to drive the car home afterwards. Up through the gears on a great road the Focus RS pulls really hard. Each gear almost feels the same as the last, relentlessly dispatching its speed.
A word of warning, if you are planning on using the RS as an everyday car, it’s probably best that you don’t volunteer to pick up your mother-in-law from the knitting club. Why? Because the suspension is really firm. And those seats don’t provide much give. This, of course, is great for handling and even track performance. But it does mean it’s not as practical as some of the competitors, such as the VW Golf R.
2018 Ford Focus RS: Should you buy one?
If you love the idea of a rally car for the road, with all the noise and loud personality, you need to look seriously into getting one. Lovers of raw, manual-shifting driving fun should also consider this car. If, on the other hand, you want a practical daily that’s comfortable enough to give your grandparents a lift in, you might be best at least checking out some of the rivals first.
Aside from these points, the $51k-ish retail price means it is good value. You get a lot of rally-car pedigree for your money. You also get Ford’s modern in-car tech, plenty of gadgets such as adaptive dampers, and a very clever driveline with bonus party features.
2018 Ford Focus RS: 0-100km/h video
How does it rate against rivals?
This is basically Ken Block’s everyday car. You can chuck some shopping in the back as well as a couple of kids, and up front is all of the usual Ford connectivity and technology appointments. However, we think this car is so ‘rally car’ that it can actually blister its practicality potential. The ride is very firm, and the front seats are very serious bucket seats with not much cushioning for your bum. But overall, what a blast. Any factory vehicle that can readily perform AWD donuts is winning in our books.