28th July 2022

Celebrating 20 years since the return of the RS

Six years after the legendary Escort RS Cosworth was put out to grass, Ford resurrected the fabled ‘Rallye Sport’ badge with the 2002 launch of the Focus RS.

Granted, the pumped-up Focus was devoid of its spiritual predecessor’s all-wheel drive and was a little less powerful, but there was no doubting it justified the shouty ‘RS is back’ marketing slogan.

Underneath its Imperial Blue bonnet there was a heavily reworked version of the 1,998cc Zetec engine (although it was badged ‘Duratec’), which pushed out 212 bhp and propelled the Focus RS from 0-60 mph in only 6.4 seconds. Responsible for much of the extra grunt was a water-cooled Garrett GT2560LS turbocharger, while the likes of forged pistons and conrods, a compression ratio of 8:1 and of an air-to-water intercooler helped keep it intact and warranty claims to a minimum.

To enable the competitive £19,995 price tag, the feisty Focus was only front-wheel-drive. While it was a tad unruly in transferring its ample power to the road, it did have a Quaife differential to try and stop it from torque-steering its way into a hedge, or worse, when the throttle was floored.

Of course, in true RS fashion the 144 mph-capable Focus looked the part, too. As well as the deep blue paint, it featured flared arches, subtle spoilers and whopping 8x18 inch OZ alloys. Inside, it wasn’t quite as restrained, with distinctive two-tone Sparco buckets, carbon fibre details, a striking steering wheel and, to every wannabe racer’s delight, a push button start.

Unsurprisingly, it was a sales smash, with initial production selling out in a flash and a six-month waiting list soon ensuing.

Fast forward 20 years and the original Focus RS is still highly desirable. Its milestone anniversary has only heightened interest and while many are modified, it’s the original cars that are making the numbers and in biggest demand. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the market for one, checking for rust and a decent history are essentials, while be aware that many of the bespoke parts are also obsolete.

Find a good one though, and you’ll have a fast, practical, fully-fledged RS that is now a classic in every sense.

Let us know if you own or have any memories of the original Focus RS in the comments below.