by Mihnea Radu, 18th February 2016
Can you afford to buy an expensive hot hatchback with a 300+ horsepower engine? You lucky devil, you. 2016 is a great year to do that because Ford has launched its red hot chilli pepper, the Focus RS, that makes the German rivals seem dull and unimaginative.
Today's 3-way shootout is between it and two worthy German contenders, the RS3 from Audi and the Golf R. All three cars have 300 horsepower or more and feature all-wheel-drive, but that's where the similarities end.
While the old Focus RS used a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder turbo engine, just like the RS3, the newer model has a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder shared with the Mustang EcoBoost. It's got more power and sends it to all four wheels. Nothing spectacular so far, as both the RS3 and Golf R have AWD, but Ford engineers designed "fun" into the drivetrain.
A dedicated drift mode lets you slide the tail out like an amateur Ken Block. That, the big wheels, blue paint and the bangs made by exhaust turn the Focus RS into every 15-year old's dream. Us adults may still find something enjoyable about the German cars, though.
For example, the Golf R is the best all-rounder in the segment. It's comfortable as an everyday ride, can consume as little as 8.5 liters (27.7 mpg) around town thanks to its drive modes and has a decent interior. While its AWD system isn't designed for drifting, a little bit of lift-off oversteer can occasionally happen. In many ways, it's better than the RS3, as it has short gears with the standard manual and a more balanced chassis.
As for the Audi, it's the sledgehammer of the group. Equipped with a special 7-speed "DSG" gearbox, it can launch to 100 km/h (62 mph) faster than any hatchback (slightly better than A45 in tests). The 2.5-liter TFSI makes a great sound and could be considered exotic. Still, only people with deep pockets and even deeper affection for quattro will pay a small fortune instead of getting the cheaper Focus. To conclude, we believe Ford's drift model will force everybody to re-design the way their AWD systems work.
Ford Focus RS Triumphs Over Audi RS3 and Golf R Because It's the Most Fun Hatch