The GT may be the poster boy of modern Fords and the Mustang GT500 might be the most powerful, but you could argue that none have done more to impact the broader market than the Mk3 Focus RS. When the 350hp all-wheel drive hot hatch arrived in 2016 with some fandangled new thing called Drift Mode, traditionalists spat in disgust – but others (us included) revelled in the ability to mix all-wheel drive performance with rear-biased silliness. This was a time when all-wheel drive hatches were largely of the point and shoot variety, so to meet a car that asked to be rotated at every opportunity was a real breath of hooligan air.
Since the RS’s torque-juggling system – developed by British engineering firm GKN – we’ve been given performance BMWs and Mercs that boast drift modes of their own and S model Audis that rotate on the throttle. Whether those cars were in the pipeline before the RS arrived or not, the fact remains that it was the car which started the modern trend. And Drift Mode only forms one portion of what makes the RS such an exciting proposition; it also flaunts plenty of natural dynamism, along with serious punch from the intake noise-dominated 2.3-litre turbocharged four-pot up front.
Ok, so 350hp and 324lb ft of torque weren’t class leading numbers even back in 2016, but for a car that retailed for a fiver less than £30k, it felt like a performance bargain. The AMG A45, for example, had an extra 31hp but cost £10k more. And AMG’s old 45, as rapid as it was, had none of the adjustability offered by the latest car – the dynamic improvements of which we can probably trace back to the Drift Mode-wielding Mk3 RS – meaning those after excitement not restricted to straight roads would naturally be drawn to the Ford. Such was our hunger for the five-door super hatch in 2016 that Ford had to raise the UK’s annual allocation by 1,000 units.
The car has, of course, a number of drawbacks. First and foremost, the optional and excellent Recaro seats are mounted far too high. The 2.3-litre, as lovely as it is to operate at full pelt, is on the thirsty side, plus the car’s ride is firm – particularly so at low speeds. Then there’s the design, which is too lairy for some and not lairy enough for others. The RS is unapologetically brutish outside, although inside it’s a fairly bland mix of previous-gen Ford architecture and RS accents. But all is forgiven when it’s given a chance to prove its worth on a road, illustrating that the development effort and budget was focussed on the stuff underneath rather than the bits stuck on top.
Given all that, prices for used RSs have unsurprisingly remained strong, with substantial differences in mileage seemingly having miniscule impacts on the asking prices of used cars. With the Mk3 RS now more than three years old, some cars will no longer be covered by Ford’s original warranty, but the condition of the cars listed on PH’s classifieds do appear remarkably good. Barring a small handful of exceptions, it seems prices are still too high for a wave of modification to take hold of the Mk3 RS market just yet.
Take today’s Spotted, for example, an early Frozen White RS with a fair 16,000 miles on the clock – some of which we assume have been accumulated hammering around the stunning country roads of the Isle of Man – thatcar has received work from a recall, which we assume (but a buyer ought to double check) is related to the head gasket switch to stop engines from drinking coolant fluid. And with a large number of options fitted, it looks like a smart buy both in terms of usability and long-term value.
It’s certainly a lovely looking example of Ford’s significant Mk3 RS, one that’s clearly come from an owner caring enough to keep those wheels spotless and take some very nice sunrise pics in the process of posting this ad. The first question to come up if we were viewing would therefore be: “Why the sale?”
SPECIFICATION - FORD FOCUS RS
Engine: 2,261cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 324@2,000-4,500rpm (347lb ft with 'transient' overboost)
First registered: 2016
Recorded mileage: 16,000
Price new: £29,995
Yours for: £24,980
Click here for the full ad