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

  • johnyt993 03 Feb 2012

    always loved these!
    quality tarmac rally car look to them... very tempted!

  • ALY77 03 Feb 2012

    I have had mine four years and its a great all round hot hatch. Sold my Escort Cosworth for it and with a sensible head on, it was a good move.

    Avoid the Red Stuff pads mentioned though, they are truely woeful on these cars for some reason, dangerously so when cold. Performance Friction or DS2500 are a far better option for a mild upgrade and on the OE brembo discs.

  • rtz62 03 Feb 2012

    Quick, but so many reports of different handling characteristics from car to car.
    And an interior that looks like a teenager had a Halfrauds voucher for Xmas!
    Interior - yuk! Exterior - nice. Drivetrain - very nice!

  • loudlashadjuster 03 Feb 2012

    ALY77 said:
    Avoid the Red Stuff pads mentioned though, they are truely woeful.
    There, I fixed it for you.


    Always liked these RSs, quite subtle compared to today's VXRs, RS etc.

  • JonRB 03 Feb 2012

    I saw a 1st generation Focus RS recently and couldn't get over how small, smooth, effete and (dare I say it) boring it looked compared to the bombastic 2nd generation one.

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