2016 Ford Focus RS Review

Quite possibly the world's greatest hot hatch


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Unbelievably strong acceleration, superb grip and body control, direct and precise steering, sporty looking without overdoing it, magnificent tires and brakes, feature-strong interior, practical cargo space.
Negatives: Seats are too hard and narrow, some cheap interior plastics, jarring ride, boy-racer paint job.
Bottom Line: The RS is a total riot to drive. You want to thrash it so hard, you'll get arrested. If Porsche made an all-wheel-drive hatchback, it would drive like this. It can spit out more than most drivers can handle, and it'll manage winter with the right tires thanks to the great all-wheel drive system. Just be willing to put up with the brutal seats that provide ample bolstering but little in the way of comfort and adjustability.
We didn't get the speedy RS until 2016, long after the rest of the world got to experience one of the best hot hatches ever made. But the wait might just have been more than worth it since it comes to us with more power than the Subaru WRX STI and the Volkswagen Golf R. The 350 horses drive all four wheels, and the Focus RS even comes with a riotous drift mode. We were able to get our hands on a tester, but our fleet service only had the 2016 model. The 2017 model is exactly the same since Ford hasn't added to it or taken away anything. We thrashed around in the little beast for a full week. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

9.8

 

This is what the RS was created for. It's a true rally car for the street, and nothing feels compromised. That being said, it's harsh, nuts, and ferocious all the time.

Ride Quality: With the 19" wheels, taut suspension, and the super sticky Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires, the ride is super-firm. You feel every bump and gap. But it's worth it for the performance payoff.

Acceleration: Frighteningly quick. The turbos spool up quickly, and the throttle response has nary a hint of lag. Then, all hell lets loose. It feels faster than the documented 4.5-second 0-60 time.

Braking: The RS can stop on a dime thanks to the 8-piston front Brembos. Pedal feel is great, and braking never feels abrupt.

Steering: Some of the best steering we've experienced. Immediate turn-in, great feedback and perfect effort.

Handling: Negligible body roll. This thing corners hard and flat.

Technology

9.4

 

The RS's in-car tech is quite good, given that we'd expect all the car's money to get dumped into the motor, chassis, and suspension. But Ford didn't scrimp here, and we are the beneficiaries.

Infotainment System: Ford's excellent Sync 3 is available here, and it's truly one of the best, most responsive systems with a seriously vivid screen.

Controls: Controls are easy, and we like the simple physical audio and climate controls that don't distract from driving. The Sync 3's touchscreen controls are super-responsive.

Bluetooth Pairing: The pairing was quick, and we had no problems staying paired throughout our review.

Voice Call Quality: Clear call transmission and no hiccups of any kind on our phone calls. Almost everyone on the other end commented about the engine rasp. Cool.

Styling

9.5

 

Minus the searing blue paint on our tester, we love the looks of the RS. It's noticeable in a good way thanks to the dark wheels, roof spoiler and ground effects, but it never gets to the point of looking garish and overstyled.

Front: Ford kept things simple with a crisp and aggressive front end. The thick matte black bumper and black grille treatment are properly sinister.

Rear: We love the roof spoiler that's understated and racy. The big, round tailipipes and diffuser are perfect.

Profile: Our optional wheel and brake package give it more aggression, and the overall shape is one of the best in the segment.

Cabin: Ford likes dark interiors, and this one is no exception. Only the blue on the seats and stitching make the slightest pop. Overall, it's a bit busy, but not garish.

Comfort

6.4

 

The Focus RS isn't exactly a cosseting experience, but if it weren't for the seats, it could be great. Everything is well laid out, and attractive.

Front Seats: The Recaro sport seats are de riguer for a hot hatch of this class. The bolstering is excellent, but the hard cushioning and narrow width make them painful. They're bizarrely angled down at the back of the cushion, and you can't really change the angle.

Rear Seats: The back seat is very tight with very little legroom. Only kids will be comfortable back there.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): We wouldn't call the cabin noisy since everything feels solidly built. But the engine and exhaust can be heard at all times. It's actually a wonderful sound in our book.

Visibility: Outward visibility is very good, and you can point it where you want it. The C-pillars are a bit thick but don't present any issues.

Climate: Good climate system in the RS with ample heat and cold pumping out. The heated seats and steering wheel are a huge plus in the optional equipment.

Safety

7.5

 

Though the Focus doesn't nail crash testing by the IIHS, but it nabs the top spot from the NHTSA.

IIHS Rating: The Focus gets "acceptable" in the small front overlap test and "good" in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints & seats categories. The Focus has no crash avoidance tech.

NHTSA Rating: It gets the top score of 5 stars in overall crash testing.

Standard Tech: The RS comes standard with a backup camera and tire pressure monitor, in addition to front and side curtain airbags.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.5

 

We love the fact that the RS is a hatchback. There's practical space for groceries and luggage in the hatch section, and the seats folded flat provide space for larger gear.

Storage Space: There isn't a ton of cubby space up front, but you can manage small items with the bin in front of the shifter, the cupholders, and the armrest compartment.

Cargo Room: 23.8 with the seats in place and 44.8 with the second row folded flat. It's a good amount of space for the segment, and the load floor is flat.

Fuel Economy

6.3

 

We won't call the Focus miserly. Fuel numbers aren't very good, but that's largely because you just want to drive this thing hard all day.

Observed: 16.4 mpg

Distance Driven: 332 miles

Driving Factors: We kept it in sport mode 100% of the time and drove in a "spirited" fashion on local roads and highways.

Audio

8.4

 

Though we didn't listen to it much, the Sony audio system is very good in this car. The bass and clarity were excellent, and there was no distortion to speak of.



Final Thoughts

The RS easily qualifies as one of our favorite cars of the year. It's truly rewarding to drive, and it caters to enthusiasts in a huge way. If it weren't for the awful seats, we'd say this qualifies as one of the best cars in the world. For the price, the driving experience and performance are the best we've come across, regardless of segment. It's no daily driver, mind you, but it is practical in terms of space, all-wheel drive traction, and interior technology. You just have to put up with a harsh ride, boy-racer image, and the kind of noise that annoys the neighbors. We absolutely loved the RS, and can't wait for the next gen car.

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