A Used Ford Focus RS Is a Fire-Breathing All-Wheel Drive Hot Hatch Bargain
Today, we have the VW Golf R and the GR Corolla, but just a few years ago, all-wheel drive hot hatches had another model to contend with. Unfortunately, the Ford Focus RS ended production after 2017. However, the used market is full of used Focus RS models that are a bargain for the performance.
What makes this Ford hatchback special?
Even for the time, the Ford Focus RS was special in the world of hot hatches. At a time when everything else was a simplified 2.0-liter turbo, the Focus RS was punched out to 2.3 liters of turbocharged power. That extra displacement packed a punch, delivering 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.
At the time, it competed with the Honda Civic Type-R, the aforementioned Golf R, and the Subaru WRX. And it trounced them all. By the numbers:
|Ford Focus RS||Subaru WRX STI||Honda Civic Type R||Volkswagen Golf R|
|Engine||2.3-liter four-cyilnder turbo||2.5-liter flat-four turbo||2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo||2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo|
|Torque (lb. ft.)||350||290||295||280|
|0-60||4.5 seconds||5.6 seconds||5.0 seconds||5.9 seconds|
Sure, the Honda Civic Type-R bested both the Subaru and Volkswagen despite being only front-wheel drive is impressive. But it’s still a full half-second behind the Focus RS on the run to 60 mph.
How much should you pay for a used Focus RS in 2023?
The Focus RS may be a bargain compared to the new GR Corolla and Golf R, but it still isn’t cheap. Ford sold only a handful of these in their final years, so the used market is higher than one might expect.
The average price of this hot hatch stands at over $32,000, according to CarGurus. And while the price has dropped a bit over the past year, that’s still a lot for a five-year-old hot hatch. Adding to the difficulty is that most of the examples on sale are higher-mileage models.
Common problems with the Ford Focus RS
Unfortunately, early Ford Focus RS models were prone to head gasket failures due to a manufacturing error. Rather than using the correct gaskets, Ford installed the gaskets from the Mustang’s EcoBoost 2.3-liter engine instead. Because the cooling passages are different, coolant would get trapped and boil, damaging the head gasket. That problem was dealt with via a recall, and no further head gasket issues have been reported.
However, issues with the water pump are notable, though that is common for almost any modern turbocharged engine. Furthermore, the RS is prone to wearing out rear shocks, and the HVAC solenoid is a known failure point.
Drawbacks to Ford’s last hot hatch
As the performance figures indicate, the hottest Ford hatchback isn’t really about compromise. For some, that is its greatest strength. For others, it can be a bit much. Firstly, the Recaro seats are rigid and unforgiving. It gives the Focus RS a track-car feel over that of a hot hatch. Meanwhile, both the Civic Type R and VW Golf R are lauded for their driver comfort despite impressive performance figures
In addition, the pops and crackles of the Focus RS exhaust are fun when you’re on a cruise with your friends. But when you’re headed to work at 7 am, the sound is less engaging and more embarrassing.
Look, I’m anti-boring cars, sometimes to a fault. But there are moments where blending in is optimal, and the Focus RS flat-out refuses, for better or worse.
Is a used Ford Focus RS a good buy?
It’s uncomfortable, loud, expensive, and aggressive, so it’s safe to say that a used Ford Focus RS isn’t for everyone. But for those chasing a unique high-performance hot hatch, this little Ford is hard to ignore.