by Chris Wall
The age of the original hot hatch is gone; it's no longer about a nice revvy engine with a low weight and great handling. These days hot hatches use high-powered turbocharged motors, all-wheel drive systems, and are filled with leading-edge technologies - and it's in this world that the Ford Focus RS tries to stand out. With a rich motorsport history, the RS nomenclature is something every Ford owner wants on their car, especially when it's shaped like a new Focus and comes in a color called Nitrous Blue. At a starting MSRP of $36,995 with a 350 horsepower 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder lump, the 2018 Ford Focus RS looks like some good fun at an affordable price.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.3L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
With an RS badge on the rear and Recaro seats inside, you know performance is the main aim of this incarnation of the Ford Focus. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder is turbocharged and tuned just right to create 350 hp and a matching 350 lb-ft of torque. The result is that when you keep it pointed in a straight line, it launches the Focus RS from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, and will carry it onward to a top speed of 165 mph. That's great performance in a hatchback, but seeing as it employs an all-wheel drive system, things are more about going around a track fast as opposed to going fast in a straight line. The 2018 Ford Focus RS's affordable price means this is an excellent way into the hot hatch segment.
Driving is what the Ford Focus RS hatchback is best at; actually, make that driving fast. Every bit of the car is put together with this in mind. The driving position is perfect thanks to the fully adjustable race seat and tilt and shift steering column,. Visibility is great too, which comes in handy when you're pushing the car to its limits. The turbocharged 2.3-liter is strong, with power coming in steady and fast, and the six-speed manual transmission is good enough to keep up with quick and precise shifts.
There's launch control that affords blistering off-the-line acceleration and also makes use of a torque limiter to keep wheel spin at a minimum. Then there's that much-hyped Drift Mode that gives the AWD system the ability to direct up to 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels and then 100 percent to either side to enable torque vectoring to make the sideways action controllable. Unfortunately, all these exceptional driving qualities come at the cost of comfort as the specially-tuned underpinnings don't take too kindly to bumps and undulations.
When you climb inside the Ford Focus RS there's no doubting what the car is intended to do - go fast. The dash layout is good, and everything you need is in reach or controlled via the multifunction steering wheel, which is covered in thick leather with blue stitching. A nice feature shared with the ST spec is the set of gauges atop the dashboard, but in this case they're seen in RS blue. Below that, you find the center console headed up by the infotainment touchscreen.
The Recaro seats are in proper racing style with high side bolsters to keep you in the right seating position, and they also have the holes for putting a four-point harness through. Separating the car from the racing side of things is the Sync3 infotainment system, which is great thanks to its intuitive use. You can fit five in the car, but it's best suited to two up front, mainly because it saves weight and, when chucking the car around, you don't want a rear passenger throwing up and ruining the interior.
The new Ford Focus RS employs SYNC 3 for its infotainment system, a tried and tested intuitive setup, but there's new hardware and software with a new easy-to-use design and new high-speed performance. There's also enhanced voice recognition, a swipe capable capacitive touchscreen, optional navigation, and integration with Siri all included - not bad, considering the Focus RS's base price. Sounds come via a ten-speaker Sony audio system that's perfect to drown out the sound of the boosted engine, if that's ever a thing you need.
Safety comes from dual-stage airbags, a driver knee airbag, front-seat side-impact airbags, and also first and second-row curtain airbags. Electronic aids include ABS and AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control. The NHTSA's review of the Focus RS yielded a five-star overall safety rating.
The Ford Focus RS's price is relatively low compared to similar performance-focused vehicles in the USA, making it a great entry point to the realm of hot-hatchery. And as a hot hatch, the 2018 Ford Focus RS is brilliant. As a weekend track toy, it's brilliant. Basically the car ticks all the right boxes in terms of size, styling, power and features, and, best of all, pricing. But, as a daily driver, it might bet a bit much, thanks to the taut suspension. But if you really must, then there are ways to secure new kidneys. The US has been lusting after any RS models for years now, so even if you do find any problems with the Focus RS, we understand if you pretend to forget.
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Check out some informative Ford Focus RS video reviews below.