But if the current car impresses with its global remit to sell Ken Block enabled hot hatches to Americans, and its predecessor is honest to the more thuggish traditions of the breed, the first-generation Focus RS is my pick. Mainly I love the fact it’s the most understated to look at but, in fact, the most hardcore in terms of its engineering and breeding. While perhaps not as dominant as the Escorts of the 70s and early 80s, it was inspired by a bona fide WRC car – remember RS stands for Rallye Sport after all.
Colin McRae will always be associated with Subarus but he also rallied a Martini-liveried Focus WRC. OK, he crashed it quite a lot too, that mangled shell he somehow managed to keep rolling after two big crashes in Cyprus in 2002 always dragged out as a ‘McCrash’ compilation favourite. But both he and McRae senior were Ford men at heart, onboard in the McRae/Grist Focus the kind of mesmerising footage I can watch on endless repeat. If you ever wondered where the ‘if in doubt, flat out’ reputation came from, watch the video above. Utterly terrifying.
There was no homologation link between the RS road car and the WRC versions rallied by McRae, Sainz and others. But the emotional one is enough for me. Plus the fact it hails from a time when Ford’s performance division had a proper skunk works vibe. Cars like the Racing Puma and the original Focus RS felt less the carefully managed global product and more the creation of a bunch of talented engineers working some way under the corporate radar. And the Focus RS was an enthusiast’s car, built by enthusiasts with no regard for the bottom line. Which is why Ford allegedly made a loss on each of the 4,501 sold.