Published On: Sun, Aug 7th, 2016

Can The New Focus RS Fend Off The Competition?

Back when the original Ford Focus released in the late 1990s, it took Europe by storm. Finally, Ford had a product that could emulate the success of the Mondeo but gave the company some much-needed longevity. The Focus, it would be fair to say, was a hit.

Ford Focus RS

Twenty years, later, and we’ve seen something similar in the hot-hatch market as we saw in the compact SUV. When Nissan first introduced the Qashqai, the world loved it, and the market exploded. A few years later, practically every car maker wanted a piece of the action. The same thing happened with the Focus. The competition realised that Ford was onto something. And they want a share of the spoils.

Right now the Ford Focus RS is facing some stiff competition from the likes of VW and Subaru. Both are trying desperately to unseat it. VW has given us the Golf R. And Subaru the WRX STI. Regarding engine size, it appears as if the Focus RS walks away with the victory. It uses the same 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine Ford have put into their new Mustang. Thus, the Focus RS develops more than 350 bhp. That’s a phenomenal amount of power for a car in this class. The new Focus RS can be found listed from £31,000 at dealers like TCH Harrison Ford. That’s before options, of course. You’ll be paying upwards of £36,000, once you’ve added on some essentials. By contrast, the VW Golf R comes with a 2.0-litre turbo engine, which develops 292 bhp. Still not bad, but not quite what you get from the RS. And like the RS, it costs bang on £36,000 for the entry-level version. And finally, the Subaru comes it at £35,000.

Let’s start with the competition from the Golf R first. Because the Focus RS has more than fifty bhp more than the R, it was expected to smoke it around the test track. But as Car and Driver discovered, this wasn’t the case. Where the Golf lost ground in straight lines, it made up for it in braking and cornering. Ultimately, it posted very similar lap times to the Focus. But when it came to straight-line speed, the R suffered enormously for its lack of power. It’s no slouch by any means. But a 0 to 60 time of 5 seconds means that it comes in behind the RS and the WRX.

The next challenger is the WRX. This car, of course, isn’t a hatchback at all. But given the sporty appeal of the RS and the R, (and their lofty prices), it’s a natural competitor in this segment. What is so strange is that on the track, the Subaru feels outclassed by its hatch rivals. It’s not at home on the tarmac at all, and puts in a slow time. It’s clear that it should be out on the dirt track, where it belongs. For such a recognisable car, it performs poorly.

Thus, it appears as if the RS has kept its crown, as well as its price tag. But if the next Golf R comes with a little more power under the hood, Ford needs to watch out.