Ford Focus RS (Mk1): Spotted

The next Ford Focus RS is due in 2020 with 400hp from a mild hybrid powertrain, making it a Blue Oval rival for ballistic hatches like the next AMG A45. It'll no doubt be downright rapid, and with an even more intelligent all-wheel drive system, ferociously agile too. But it'll also be a rather large departure from the car that originally established the breed - the Mk1 Focus RS.

Launched in 2002, the first Rallye Sport Focus was a taut and pretty thing, particularly when compared to the cars that followed it. It had neat proportions that were set off by the addition of thicker bumpers, gorgeous 18-inch five-spoke OZ alloy wheels and blistered arches that stretched over a 65mm wider track. It looked purposeful without the lairiness that is now associated with the badge.

It was also quick. Back in the days when Craig David topped the music charts, 215hp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine was very healthy. The RS produced its maximum output at 5,500rpm, while torque peaked at 229lb ft 2,000 revs earlier, so it was a fairly elastic motor. Flat out, it could accelerate the car from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds.

However, putting all the power down through the front wheels did occasionally prove troublesome, with torque steer a common and sometimes defining trait. Although oddly - as some owners will swear blind - this issue didn't plague every car. Course, Ford tried its darndest to ensure the following RS eliminated this with its RevoKnuckle front suspension to lower the scrub radius.

At the very least the manufacturer delivered the first-gen RS with a very sweet chassis. The Mk1 Focus's bespoke setup meant it was firm enough to feel agile and responsive, but never overly harsh or crashy. Coupled with a hydraulic steering system, it created an extremely satisfying front-driver - one that offered lots of grip while making good on the Blue Oval's 'feel the difference' guarantee.

Today, partly thanks to the enduring popularity of fast Ford, the RS remains a desirable purchase. As with just about everything else in that category, prices have crept up in recent years, but, as today's Spotted shows, it's still possible to get a good one for Β£15,000. Although this 2003 car, has been heavily tuned for enhanced performance. It's claimed to output 360hp.

That might be a red flag for some, but any concerns about the work not being done properly ought to be quelled by the knowledge that this particular car is a former concourse winner. That being said, there's no mention of any enhanced differential, which might make putting all that power down, erm, interesting.

Assuming there is a proper LSD in place, however, you could be looking at a RS with the elfin looks of the Mk1 - and performance to seriously worry the forthcoming generation of Ford's endlessly brilliant hot hatch.

1,997cc, four-cylinder,
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 215@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 229@ 3,500rpm
MPG: 27.9
CO2: 237
First registered: 2003
Recorded mileage: 40,473
Price new: Β£19,995
Yours for: Β£15,000

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Comments (107) Join the discussion on the forum

  • lee_erm 16 Dec 2018

    Chris Harris was a fan of these:

    The ST170 is a bargain in my opinion. OK it doesn't have the most engaging engine but it does still has one of the best FWD chassis ever. One can be had for a 15th of the cost of the RS too.

    I've always wanted to buy an ST and plop a circa 200bhp Duratec in with ITBs. It could be done for well under 5k.

  • Thornaby 16 Dec 2018

    £15k. No way.

  • SidewaysSi 16 Dec 2018

    What does this have over a Megane? Can't think of anything.

    Unless you like blue seats and intend to join the Focus RS owners club. Which I am sure is full of normal people.

  • s m 16 Dec 2018

    “Assuming there is a proper LSD in place” ???

    You mean a plate diff presumably as they had a Quaife torque apportioning diff as standard?

  • Car-Matt 16 Dec 2018

    Since when did. Mk1 FRS have a revoknuckle?!?

    Some drivel in these articles

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