Car reviews - Ford - Focus - RS Limited Edition
Rorty exhaust, real-world practicality and performance, sharp chassis and steering, eye-catching looks
Room for improvement
Added mechanical equipment barely noticeable on road, dated interior, harsh ride on 19-inch wheels
Ford sharpens Focus RS with Limited Edition, but are the extras worth the spend?
10 Aug 2018
AUSTRALIA is going through a bit of a hot hatch renaissance at the moment with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R back in local showrooms, as well as the perennial Volkswagen Golf GTI and R pair.
Renault’s Megane RS is about to launch in new-generation form, while Hyundai has also lobbed its first foray into the hotly-contested market with its i30 N.
Meanwhile, Ford continues with its Focus ST and flagship RS – both based on the soon-to-be-replaced third-generation small car.
When it launched in July, 2016, the Focus RS was one of the sharpest and most rewarding steers available for circa-$50,000, but the Limited Edition version tested here adds more kit for more money.
Does Ford do enough in the Focus RS Limited Edition to keep it competitive against the crowded hot hatch market?
Price and equipment
Ford’s Focus RS Limited Edition is priced at $56,990 before on-road costs, $6000 pricier than the standard RS it replaces, but the good news is there are no options to drive up the price further.
As standard, the flagship Focus is equipped with an 8.0-inch Sync3 infotainment touchscreen display with satellite navigation and smartphone support, digital radio, nine-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, dashboard-mounted sports gauges, keyless entry and push-button start and bi-Xenon headlights.
The Limited Edition version gains a Quaife helical limited-slip differential (LSD), 19-inch wheels shod in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, tinted rear windows and autonomous emergency braking (AEB), as well as a black-coloured rear spoiler, mirror caps and roof.
The Limited Edition denotes only 500 examples to be built for Australia, all of which are finished in Ford Performance’s signature Nitrous Blue, while the hardcore Recaro bucket seats also feature inside with the same coloured accents.
Although gear is sparse compared with some competitors, the Focus RS Limited Edition takes more of a functional philosophy when it comes to equipment rather than a flashy one, as everything you could want in a car is included without any standout or headline features.
Measuring 4390mm long, 1823mm wide, 1480mm high with a 2648mm wheelbase and based on the third-generation Focus small car, the RS Limited Edition boasts plenty of head-, shoulder- and legroom in all seats.
Tall adults may struggle in the middle rear seat, but the benefits of utilising a practical hatchback as a basis is clearly evident.
However, of note is the Focus RS’ compromised boot space, which drops from 316 litres down to 260L due to the more complex all-wheel drive running gear.
As previously mentioned, the Focus RS Limited Edition gains Recaro bucket seats – which were an option on the standard car – and while the new pews look the business, they are a little too flat and firm for our liking, an uncomfortable trait that is especially evident on longer drives.
Swathed in Alcantara and well bolstered in the hip and shoulder regions, the seats unfortunately offer little support for the lower back and lack comprehensive adjustability.
The usual sliding and tilting functions are in place, but there is no way to alter any other aspects, and with a single piece back, there is no headrest movement.
Some will say the seats are positioned a little too high, and while that’s true, we don’t mind the higher-set pews as they offer great all-round visibility.
The remainder of the touch points are fantastic in Ford’s hottest hatch as well, with a thin leather steering wheel, intuitive and large infotainment touchscreen and notchy gear shifter.
Door trims and the dashboard can feel a little too economy hatchback rather than near-$60,000 sportcar, but most of the cost will be due to the cracker powertrain, which brings us to our next point…
Engine and transmission
The centrepiece of the Focus RS Limited Edition package, Ford’s go-fast hatchback is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder petrol engine – the same unit found under the bonnet of the entry-level Mustang, albeit with a less aggressive tune.
Punching out 257kW of power at 6000rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1600-5000rpm, the Focus RS Limited Edition channels its outputs through a six-speed manual gearbox down to all four wheels.
Ford says the hot hatch is good for a zero to 100km/h time of just 4.7 seconds with launch control activated, and while we never had proper timing gear to prove this claim, the Focus RS Limited Edition certainly feels pretty brisk off the line.
