Specialised engines, drivelines, suspension and steering set-ups, and certain structural reinforcements, are the standard fare of the modern hot hatch, and the new Focus RS has them all.

But it also has something that sets it apart even from rivals costing tens of thousands of pounds more: a redesigned shell.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Suspension is all-independent, with the rear subframe adapted from that supplied for Volvo's compact models

Knowing the RS would be the first fast Focus with all-wheel drive, Ford found room in the budget not only to adopt and modify the rear subframe it once supplied to Volvo for its all-wheel-drive C30s and S40s, but also to engineer in extra torsional body stiffness.

So the steel running between the rear suspension turrets has been thickened, and if you could lift the boot carpet you’d see the ‘lion’s feet’ reinforcements that have been added; you won’t find those on any other model on this platform.

The other key component in the RS’s make-up is the active rear differential, which isn’t a differential at all but a gearset with a pair of independently controlled clutches deployed at key points.

So while the front-mounted power take-off unit can send up to 70 percent of torque to the rear at any time, the rear drive module can then send up to 100 percent of that torque to either of the rear wheels – or, in effect, ‘lock up’ 50/50. The car’s gearing is also set to slightly overspeed the rear wheels relative to the fronts at all times.

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Suspension springs are 33 percent firmer than those of a Focus ST up front and 38 percent at the rear. Tenneco adaptive dampers are standard, allowing Ford to increase the damper rate by 40 percent in Sport and Track modes. Power steering is electromechanical and at a fixed rate with two turns lock to lock.

A hot hatch’s engine is typically where this section would start, but it says much about the depth of Ford’s investment in the RS’s hardware that a turbocharged 2.3-litre engine developed from that of the Mustang, redeveloped by Cosworth and making 345bhp and 325lb ft (the latter lifted by an overboost function) doesn’t get a mention until the end.

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