It’s all a matter of taste with the Mk1 Focus RS, I suppose. Straight from the Quaife Torque Biasing Differential to the splashes of unapologetic blue throughout the interior – there’s not much on this car that isn’t controversial.
When motoring hacks first got their hands on the first RS Ford in five years about a decade ago, this controversiality was made apparent in the varying opinions from road testers. Some professed the Quaife diff as taking away from the experience of driving the car, causing the steering wheel to writhe about too much as it attempts to fix a loss in traction, while others enjoyed its involvement.
But enough talking about the disputable aspects of the car, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. A 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-pot dishing out 212bhp at 5,500rpm and 229 lb-ft at 3,500rpm was the beating heart for 4,501 RSs, ‘was’ being the key word when power outputs for Mk1 Focus RSs are on the tongue; the strength of that debatable differential meant that tuning the engine up towards the region of 400bhp wasn’t exactly an improbability.
Couple that power with the lightweight build (1250 kg, to be exact) and the absence of a weighty four-wheel drive system and what you had was, in 2002, a very, very quick hot hatch. How quick, you ask? Well, how’s 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph sound to you?
It wasn’t all straight-line punch and twisty-bit hunch with the RS, however. Upon getting past the occasional moment of torque steer and beginning to settle in with the car’s behaviour, one can begin to appreciate the steering quality and the car’s damping. Sounds like a B-road wet dream to me as well.
There are many reasons why you’d be doing yourself a favour in purchasing a Mk1 RS. Proper riots on the road, brilliant performance for the money and they’ve already begun gaining status as modern classics, and at £5,995 for this model the value can truly only go one way. Browsing through Mk1 RS ‘focused’ forums (all pun intended) reveals that, while former opinions of the car were mixed to say the least, many now look upon it with pupils in the shape of hearts, especially when considering the substantially less brash looks and 200+ kg lighter weight in comparison to the Mk2 RS.
And if we’re talking modern classics you can assume that it really doesn’t get any better than this. Honestly, this Focus RS example is in pristine condition. Looking at the pictures almost makes you feel as if you are back in 2002, admiring a showroom car. Only the showroom isn’t as much a room as it is a grassy field in Avon.
No matter though, a Mk1 Focus RS is an enticing proposition at the moment, regardless of any controversies or distastefulness that may surround it. I’ll have mine in blue please, thank you very much.