Performance is simply intoxicating – stamp the right foot, let the revs build before upshifting close to redline and you are greeted by a thunderclap from the dual-exit exhaust that will surely bring a smile to your face.
Different driving modes – Normal, Sport, Track and Drift – are also on offer that will progressively sharpen throttle and steering response, as well as exhaust note and stability control.
With maximum torque available so low down, the Focus RS Limited Edition is quick to find its feet – even at slow speeds – and is a delight to drive around town.
In some cars, the powertrain can often feel mismatched, ill-suited for the vehicle with too much – or too little – power.
But Ford serves up a potent and punchy powertrain in the Focus RS Limited Edition that is perfectly suited to its personality.
The six-speed manual gearbox is also an absolute gem with short and notchy throws as satisfying to stir as the best shifters in the business from the likes of the Mazda MX-5, Honda Civic Type R and Toyota 86.
Official fuel consumption figures are pegged at 8.1 litres per 100km, but our week with the car through mainly city driving yielded 10.8L/100km.
Ride and handling
Underpinned by the same RevoKnuckle-equipped MacPherson strut set-up with Tenneco adaptive dampers and rear torque vectoring system as the standard Focus RS, the Limited Edition retains the same sharp handling characteristics as before.
Ford’s torque-vectoring system works wonders, finding grip mid-corner regardless of road conditions to slingshot the Focus RS Limited Edition out of the bends.
The grip afforded is immense, you would have to be borderline suicidal to get the Focus RS Limited Edition unstuck.
With the Quaife LSD installed on the front axle and stickier tyres, we imagine these extra features would also aid in cornering, but without driving versions of the Focus RS with and without the upgrades back-to-back, we cannot make a definitive judgment.
Out on public roads, the standard Focus RS feels just as grippy and confident as the Limited Edition, but pushing the latter closer to its limits on a racetrack would yield a different opinion.
We appreciate that the suspension settings can be made firmer, independent of the drive mode selector, which means you can enjoy the sharper throttle response and the raucous exhaust note without rattling your bones over speed bumps.
However, what does let the ride quality down overall is the 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres measuring 235/35, which can transmit small bumps and road imperfections to occupants inside.
The less comfortable front pews don’t help matters here either.
Good news then that the steering is absolutely perfect. Tug the wheel and the whole car just pivots around the driver – there is nothing quite like it in the hot hatch class at the moment.
Brake performance is also a stand out thanks to four piston front callipers and two piston rears that bite on large discs to scrub speed with surety.
Safety and servicing
Although the Ford Focus RS Limited Edition has yet to be crash tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), the donor small car received a full five-star rating when examined in 2014.
Standard safety gear includes airbags, antilock brakes, brake emergency display, tyre pressure monitoring, brake assist, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, but active safety equipment such as autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist are absent.
The Focus RS Limited Edition benefits from Ford’s range-wide five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, while service intervals are every 15,000km or 12 months – whichever comes first.
The Focus RS was considered the pinnacle of hot hatch performance when it was launched in 2016, and while the Limited Edition doesn’t add anything substantial (except maybe to the price), Ford’s hot hatch contender still remains a compelling offering.
Fans of track days will probably get the most from the LSD and tyre upgrades, but those using the Focus RS Limited Edition around town might be turned off by the cheapy interior and harsh ride quality.
Either way though, the Focus RS is still one of the best bang for your buck performance cars on the market, serving up supercar-scaring performance and dynamics at a fraction of the price.
It’s sad to see this generation of Focus RS make way for what is rumoured to be an electrified version in the future, but with such a solid foundation to work from, we’re hoping Ford’s small hot hatch will just go from strength to strength.
Honda Civic Type R from $50,990 before on-roads
Identical pricing to the Focus RS, but the Honda develops only 228kW/400NM from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine driven through the front wheels. Can be prone to understeer on the ragged edge, but easier to live with around town.
Volkswagen Golf R from $53,490 before on-roads
Turbocharged petrol engine and all-wheel drive match the Focus RS Limited Edition, but its smaller 2.0-litre unit produces a slightly less 213kW/380Nm. A more premium interior and easier-to-live-with ride compared to Ford’s hot hatch.
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