Ford Focus RS (Mark II) review: Ford Focus RS (Mark II)

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CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars Outstanding
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Bassy, thrummy, growly, whistling, crackling engine soundtrack. So much power and torque, almost no torque steer. Grin-inducing handling.

The Bad Bone jarring, teeth-shattering ride. Not much fun for passengers, if they dislike cars. Seating only for four. Hollow sound system. What's that? I can't hear you over the incessant tyre roar.

The Bottom Line That this 224kW/440Nm high performance front-wheel drive hatch works at all is engineering genius. That it delights (almost) all our senses makes it truly great.

CNET Editors' Choice Aug '11

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Exterior

Dressed in its violent lime green warpaint, our Focus RS is hard to miss. Even in its two other colours (white and blue), it's a pretty formidable-looking car with its massive black rear wing, flared wheel arches, bonnet vents, black wing mirrors and highlights, revised front bumper with its integral gaping mouth, body kit and racing-style 19-inch alloy wheels. Fog lights are fitted at front and rear, and the rear brake lights are actually an array of LED lights.

Thanks to its three-door hatchback shape, the desk-size rear wing doesn't impede on the driver's rearward vision. Although it does clatter about like a cheap aftermarket item when the boot is slammed shut. Similarly, the doors have a tinny ring to them, although this has probably been done in the interest of shedding a few kilos.

The boot is a handy size, but just don't expect to carry any large or long items. Despite the rear seats being blessed with the ability to split-fold 60/40, the seats feature high side bolsters, meaning that the backrests lie at about 35 degrees when released. Should a tyre go flat there's no spare wheel to help you out, only a temporary tyre repair and inflation kit.

Interior

The highly sculpted rear seats may impede load carrying and keep overall seating capacity to four, but they do ensure that passengers in the back aren't thrown around like yachts in a storm. Up front there are two tight-fitting Recaro sports bucket seats. Only the wings of the seats are clad in leather, with the rest covered in a grippy microfibre material that not only feels wonderfully technical, but adds an extra element of grip.

A word of caution to guys when they first step into the RS, though: be mindful of the seats' tall, almost rock solid bolsters. Drop yourself into them with too much violence or not enough vigilance and you may not have the option of having children. Mind you, those same said bolsters do a fantastic job of cradling you as you do your best impersonation of Ken Block and are surprisingly comfortable on long journeys.

Finding a comfortable seating position is easy to do as the steering wheel can be adjusted for both height and reach. To keep the car's weight down, seat and steering adjustments are made manually. Being the most hard-core Focus ever, the RS features plenty of faux carbon fibre and metal trim pieces, as well as a lovely dimpled leather steering wheel and metal pedals with rubber studs.

The rest of the interior, especially the dashboard, tries its best to mimic the Volkswagen Golf, but with only middling results. While the dashboard top is as soft and pliable as the Golf's, the switches don't have the same precision feel and the presentation lacks the VW's professionalism.

Features

Whilst most of the car's headline features are geared towards performance, the RS doesn't make you feel like you're driving a track-only special. There's a dual-zone climate control air-con, puddle lights under the wing mirrors, keyless entry and start, and electric mirrors and windows.

The car's standard xenon headlights can switch themselves on automatically depending on light levels and ensure that the view forward at night is brightly lit, but unfortunately the lamp units don't swivel in unison with the steering wheel. The windscreen wipers are of the rain-sensing variety and, like the Jaguar XJ , the RS features demisting elements built into the front windscreen. In some situations these heating coils are invisible, but in others, such as night-time, lights and reflections have odd, hazy and distracting halos around them.

Although there's no reversing camera, there are sensors placed on the rear bumper, so reverse parking isn't too much of a hassle. The rear-vision mirror dims itself if the lights coming from behind are causing too much glare. Key features missing on the RS include cruise control, sat nav and a reversing camera.

In the middle of the instrument panel is a monochromatic trip computer that also allows you to tweak various car settings. This is complemented by an RS-exclusive set of gauges in the middle of the dashboard with readouts for oil pressure and temperature, as well as turbo boost.

Entertainment

Generally, when we review cars, the sound system is high on our list of items to play with. In the RS, however, it fell well down the pecking order. Indeed, between our addiction to the engine's mechanical symphony and the tyre roar generated on anything other than ultra-smooth bitumen, the sound system felt almost superfluous.

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Where to Buy

Ford Focus RS (Mark II)

Part Number: CNETFord Focus RS (Mark II)

Typical Price: $59,990.00

See manufacturer website for availability.