Overall: Ford’s updated mainstream compact is now available in a completely nuts, rally-ready, all-wheel-drive RS super hatch; fuel-sipping three-cylinder engine, still-smoking-hot ST performance and electric powertrains continue.
Drivetrain: 160-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder connected to a five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automated manual; 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo with a six-speed manual; ST still uses big turbo and extra gear to handle 252 horses; optional all-electric drivetrain with 143-horsepower motor; Mustang-sourced turbo-four gives amazing 350 horses for the AWD in the new RS.
For decades, Ford has offered various versions of its small cars bearing the RS — or Rally Sport — badge, but unfortunately, those Escorts, Fiestas and Sierras never made it to North America. For 2016, that’s finally changing. The latest generation Focus RS follows much of the same recipe, including a wild body kit, stiff suspension, giant wheels and super-sticky tires. Also logical is the Mustang-sourced 2.3-liter turbocharged “EcoBoost” four-cylinder that produces an incredible 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The RS only comes with a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. That means a zero-to-60-mph time of about 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph. The AWD system includes four driving modes to suit location and conditions, including Sport, Track and a special Drift mode that allows for serious sideways driving. Its price of $36,600 is nearly double the price of the base cars, but should be worth a look as it promises to be as much or more fun than a V8-powered Mustang. The remaining Focus range continues unchanged, including the 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbocharged “EcoBoost” engine with 123 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Now playing the middle ground, the ST performance model is aimed at buyers who otherwise might be in the mood for a Volkswagen GTI. The 2.0-liter “EcoBoost” turbocharged four-cylinder produces 252 horsepower and even features “overboost” with a giant slug of mid-range torque added. The ST is still front-wheel-drive, but uses a stiffer suspension, bigger and stickier tires and a variety of electronic systems to make it a true back-road hero. The Focus Electric continues with its 143-horsepower motor and lithium-ion battery pack that can deliver a claimed range of 76 miles. By Ford’s clock, recharging takes three to four hours from a 240-volt home station. Like other electric cars, the Focus isn’t inexpensive with an MSRP of $39,200 before tax rebates and other incentives, but there aren’t many downsides if you can afford it. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 160 horsepower and is connected to a five-speed manual transmission. Optional is a six-speed automated manual gearbox with paddle shifters.