2017 Ford Focus RS
2017 Ford Focus RS

Test Drive: 2017 Ford Focus RS

Mummy, I really like this car. This car is fun!”

And just like that, with a huge grin on his face and excitement in his voice, my 5-year-old summed up the 2017 Ford Focus RS to perfection. Boom. Review written. Wait, does that mean he’s already stolen my job…

In the interest of preserving my career, I suppose I’ll elaborate a little on the above profound statement from my wise-beyond-his-years offspring.

Yet, Owen’s right: The Ford Focus RS really is fun. Boat loads of fun, with a hint of rebelliousness and a whole lotta hooliganism thrown in for good measure. We had such a fun week with the big Blue Oval’s little blue hot hatch, no matter the weather, no matter the roads. And that’s what really makes the Focus RS a great little car, the all-around fun factor for everyday life or the track.

Ford did a bang-up job designing this thing. I was already a big fan of the Focus ST and its more aggressive front end and racy rear, but for the RS, Ford kicked it up a notch. If any of you were wondering what colour my particular tester was draped in, it’s referred to as Nitrous Blue, and it is spectacular in my humble opinion. Beneath that gloriously bright paint colour, inside, the Focus RS offers up plenty of space and perhaps the most comfortable, and most form-fitting RECARO race seats I’ve ever been in. From the outside, the larger, gaping front grill with front diffuser and bright blue RS badging up front, coupled with the much larger (and double-decker) rear roof spoiler, all atop 19” blacked out rims with bright blue Brembo brakes peeking through give the little hatchback some serious attitude and muscle on the road. Large dual exhaust pipes integrated into a rear diffuser ensure there’s no denying this Ford means business.

And that business is unadulterated joy.

I enjoy driving almost every car, mainly because I enjoy driving period. It doesn’t always have to be the most powerful or best looking or have the best exhaust note or even a manual transmission, the simple act of driving along an open highway or winding country road is often enough to bring a smile to my face. However, behind the wheel of the 2017 Ford Focus RS I found an entirely new level of joy.

Let’s start with the fact that his little pocket rocket boasts 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, will go from 0-100km/hr in just 4.5 seconds, has AWD, and a nifty little button that will put the RS in drift mode. Yes, you read that correctly: drift mode. Let me explain, Ford engineers devised an AWD system that’s able to distribute power front to back, or side to side, depending on the vehicle’s trajectory and type of driving.  Add to all of this a 6-speed manual transmission that’s an absolute breeze to manipulate, and you’ve got a track-hungry grocery getter that’s as at home on quiet suburban streets as it is on hairpin turns.

2017 Ford Focus RS
2017 Ford Focus RS

Now, about those quiet suburban streets: The 2017 Ford Focus RS will disturb the peace ever so slightly, but in the very best way possible. The pop, bang, burble of the dual exhaust pipes is intoxicating and oh-so addictive. Owen coaxing me from the back seat to make it backfire over and over again was far less of a chore than it was an absolute delight for Mummy to give in every. single. time. Driving it under normal conditions and relatively slowly will keep the cacophony to a minimum, but get those revs up ever so slightly and the rally-car like exhaust expletives come rushing out.

I noticed that the Focus RS was happiest when pushed hard. It likes a little abuse, likes it a little rough, and that’s more than alright with me as I was happy to play the dominant partner and put the RS through its paces. Roundabouts became our favourite playground, and twisty country roads our Red Room. But the abuse went both ways in certain drive modes.

Pop the 2017 Ford Focus RS into Track mode and everything tightens up, and I mean everything, Normally, that would be a good thing, but the dampers get so unbelievably tight that the ride isn’t just stiff it’s downright comical. In Track mode, Owen and I were like constant bobble heads, and trust me if you have an ounce of extra skin or fat anywhere on your body it WILL jiggle. Track mode is not for the self-conscious. However, the 5-year-old in the back absolutely adored Track mode for its ridiculousness and demanded it often, much to mummy’s dismay.

Drift Mode, on the other hand, is enjoyable but it does not by any means make you the next Colin McRae. What it does do, however, is make the rear end a little looser and the front end a little tighter so you can play in corners a little more easily. Maintain a good, constant throttle input, and steer smoothly and you’ll like as pro as they come (especially around roundabouts … maybe … or so I’ve heard). Because the system can send power side to side as well front to rear, it’s really controlling the entire motion of the car during the slide, keeping you on track.

2017 Ford Focus RS
2017 Ford Focus RS

Is it worth all the hype? In my opinion: no. Drifting in an AWD vehicle in general isn’t particularly difficult if you practice enough, and you certainly don’t need a special button to pull it off. But it’s a nifty little “show off” feature to have in an already cool car.

Now, of course, it can’t all be roses and sunshine, there has to be some sort of downfall to the Focus RS, right? Well, for starters the turning radius is possibly one of the worst I’ve ever experienced in a car. Ever. Seriously. I had an F-150 the week after and it could turn a tighter circle than the RS. Why is this a problem? Well, in parking lots you look like you kind of don’t know how to drive, and pulling a legal U-turn on a two-way street is impossible to do in one pass, seriously.

Then there’s the price. The Ford Focus RS starts just over $48k. That’s a lot of coin. And it’s also up against some pretty stiff competition. I’m not sure I’d opt for an RS over a Golf R or an STI or even a MINI JCW for that matter. Sure, the MINI is the weakest of the bunch, but it’s still solid competition for the RS hatchback (and has a bit more character and personality if I’m honest…).

Owen really did sum up the 2017 Ford Focus RS perfectly in that one sentence: this is a fun car, a very fun car. If you own one, I can assure you that you will drive it with a huge grin on your face every single day. You’ll also risk tickets and license every time you take it out, so I’d highly recommend getting your yahoos out on a track every now and then, because this little beast is just as content there.

2017 Ford Focus RS
Price as tested (before taxes): $51,263.00
Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Engine/transmission: 2.3L EcoBoost / 6-speed manual
Power/torque: 350 horsepower / 350 lb-ft
Fuel economy rating: 10.9L/100km combined
Observed fuel economy: 11.2L/100km combined
Competitors: Volkswagen Golf R, Subaru STI, MINI Cooper S JCW, BMW M2

Related links:
Ford Canada

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