Ah, the “hot hatch.”
It has a history that dates to the early 1970s, according to “Top Gear.” But for most auto enthusiasts, the original smoldering hatchback was the VW GTI. It showed up in the US during the Reagan administration and knocked everybody’s Chuck Taylors off, with a whopping 90 horsepower.
The era of the hot hatch had begun. Dozens of these peppy little savages, in many cases raced in competition as rally cars, hit the scene.
Ford, with its European presence, was quick to join the crowd and by the 1990s, the automaker had created one of the best-known examples, a Group A rally racer that was homologated as the Escort RS Cosworth. It could do 0-60 mph in about 6 seconds, with its 2.0-liter turbo engine, and it topped out at 150 mph.
The spiritual descendant of that car is the all-new Focus RS, the return of a rallying hot-hatch design that was first used in the early 2000s. The Focus RS is a product of the newly created Ford Performance division, so it can get into a bit of rallycross racing. But it has also become a sold-out road car for the 2017 model year — and it’s easily among the best-received vehicles Ford has produced in the past ten years.
I got a crack at it at the Monticello Motor Club’s track in upstate New York — after being blasted around the curves by Ben Collins, a former Stig of “Top Gear” fame. I fell deeply and swiftly in love.
But that was taking the $36,000 bundle o’ fun around the track. How would the Focus RS do on the road, during a week of driving it in New York City and in the New Jersey suburbs?
Let’s find out:
The Focus RS and I first got acquainted at the Monticello Motor Club’s track
That’s Ben Collins, who was once The Stig on “Top Gear.” He ripped around the course like a real pro.
Then I turned some laps. I was wrung out with joy at the end of the day.