Nowhere to hide

The Ford Focus RS is proof positive that even in this economic rationalist world, the crazy and madcap can not only come to fruition, but challenge established notions.

There's no hiding the RS's performance focus (pardon the pun), especially in our car's lime green war paint.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
1
of 45

Three doors down

The RS is only available as a three-door hatchback. In fact, in Australia, it's the only way you can enjoy the LV Focus with just three doors.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
2
of 45

Winging it

The large black rear wing is standard. It doesn't inhibit rearward vision, but its effect on the car's dynamics can only be felt if you take the RS to a track.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
3
of 45

History

The RS badge has a proud history of being used on high performance European Fords, including various Sierras, Escorts and Fiestas, as well as the company's rally cars.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
4
of 45

Henry's believe it or not

The 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine is originally a Volvo unit. It's also used in the sporty XR5, although none of the other applications have 224kW of power and 440Nm of torque on hand.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
5
of 45

Cool it

A large radiator hides behind the honeycomb lower grille.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
6
of 45

Mechanical music

These upturned exhaust pipes emit a wonderful rumbling, crackling soundtrack. And if you lift off the gas abruptly there's even the hint of backfiring.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
7
of 45

Vents

The turbocharged engine needs quite a bit of cooling.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
8
of 45

Steer it away

Despite the fact that its natural competitors, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru Impreza WRX STI, have four-wheel drive systems, the RS sends all its (not inconsiderable) power and torque to the front wheels. This would normally be a recipe for disaster, with large servings of torque steer and wasteful wheel spin.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
9
of 45

Front on

To counteract its natural tendencies, Ford fitted a Quaife automatic torque sensing limited slip differential that smoothly and progressively shifts power and torque to the wheel with the most grip. They also fitted a RevoKnuckle to the MacPherson strut front suspension. All up, torque steer is reduced to a light tug under severe circumstances.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
10
of 45

Leyland brothers' world

The RS's front-wheel drive trickery means that it also works well on unsealed roads. Though, ultimately, not as well as its four-wheel competition.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
11
of 45

Go, go, stop

The clutch isn't terribly communicative, the pick-up point is quite high and there's no foot rest. The positioning of the brake and gas pedals doesn't lend the RS to casual heel-toe work.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
12
of 45

Six speeds forward

Proper performance cars should be had with a manual transmission. Indeed, the RS doesn't even give you the option of an automatic transmission. The six-speed gearbox is precise, but the throws between gears could be shorter.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
13
of 45

Not just any Focus

Nowadays, no high performance car is complete with tonnes of extra badging.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
14
of 45

Too slow

Despite an asking price a meal away from AU$60K, all 315 RS models imported into Australia are spoken for.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
15
of 45

Look ma, no cap

The fuel filler is cap-less, so just insert the petrol nozzle and away you go! Just make sure you fill the car with a minimum of 95RON unleaded.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
16
of 45

Low rider

The RS rides on 15-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
17
of 45

Open sesame!

There's no bonnet latch anywhere inside the cabin. Instead, there's this cumbersome set-up that involves removing the physical key from the car's plipper.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
18
of 45

Emotional

The black eyeliner underneath the xenon headlights serves no functional purpose. The xenon headlights, however, are brilliant at night.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
19
of 45

Light up the darkness

Fog lights (front and rear) and dusk-sensing headlights are standard.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
20
of 45

Venty

These gilles are entirely ceremonial.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
21
of 45

Flattery

The interior does its best to mimic the class-leading Volkswagen Golf, but comes up short.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
22
of 45

Dopler shift

Blue stitching is the order of the day for the interior's leather pieces. Makes a rather nice change from the red that's common to most sports cars.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
23
of 45

Boosterism

Let's say that it's impossible to safely drive pedal-to-the-metal and check out the boost gauge at the same time.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
24
of 45

The need for speed (markings)

Most cars bear speedometer markings that its engine and tyres could never honestly use. The RS, as one might expect, is different. Ford rates the pocket rocket's top speed at 262km/h.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
25
of 45

Heat me up, buttercup

The front windscreen features built-in defrosting elements. As we've experienced in the Jaguar XJ, these aren't completely invisible to the driver. This is especially true at night, where every light source is shrouded in a fuzzy halo.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
26
of 45

The lightness of being

Carbon fibre inlays try their hardest to liven up the cabin.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
27
of 45

Power!

No, this button doesn't give you any more power. Not even a dollop of extra torque. Rather, it's the car's start button. Depress the clutch, press it and you're just about set for good times.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
28
of 45

Air time

A two-zone climate control air-conditioning system is standard.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
29
of 45

Analog radio only

Despite supporting digital radio, the Sony head unit isn't compatible with the standard used in Australia, DAB+.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
30
of 45

Wired for sound

The eight-speaker audio system struggles to drown out the engine and tyre noise. And, frankly, the engine sounds so nice, we're almost happy to go without.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
31
of 45

More music

Auxiliary and USB ports are standard, and the centre console bin even features a handy iPod/iPhone holder. Keep in mind that you'll need a special combined auxiliary/USB cable to directly access an Apple-branded device.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
32
of 45

Long block of non-stop rock

In lieu of steering wheel audio controls, there's this rather ungainly and complicated control wand. For us, using the audio head unit's controls proved to be easier.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
33
of 45

Trippy

The trip computer screen in between the tacho and speedo can display the external temperature, trip info (naturally) and the time. It's accessed via controls on the indicator wand and can also be used to configure various car settings, including the amount of steering wheel power assistance.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
34
of 45

Black light

The RS's wing mirrors are equipped with black casings, indicators, puddle lights and an electric folding mechanism.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
35
of 45

Peace of mind

Stability control provides an extra layer of safety, but even with it off, this front-wheel drive monster isn't prone to torque steer, even on wet or poor quality roads.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
36
of 45

What's that you say?

Ford voice recognition system sorely needs a display showing available commands. It also isn't very good at figuring out what you just said, that's partially down to the software, but also the amount of tyre and engine noise that permeates the cabin.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
37
of 45

False alarm

Should you desire it, the alarm's interior sensors can be turned off.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
38
of 45

Recaro sports buckets

The racing-style bucket seats grip as tightly as a leech to your skin. They're also surprisingly comfortable on long journeys.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
39
of 45

Baby, one more time

The Recaro seats are great for this type of car, but do be careful when you sit in them. The bolstering is naturally high and very, very solid. If you're not careful you may not have the option of having kids.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
40
of 45

Toughen up

The Recaro sports buckets feature hard plastic backs. Ingress and egress to/from the rear is naturally compromised by the three-door hatchback body style.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
41
of 45

Going down

The rear seats mightn't be as deeply dished as the front's, but their heavy sculpting means that this is as flat as they lie. Homemakers beware.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
42
of 45

Out back

The view rearwards isn't too bad. Seating in the back is limited to two people, with leg and head room compromised also.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
43
of 45

Just boot it

Boot space is decent, if you're curious.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
44
of 45

Pump up the jam

As there's no spare wheel, the included tyre sealant, pump and car jack will be your only friends if you encounter a flat.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
45
of 45
Up Next

See how Bugatti built its final Veyron, 'La Finale' (pictures)