What's the used Ford Focus RS hatchback like?
You only have to take one look at the Ford Focus RS to guess the sort of car it might be. Being based initially on the entirely conventional but quite handsome bodyshell of the regular, third-generation 2011-2018 Ford Focus hatchback might be a good start, but thereafter it’s fairly obviously been subjected to a course of steroid treatment that has morphed it into something more than just a mere hot hatch.
It’s a mega hatch, if anything, and if you think its garish shell gives the game away, with its spoilers and wing and wide arches, wait until you hear what’s underneath it. For starters, there’s a highly tuned 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces a whopping 345bhp, a responsive and soulful-sounding brute of a thing that does exactly what it’s meant to do without ever seeming to go any great extremes in one particular area. Its on-paper performance speaks for itself. Thus equipped the Focus RS can sprint from 0 to 62mph in under 5 seconds, and that’s supercar-style performance.
Part of the reason for this rapid take-off is the car’s standard four-wheel-drive system, as well as a host of technological armoury including a launch control system that helps the driver achieve such impressive figures. He or she will need a little skill, though, because the Focus RS is quite deliberately available only with a six-speed manual gearbox. With a whiff of the old-fashioned fast Ford about it, the Focus RS sticks with tradition rather than leaping forward through technology, but most buyers don’t seem to mind.
It feels slightly old-fashioned in the weight of its steering, too, which is heavier than the present norm, but it has to be admitted not so heavy as to be truly off-putting. Perhaps the weight doesn’t matter that much, as at just two turns lock-to-lock the steering is also remarkably quick. In tight urban car parks, you’ll be aware of the limited steering lock that is a flipside of this, but out on the open roads it’s a positive delight: responsive, eager and reasonably accurate.
Its ride is more of a matter for some concern, though, as you’ll feel every little lump and bump that passes beneath the car, and it can be troubled by mid-corner bumps rather too easily. It’s not a quiet car, either, with plenty of engine, wind and road noise entering the interior at quite modest speeds.
Inside is a dolled-up version of the standard Focus’s interior. There are Recaro sports-style bucket seats, which hold you in place nicely but are definitely not for the wide of girth. The driving position is also set rather high, although generally it’s easy to get comfortable and visibility is reasonable. The dashboard and surrounding areas are fairly standard Focus, too, and there’s an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment set-up that has rather too many difficult to hit icons. Interior quality is nothing special, with quite a few hard plastics on display.
There is plenty of space up front, though, provided you can insinuate your hips into the slim seats, and a reasonable amount in the rear for two. Boot space is adequate, too, with room for a family’s luggage, although one or two rivals have much bigger offerings.
The Focus RS was taken off the market at the end of 2018 when this generation of Ford Focus was replaced by the all-new fourth-generation version.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Ford Focus RS hatchback?
This is of course a car that will have been used enthusiastically - and why not? - so it’s worth carrying out checks to the bodywork first. Look at the front and rear extremities of the car, checking for scuffs and dents, and keep an eye on the undersides too, for any signs of potential off-road excursions. Check that the bodywork looks straight, and that the doors and tailgate open without stress, and the windscreen for any cracks. Also check the alloy wheels for any signs of kerb damage, as these will be expensive to set right.
Inside, it’s worth checking the condition and movement of those expensive Recaro seats, as well as doing cursory checks to make sure the sat-nav and heating items all work as they should.
Reported problems with the RS are few, and on the whole owners seem happy with their cars. However, there have been several incidents relating to a leaking head gasket on the engine. A plume of white smoke on start up is the telltale sign, and a few owners have even needed new engines. It seems the wrong head gasket could have been used initially in the factory, leading to overheating issues, although most cars seem to run okay, especially when warm. It’s worth checking with the previous owner or garage if the car you’re looking at has had any issues here, or checking Ford’s own technical website (etis.ford.com). Ford has so far not issued any recalls over this problem.
The Focus RS didn’t feature on its own in or most recent reliability survey, but the Focus came fifth in the family car class if fitted with a diesel engine - a good result - and 11th if fitted with a petrol engine. Ford finished in 18th place out of 31 manufacturers.
What are the most common problems with a used Ford Focus RS hatchback?
Is a used Ford Focus RS hatchback reliable?
What used Ford Focus RS hatchback will I get for my budget?
You’re going to need about £22,000 to get your backside into one of the Focus’s Recaro seats, this to buy you an early 2016 car with an average mileage for the year and a full service history, but bought privately or from a trader. Spend between £24,000 and £26,000 to get the same car from an independent dealer or a 2017 model, and around £27,000 to £29,000 for a 2018 or one of the last 2019 cars from a franchised dealer.
How much does it cost to run a Ford Focus RS hatchback?
On paper, the claimed average fuel consumption for the RS is 36.7mpg, corresponding to 175g/km of CO2 emissions. Cars registered before the tax changes of April 2017 came into force will pay a hefty annual tax, while those registered after that date will pay the current flat rate charge of £150 a year. This is provided the car doesn’t cost more than £40,000 new, which is only a possibility if your RS has been loaded with £8000 or more or options. If it did cost more than that, you’ll pay a luxury car surcharge tax annually too. This is currently £325 a year.
The RS sits in insurance group 40, so expect large premiums.
Servicing costs are fairly reasonable for a car of this performance, and the RS can benefit from a plan that covers the car from new for three years with one upfront payment. Cars bought used can also benefit from similar plans that allow you to budget and spread the cost of future services.
Which used Ford Focus RS hatchback should I buy?
There is only the one version of the Focus RS. It’s a well equipped car as standard although there were a few options that a new owner could specify, although this shouldn’t bump up the price of a used one on the forecourt.
Our favourite Ford Focus RS: 2.3 Ecoboost RS
What alternatives should I consider to a used Ford Focus RS hatchback?
The Honda Civic Type R has been around through several generations. The latest is a humdinger: it handles brilliantly, yet is surprisingly comfortable and easy to live with. It’s practical, beautifully engineered and a joy to drive. Previous models are fast and fun and a bit more raw, but definitely worth seeking out.
The BMW M140i was originally the M135i, and in either guise this modest-looking hot hatch is astoundingly fast, with a great-sounding engine and eager handling. In five-door form it’s reasonably practical, too, but it’s the pure rear-wheel drive handling experience that dominates here.