PH Buying Guide: Ford Focus RS

The Ford Focus RS was an unusual car when it appeared in October 2002. It was the first fast Ford to wear the exalted RS badge in five years, following the end of production of the Escort RS2000. The Focus stuck with front-wheel drive, which was at odds with Ford's marketing campaign aligning the RS closely to the all-wheel drive Focus WRC rally car. Perhaps even stranger than this, the Focus RS's main rivals, the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Evo both used sophisticated four-wheel drive systems to deploy their power.

Making the plot all the more odd is the amount of money Ford ploughed into the Focus RS, only to ignore four-wheel drive. Around 70 per cent of the RS is unique to this 4,501-run model, which accounts for the strong rumour that Ford lost £4,000 on every one it sold. If true, the £19,995 list price when new seems an even better bargain.

Every inch the true RS
Every inch the true RS
For the money, Ford supplied a 212hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and five-speed manual gearbox, which saw the Focus RS from 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds and on to 144mph. Not especially swift by today's standard, but still on the pace and it was among the quickest hatches of its day.

Also included was a Quaife Torque Biasing Differential that has been the subject of much debate ever since. Some argue it ruins the driving experience, while others revel in the hardcore nature this differential imparts to the RS. Either way, the Quaife differential meant the Focus turned into and held its cornering line like no other front-drive car before, and few since.

With 4,501 built, the Focus RS halted production on 11 November 2003 just 13 months after its introduction and its status as a contemporary classic Ford was assured. Now, prices have dropped to £7,000 for a straight high miler, while the bulk of the 2,147 right-hand drive cars supplied to the UK sit in the £8,000 to £11,000 bracket. The very best Mk1 Focus RS examples still fetch up to £16,000, which is where the most recent five-cylinder Focus RS is just dropping down to. Big difference here is the Mk1 Focus RS is now appreciating in value as more buyers seek it out.

Buying Guide Contents
Rolling chassis
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Comments (63) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Face for Radio 10 Jul 2012

    AER said:
    preparing the RS for the Langstreckenpokal series:

    I suspect this is the same car I got chance to hammer round track a few years ago, ~2005. Was a wonderful car to drive. When it was in race trim, did it get big yellow bulges stuck to the front bumper?

  • bigfish786 10 Jul 2012

    i looked long and hard for months and months at the mkI focus rs, the prices around 11k would have got you a very nice example. the only thing that put me off was the age, spending over 10 grand on an almost 10 year old car (at the time) seemed like madness.
    after much deliberation, and possibly the wrong decision, i opted to go for the most modern car i could get for the money and ended up with a 2 year old mazda 3 mps.
    i've had it for 2 years now, and still love the thing, they are really good fun cars to drive.
    but its probably lost about 2 to 3 grand in value in that time, i would imagine the frs would pretty much have stayed the same.
    i think if i could afford to have one as a second car i would jump at the chance.

  • ge0rge 29 Feb 2012

    wab172uk said:
    I had a brand new MK1 Focus RS for 2 years. No. 4496.

    Once had a spirited drive on a back road with a Evo 6. OK, driver skill can make a difference, but no way could he pull a lead on me. Where he was oversteering, the Focus was nailed to the road.

    Edited by wab172uk on Monday 6th February 12:49
    Never known an evo to oversteer without a fair bit of provocation..

  • neiljohnson 07 Feb 2012

    RedStrat said:
    Is it true that all the panelwork for the Mk1 RS is now NLA? If so, crunch it even slightly and you'd be in a mess.
    Still available but very expensive front wings are circa £1000 yikes there are quite a few people looking into alternatives such as carbon fibre etc but also as the cars get older & higher mileage the cheaper ones are being cannibalised cry as far as other parts go there was a time when the water pumps were not available which caused an issue but resourceful people found a company that could repair them & then pressured ford into having some more made which sorted the problem smile
    Afaik there are no parts you can't get hold of at this time smile

  • RedStrat 07 Feb 2012

    Is it true that all the panelwork for the Mk1 RS is now NLA? If so, crunch it even slightly and you'd be in a mess.

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