Ford Focus RS Long Term Test
"Is this your car?" said the two policemen that had come up behind me as I filled the boot one night. I nervously remembered the motoring journalist who found himself pinned to the tarmac after unwisely lunging for the glovebox of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow to show his papers (the police thought he was going for a gun, which may say something about the image of Silver Shadows). However, I need not have worried – the officers wanted to check out the RS and their uniforms meant they could be a little more detailed in the examination than the punter who quizzes you at the petrol station while you fill up with Super Unleaded . Within two minutes, it progressed from "Can we sit in it?" to "Can you give us a ride?" Taking them down the road for a quick demo, they were in heaven. "This would be the perfect car for chases around council estates", which is a road test criterion that had not occurred to me. The highlight of the drive was when I wanted to make an illegal U-Turn – "That is OK, sir – you are on official police business."
Some magazines have said the Renault Megane R26R out-corners the RS, which is true but irrelevant. The R26R has only two seats, a barely usable boot and semi slick racing tyres – as an everyday proposition it is barely more practical than a Lotus Elise. No doubt the RS could have been made to handle even more sharply, but that would have missed the point. The RS is the first really hardcore performance hatchback which can be used as an everyday car, without the driver ever wishing for something a bit more forgiving at the end of a hard day.
So are there any disadvantages to the RS? Only two minor niggles. The big wheels and new front suspension mean the turning circle is huge – you need a very wide road indeed to perform a U-turn. The other one is the fuel range, or to be more accurate, the fuel computer. At first we did not realize the RS actually has a larger 62 litre tank because, after about 260 miles with 15 litres still available, the dashboard flashes up a warning that you only have 50 miles to empty. That implies the RS does just 15 mpg, whereas the true figure is 25 mpg overall – pretty good for 300 bhp.
While the idea of a Ford with massive wings and spoilers might sound a bit too Essex, it has to be said that the reactions from passers-by were universally positive, whether they were in uniform or hoodies (and not even a pink Ferrari would get as much attention as a white RS). People who knew cars loved it and people who didn't just saw another Focus, which is fine. There was none of the resentment a big SUV or fancy two-seater can engender. Badge snobs might look down on the blue oval on the bonnet, but that is their loss. Just one word of warning by anyone feeling tempted, though. 75% of the anticipated two-year production run has been sold within a couple of months of the car going on sale. The whole UK allocation is likely to be sold out by early 2010, so prospective buyers need to be quick.
Make/model: Ford Focus RS
Specification: 2.5 litre turbo five cylinder, 300 bhp, 6 speed manual gearbox
Mileage this month: 1527
Fuel Consumption: 24.7
We like: 300 bhp, superb handling, and astonishing refinement
We don't like: Huge turning circle, very pessimistic fuel computer