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2016 Ford Focus RS vs 2009 Focus RS: Battle of the fast Fords

Half a decade has passed since the last Focus RS rolled onto the scene. In that time we have grown older and wrinklier but our love for fast Fords still burns brightly inside.

The new car is the third iteration of the Focus RS and the 30th Ford to sport the RS badge, so it’s kind of a big deal. But will the new car live up to expectations, or will we be left feeling bitter about the modern incarnation’s evolution? Let’s take a look to see how the new RS might compare to its forefather. 

Design

Standard evolutionary changes from old Focus to new Focus notwithstanding, there are clear differences between the new Focus RS and the old. The 2016 model has a more complex and ultimately more aggressive front end, complete with a cleary visible radiator, as you’d find on the older car.

However Ford has toned down the aggressiveness of the RS-specific parts elsewhere. The wheel arches on the new car are less flared, for starters, while the bonnet features ridges instead of cooling vents.  

The new car seems to have smaller, less sporty side skirts, and the vehicle will only be sold as a five-door, rather than three-door hatchback. These tweaks might cause RS purists to complain Ford has taken too sensible a turn, though everybody can appreciate the aggressive rear diffuser, twin exhausts and enormous rear wing. 

Performance & handling

The old Focus RS had a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that produced 300bhp, 320Nm of torque, could hit 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds and would top out at 163mph. Five years ago that was plenty, but times have changed and there are a growing number of hot hatches that eclipse its performance figures. 

The new Focus RS will use a smaller, more economical 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, sourced from the new Ford Mustang. In the Mustang, the engine was tuned to produce 306bhp, giving the car a 0-62mph sprint time of 5.4 seconds. In the Focus RS, the engine has been tuned to produce 315hp which, combined with the hatchback’s lower kerb weight, should facilitate a 0-62mph time closer to five seconds dead.

More important, perhaps, is the fact the new Focus RS is rear-wheel-drive. While the previous Focus RS cars ran a front-wheel-drive transmission layout, the latest model will send drive to all four wheels. 70 per cent of torque can be sent to the back wheels, leaving scope to throw the tail end out, perform powerslides or donuts. It should, therefore, be a shedload more fun to drive than the old RS.

Whether it’s more enjoyable a drive than its modern 4WD rivals, such as the Subaru WRX, Golf R, A 45 AMG and Mitsubishi Evo, we’ll have to wait and see, but its case should be helped by the addition of Torque Vectoring, which sends more power to the outside rear wheel to help the car turn in. 

All things considered, the new Focus RS should blitz its grandfather where performance is concerned. Whether it’s as fun to drive is another issue — that’s one area in which the old RS. In theory. 

Economy & environment

The second-generation Focus RS has an official fuel economy figure of 30mpg. It’s achievable in the real world too – if you try hard enough. One driver managed to complete the annual 360-mile MPG Marathon with nine gallons of fuel, scoring it a fuel economy figure of 30.1mpg. In reality anyone who owned one would see hefty fuel bills on a regular basis as it’s not a car you drive slowly.

Ford has yet to confirm the new Focus RS’ economy figures, but we know the 2.3-litre engine in the heavier Mustang returns the equivalent of 30mpg in the UK (25mpg in US figures) so the – presumably lighter – Focus RS should be even less thirsty. 

Verdict

There are a lot of very obvious knowledge gaps we are hoping Ford will soon fill, such as kerb weight, pricing and efficiency, but we have a sneaky suspicion the new Ford Focus will knock its predecessor for six, and that’s no mean feat. 

It may be a little more reserved, slightly more practical and lack the overt menace of the 2nd-generation Focus RS, but an increase in power, 4WD layout and better technology means this new model stands a strong chance of leaving its forefather trailing in its dust.

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