Ben Griffin drove the new Focus RS hyper-hatch around Silverstone and Ford was kind enough to capture a few laps on a 360-degree camera.
Two cars that should rock 2016 have arrived, one of which is the Ford Focus RS and the other is the BMW M2. Both cars have a lot of work to do when it comes to succeeding their predecessor and both have the potential to be exceptional.
I was invited to a Ford driving day where I got to pootle along A and B-roads on my way to Silverstone and the Focus RS was surprisingly comfortable to drive. I arrived with my spine intact, which was surprising given how much tinkering Ford Performance has done to the car to make it fast.
A group of us then got to spin around aimlessly on a circular drift pad, which looked impressive when the instructor did it but when it was my turn the Focus RS got fed up of my hooliganism and the drift mode stopped being, well, drifty. A doughnut mode, this most certainly isn’t.
Then we went out with an instructor who gave us a one lap demo of the track to minimise the chances of ploughing into a chicane at 100mph before I hopped into the driving seat, strapped myself in and tried not to end up facing upside down and on fire.
The sheer pace of the new Focus RS and its 350PS 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine makes it hard not to rev to the red line, and soon I was blasting in and out of corners with the sort of pace that would get me killed on public roads, but the all-wheel drive system reigned in my stupidity with ease.
Where most hot-hatches would understeer to the hills, the new Focus RS dives into a bend with almost unbelievable enthusiasm. The torque vectoring system, which can send 100 per cent of power to the outside wheels so it turns in more sharply, really does make a difference to the handling.
But if that sounds a bit boring, the Focus RS will oversteer like a beast with the aforementioned drift mode engaged, as the tail is happy to break away if you want it to. It is designed to compliment your ability, not completely take over, so it becomes increasingly rewarding once you get the hang of things.
Speed is gained as quickly as it is lost, with the brakes allowing me to scrub off considerable momentum before a chicane. Were it not for the motoring journalist ahead of us who knocked a road cone into my path, I felt like I could have taken it with another 10-15mph.
Of all the hot-hatches I’ve driven, the BMW M135i stands tallest in the fun department (rear-wheel drive is tough to beat) while the Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R feel like the most accomplished for blasting around a circuit.
But where the Civic Type R needs precision to really get the best from it, the Focus RS can be driven by an idiot and it would still make them look good (unless they hit a road cone). That’s not to say there won’t be lots of Focus RS cars written off while their drivers attempt to go sideways, of course.
I should absolutely love the new Focus RS as it’s fairly practical, looks the part and very, very fast but I felt like something was missing ─ I’m still waiting to be truly wowed. Maybe it was over-hyped, maybe I just need more time with it.
Either way, I doubt anyone will regret spending £30,000 on one as it’s about as hyper as hatchbacks get and more than lives up to its predecessors. Watch the 360-degree camera footage while you wait for our review.