MK1 Ford Focus RS - finally I get it


In case you hadn't realised, Ford of Britain is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. On the recent Focus launch in Scotland, Ford brought us along a selection of landmark cars for us to sample.

One of these cars was the original Focus RS, a car I must admit fell off my radar when it was launched back in 2002. This was probably down to the fact that I didn't have the chance to drive it at launch, so I was keen to give it a go and find out what the hype is all about.

I'm not sure this car is representative of the cars that are available to buy, as its chunky bodykit and Imperial Blue paintwork are both unmarked and it has just over 10,000 miles on the clock.

I must admit that whilst the first-generation Focus changed the way that we look at small family cars, I've never been much of a fan of the shape. So it's amazing what a lick of blue paint, the blistered wheel arches, the showy 18-inch alloys and a couple of RS badges can do. With its hunkered-down looks this has to be the best-looking Focus this side of the latest RS500.

Inside, it's less classy than you might expect even considering this car is nine years old. The alloy-look gearknob and handbrake cover, plus the turbo boost gauge and the push button start look good, but I'm not so sure about the blue highlights on the excellent Sparco seats and steering wheel.

So interior and exterior aside, does the MK1 Focus live up to the hype when you drive it? In a word - yes. The blown 2.0-litre Duratec engine feels quite docile in town, but hit the open road and the way this car accelerates surely could scare much more modern rivals. The acceleration is accompanied by the addictive sound of the turbo induction.

It's not just the Focus's acceleration that's impressive, it's the grip, handling composure and accuracy of this car – especially when you consider all 212bhp is going through the front wheels. Yes, it does suffer from heavy torque steer in corners under hard acceleration, but if you treat it with respect it doesn't scare.

So does the MK1 Focus deserve its RS badge? After this quick drive I reckon it does and with prices starting from £7,000 it's got to be worth a look as a future classic. Just avoid dodgy, modified examples or cars that have lived a hard life.