2017 Ford Focus RS Review: The 350-hp Compact Hatchback

Is the 2017 Ford Focus RS a true game changer? This 345-hp compact, four-door hatchback can go from track star to practical transporter

Pros

  • Exhilarating performance
  • Outstanding all-weather traction
  • Sports car handling with seating for five

Cons

  • Premium price
  • Interior quality does not reflect the price

With the introduction of the Focus RS, the Ford Motor Company has brought a game changer to the compact performance category. This potent package packs plenty of punch, and delivers a driving experience that can only be matched by much more exclusive (read: expensive) automobiles.

Also See: The All-New 315-HP 2016 Ford Focus RS Makes Debut [w/Video]

2017 ford focus rs review

Under the hood: Performance + Handling

Turbocharged, 345-hp engine

The front-engine, compact, four-door hatchback is powered by a high-spirited turbocharged four-cylinder engine of 2.3-litres in capacity, which produces 345- horsepower, 325 lb.-ft. of torque, and smiles for miles.  The all-wheel-drive power train helps keep this rolling dynamo planted to the road surface while you cycle through the gears of its silky-smooth, and very robust, 6-speed manual transmission. No automatic gearbox is available, which will go a long way to cementing this car’s status as future performance icon right out of the gate.

2017 ford focus rs review

0-100km in 4.7-seconds

Acceleration is brisk and an exhilarating affair, especially when launch control is activated. In the hands of an enthusiastic driver, the RS can hustle to 100 km/h from a standstill in a respectable 4.7 seconds.  Driving with a heavy foot tends to spank your wallet at the pumps, so Ford’s engineers have equipped the RS’s EcoBoost engine with Auto Start/Stop technology to reduce emissions and save a little fuel at lights.    

Also Checkout: 2012 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback Review

4 drive modes

The Focus RS is a driver’s car, so it has been outfitted with four distinct driving modes – Normal, Sport, Track, and Drift – to allow the operator to set the car up to match the his or her sporting aspirations as well as road conditions.  Parameters such as throttle response, steering, brake feel, suspension damping, and power delivery will adapt to preset programs to help the car perform at optimal levels.  Further adjustments can be made in short order to both the suspension settings and the traction control system at the touch of a button. 

Handling

Handling is communicative and predictable, and the car has been painstakingly engineered to deliver outstanding structural stiffness.  A well-sorted chassis, quick ratio steering,  and adjustable suspension help deliver one of the most visceral driving experiences available at a seemingly bargain price. Add to this technical voodoo in the form of brake-assisted torque vectoring, and the RS carves through twists and turns with unmatched precision.

2017 ford focus rs review

Styling

The Focus RS features distinctive, but quite understated, styling- which is a good thing given its performance capabilities.  The absence of exaggerated and over-sized flares and wings will help you fly somewhat under the radar in this German-born road hooligan, however, the subtle spoilers, vents and body enhancements that are present are all fully functional and aid in improving performance.

The Nitrous Blue paint on our test vehicle is a $995 option, but it has far more visual impact than any of the other three colours available at the moment, which are the more staid shades of white, black or gray. The blue almost appears to be a matte finish on overcast days, but when the sun shines it comes alive with flecks of gold sparkle.   

Cabin Impressions

In the cabin you will find RECARO designed, heavily bolstered, sport seats that provide exceptional support whether tossing the car around a track, accelerating like a rocket, or exercising the very confident Brembo brakes.  I am happy to report that these leather trimmed, heated seats are also very comfortable, as I took this car on a long distance trip to wine country, and was rested and relaxed upon arrival.

2017 ford focus rs review

The interior is based on that of lesser Focus models, but the layout and functionality is very good for a car in this category. All the essential gauges and switchgear fall readily to both hand and eye, and it is easy for the driver to get comfortable in short order as both the seat and steering wheel seem infinitely adjustable (albeit manually).  There is a secondary pod of gauges situated above the centre stack on the dashboard that will allow you to keep tabs on turbo boost pressure, oil pressure, and coolant temperature.

Interior Tech

Other niceties include a power moonroof, high-definition 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment suite, dual-zone climate control, and a premium Sony audio system with 10 speakers. Distinctive 19-inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped with Michelin’s ultra-performance Pilot Sport Cup2 tires, heated mirrors, fog lights, perimeter alarm, engine block heater, and a car cover are also standard on the RS.

Takeaway

The Ford Focus RS is a really special automobile as it offers its owner two distinct driving personas.  The RS is perfectly happy to tool around town providing practical transportation on a daily basis, but it has been so well engineered and equipped that it is just as content to make you look like a hero at the track. In fact, in the latter case, the RS will readily allow you to fight way outside your weight class. It’s that good. 

Learn more – 2017 Ford Focus RS

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2017 Ford Focus RS Technical Specifications

Type of vehicle: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, compact four-door hatchback

Price (MSRP):  $48,218

Engine: 2.3-litre, turbocharged, EcoBoost four-cylinder engine

Horsepower:  350 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque (lb.-ft.):  350 

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS

Fuel Economy (L / 100km):  City- 12.2L; Hwy- 9.4L

2017 Ford Focus RS Gallery:

Russell Purcell is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. His passion for automobiles was sparked at the tender age of six, when a family friend gave the wide-eyed first grader a ride to school in a track prepared Porsche 911 RSR. He continues to fan the flames by building an impressive library of automotive related books as well as a vast collection of interesting automobilia and motoring artefacts. Russell is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and is active on Twitter as RoadTestRuss.