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The Ford Focus RS is the Best Car You Probably Shouldn’t Buy

Part of loving cars, trucks, and motorcycles is leaving yourself vulnerable to heartbreak. Not every vehicle we love can always be the right fit. Some of us eagerly await some sport wagon to come from Europe that never does. Others of us fall for an old smoker that we know in heart of hearts will never be what we need, but we still believe we can fix it and drive it home to our parents. Lastly, and most commonly, a car grabs your heart that is fun and exciting on the weekends but can be reliable on the weekdays. But years down the road that little thing that didn’t bother us at first is now unbearable. I’m afraid that the Ford Focus RS may be one of these heartbreakers. 

Road and Track published a long-term review by Matt Farah of a personally owned 2016 Ford Focus RS. Much like the first time I drove a Focus RS, Farah was giddy with excitement to take delivery of his new car. 

The most exciting bits of a Ford Focus RS

The Ford Focus RS was such an exciting car when it came out because it gave any driver who ever fantasized about Rally driving a chance to own something that tapped into that dream finally. Not only did the Focus RS scratch the rally itch, but it also was a car that could be driven every day. It wasn’t a snarling beast that wasn’t fit for polite society. This is AWD manual hot hatch with a 2.3-liter inline-four making 350 hp. It even has “drift mode” for crying out loud. 

RELATED: What Even Is A ‘Hot Hatch’?

The Ford Focus RS has tight steering and nimble handling. Plenty of power is at the drive’s disposal and traction that instilled nearly unending confidence in its ability to rip any corner.

Even more than its performance, the thing looks incredible. There aren’t many cars that tick off “sporty,” “practical,” and “pretty.” The Focus RS seemed to have it all. 

The Ford Focus RS’ long, slow fall from grace

Upon delivery of the Ford Focus RS, Farah says that the seating position was off from the jump but was quickly overlooked due to the car’s sheer excitement. He goes on to say that the Nitrous Blue paint was the most the “single best paint color of any modern car.” I would have to agree. I am not a flashy-color car kind of guy, but I do love the Nitrous Blue. 

A Ford Focus RS, at Stratford Waterfront in London, displays its 'Buzz Moment' whereby some exterior lights illuminate in tune to the driver's emotions
Ford Focus RS | Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

The seating position on the way home from the dealership really bothered Farah. He describes it as “driving from a bar stool.” The driving position was high, and the angle was all wrong. But that aside, the car was strong and high-quality. 

And time grew long

Although the Focus RS is a larger car than its smaller counterpart, the Focus ST, the RS doesn’t seem to have much more rear space than the ST. That’s not really the biggest deal, but a more serious issue emerges. 

After a glowing and lengthy review of how great the motor is and the vast array of tuning options, Farah points out what might be the Focus RS’s biggest weakness; suspension. 

Ford built the RS with very, very stiff shocks. Unlike GM’s magnetic shocks that offer a wide range of dynamic settings, Ford’s shocks feel hard and way over sprung. Farah points out that these shocks are great on a perfectly smooth bit of road and allow for tons of smiles in “drift mode,” but the day-to-day reality of them is back-breaking abuse. 

But everything can be undone

Farah replaced the factory shocks and damper with KW Suspension and installed their DDC or Dynamic Damper Control adaptive coil-overs. He describes this upgrade as “transformative,” which he says he doesn’t use lightly.

Andreas BAKKERUD (NOR) in Ford Focus RS of Hoonigan Racing Division in action during the World RX of Portugal 2017
Ford Focus RS rally | Paulo Oliveira / DPI / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

That was not the only upgrades that his Ford Focus RS received. Mountune, who builds engines for the factory-supported Rally and Rallycross teams, installed what they now call their “B7” kit, consisting of an air intake, up-pipe, full aluminum intercooler, and a cat-back exhaust, plus their short shifter kit. After all these aftermarket bits, Farah reports nothing but a love for the car’s handling and overall performance. 

The last straw

In Farah’s own words, “It is the fastest, sharpest, most exciting hatchback on the market right now. It’s the only hot-hatch I ever found myself looking back over my shoulder as I walked away from it in a parking lot.” But after two years, he said that the driving position and seats were too much to bear. They not only were uncomfortable but made driving the RS simply too painful to drive. He finally sold the car he loved so much. 

The Ford Focus RS is just one of those cars that we love to love. It looks great, and it offers a peek into the alternate Finnish dirt racer we sometimes wished we were, and makes us feel like we could live it with every day and be practical. Who knows, maybe it’s worth it?