WELCOME TO THE PARTY: Ford's Focus RS has finally landed in SA and will be taking the fight to Merc's A45 AMG and Audi's RS3. Only 300 will be available locally. Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Pretoria - It’s been hailed as one of the most anticipated local hot hatch launches of 2016 - the Ford Focus RS enters SA to battle rivals such as BMW M2 and Golf GTI Clubsport.
Make no mistake, it's not another fast-&-furious boy-racer’s car, but offers true performance and value in the segment it competes in.
The last time Ford launched a Focus RS in South Africa was in 2009 and back then the second-generation RS was a handful - loud, brass and nearly uncontrollable due to its 224kW/440Nm 2.5-litre five-pot engine channelling power to the front wheels.
The result was a car that transformed into the 'Hulk' at every opportunity and had the ability to hurt your wrists if you're inexperienced. It was a truly scary car!
Turning the page
Seven years later and the third-generation Focus RS has made its way into SA. Initial impressions are that Ford has really made an effort in reining-in it's beastly RS for a more driver-friendly ride. It doesn't mean that it has lost its edge or trademark characteristics; it just means the car is easier to drive and easier to handle along a mountain pass or thrash around a track.
And it’s easier to unlock the RS’ potential and have the car match your driving abilities.
The vehicle went from a ruthless brute (2009) to a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: a great entertainer on the big screen with a no-nonsense wrestling pedigree.
WATCH: Ken Block drives the outrageous Ford Focus RS RX
Some 'Tokyo drift'
Anyone who’s followed the third-gen RS’s development from birth will know that the car comes with a drift feature. Truth be told, this has got to be one of the coolest aspects of the car! Simply toggle the settings to Drift mode and hold tight. The Focus RS is more than willing to step its tail out and, with the right amount of steering and throttle inputs, will go sideways with little hassle.
But, it has to be said that if you get your drift wrong, the car will bite and leave you stranded with an embarrassment I wish upon no one. Still, not even the mighty Mercedes A45 AMG or formidable Audi RS3 can get their tails out like that. And worse, they don’t feature a ‘Fun’ button, aka Drift mode.
It is strongly advisable that Drift mode only be activated or accessed in closed and controlled environments.
Speed is possible
It's easy to get the RS to pick up speed and then maintaining it. It rushes to 100km/h (4.7 seconds) and will call it a day at a claimed 266km/h. These figures are topped by both the RS3 and A45, but it's the manner in which the Focus goes about its business. In-gear acceleration happens with very little effort and a ‘RS’ light indicates when to flick the six-speed manual ‘box to the next gear.
The car literally goes and goes and gives very little indication of having had enough. There is a sensation to be had when driving this car and it involves its driver with great success.
Currently the Mustang 5.0 GT is Ford’s most powerful production car locally, but it lags behind the RS when it comes to putting its power down. The Fiesta ST and Focus ST are both very handy on track and ideal for daily commuting, but neither car possess the RS’s combination of speed, power and driveability.
Only 300 Focus RS's will be coming to SA, which will make getting hold of one rather difficult. For a car that costs just under R700 000, you get proper performance and bags full of exclusivity. It is not the most user-friendly super hatch around, nor is it the fastest, but it delivers all the thrills and spills we’ve come to expect from extra hot hatches in a package that makes dummies look like they know what they’re doing.
The car should not be underestimated. Just because it looks like the 'Rock' doesn’t mean it’s the people’s champ. The 'Hulk' still lurks in the shadows…