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Ford has added glamour and sporting prowess to the top of its Focus line-up with the launch of the RS performance hatchback.
Four-wheel drive and a 350hp 2.3-litre turbocharged Ecoboost engine, along with launch control and drift mode systems, illustrate that this isn't a run-of-the-mill Focus, although that's already obvious from the extrovert styling. The firm says the spoilers, intakes and aerodynamic elements are functional, rather than for show, but it certainly makes for a stand-out Focus.
That doesn't quite continue inside, where, apart from the optional race-style sports seats and some trimming, it's not that big a step from a top-end regular diesel version of the UK's big fleet seller.
Start the engine and an enticing burble and pop accompany any blip of the throttle. It's surprisingly lacking in explosive drama when nailed, but there's very composed acceleration as the world around you speeds up. Likewise, the ride is surprisingly civilised. The Focus is no slouch, as a 4.7-second 0-62mph time illustrates, but the clever four-wheel drive system plants the power down with minimal fuss.
At under £30,000 it's also well-priced, with only Seat's 290hp Leon Cupra being cheaper, while the Honda Civic Type-R, VW Golf R, Audi S3 and BMW M135i are all over £1000 more expensive.
The Focus boasts RVs unlike any volume model too at 38.9% - more than the Civic, Golf and Leon but behind the premium brands. CO2 is reasonable for a 4WD 350hp model, but again the Leon's 156g/km and 42.2mpg outpoint the Ford, and the Audi S3 and Golf R are also at least 10g/km more efficient.
But the Focus RS is better than its rivals at switching from calm cruiser to track beast at the touch of a button, with four modes taking the car from 'normal' and 'sport' for road use to 'track' and 'drift' for more enthusiastic moments. It's a lot of cash to buy and run, but Ford fans will be pleased to hear the firm has pulled out another performance icon, and that it makes a bit of a fleet argument too.
Ford Focus RS
Model price range £15,995-£30,000
Residual value 38.9%
Service, maintenance and repair £4001
Vehicle Excise Duty £720
National Insurance £4173
Cost per mile 73.7p
Fuel consumption 36.7mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 175g/km (32%)
BIK 20/40% per month £158/£316
Boot space (min/max) 260/1045 litres
Engine size/power 2261cc/350h
Civilised when required, and lunatic on demand
Driving experience from the performance-honed Ford RS lineage, though it's also surprisingly civilised when required.