Ford Focus RS vs. Honda Civic Type R Fight Heats Up Hot Hatch Market

A battle royal is shaping up in the hot hatch segment as Ford’s newly arrived 2017 Focus RS takes on the 2017 Honda Civic Type R. Honda has long been a dominant player in the U.S. hot hatch market, while the Focus RS has been a very successful product overseas.

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Indiana, with its proximity to Michigan, has long been Ford country.  Ford launched the RS, its high-performance version of the Focus, in Europe in 2002 but did not introduce the Focus RS to the U.S. until 2016. Indiana Ford dealers were thrilled to have the option to include this performance sub-compact among their products, allowing them to offer a better, American alternative to competing performance sub-compacts made by overseas competitors.

The Match-Up

Hot hatch vehicles are high-performance versions of small hatchback vehicles. Automakers began selling souped-up versions of their economy hatchbacks in the 70s, and the hot hatch trend picked up steam in the 1980s and 90s. Hot hatches have been particularly popular in Britain, and the trend is picking up now in the U.S.

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Compared head to head with the Honda Civic Type R, the Ford Focus reveals its many advantages over its Japanese competitor. Consider these features when comparing the two vehicles:

Performance – The 2017 Ford Focus RS has the 2017 Honda Civic Type R beaten hands-down when it comes to pure power.

The Ford Focus RS is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that cranks out 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed manual, and the Focus RS is an all-wheel drive vehicle. The Focus RS accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and has a top speed of 165 mph. The vehicle is equipped with Michelin Pilot Super Sport wrap 19-inch wheels.

The power offered by the Focus RS far outstrips that provided by the Civic Type R. The Honda Civic Type R is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Type R has a six-speed manual transmission and is available in front wheel drive only. The Type R rolls on 20-inch aluminum wheels. The Type R accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. It does have a top speed of 170 mph, however.

ford focus rs on road

Curb Weight – The Civic Type R is the lighter of the two vehicles, coming in at 3,117 lbs. to the Ford Focus RS’s 3,434 lbs. The Focus RS’s heavier weight doesn’t leave it at a disadvantage against the Civic R thanks to its powerful engine, but drivers may be able to feel a difference in turns.

Exterior – The Ford Focus RS is a much more attractive vehicle than the Honda Civic Type R. The Type R has a very dated looking design, while the Focus RS has a sleek, modern look that sub-compact enthusiasts will love. The Focus RS offers some very attractive colors that customers like. Stealth Gray has been the most popular color in U.S. sales, with 32 percent of customers opting for this color. Nitrous Blue is the second-favorite, accounting for 30 percent of sales, followed by Shadow Black (20 percent) and Frozen White (18 percent).

Interior – The new Ford Focus RS makes the Honda Civic Type R look very plain by comparison. Although no one will ever confuse the Focus RS with a comfy luxury sedan, the vehicle does offer a comfortable, but exciting interior.

The Focus’s cabin is quite handsome, with many great features that give the vehicle the ambiance of a racer. The vehicle is equipped with comfortable but practical Recaro sports seats that make driving the RS a true pleasure. A center console instrument cluster is noted for its clean design and the many practical bits of information it displays, including oil pressure, oil temperature, and boost pressure.

ford rs interior

The RS is also no slouch on tech, offering the new SYNC3 infotainment system, which allows convenient control of audio, navigation, and climate control from an 8-inch touchscreen. The infotainment system even has a cool feature that allows owners to command the system to find nearby race tracks.

The Civic’s interior is rather Spartan by comparison. While Honda vehicles have a good reputation for being mechanically sound, they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing vehicles inside or out. The Honda Civic Type R is no exception. The seats are rather plain and become uncomfortable after a short period on the road. The instrument cluster seems a bit cluttered and unattractive. Cheap-looking hard plastics proliferate throughout the cabin.

Tech – Whereas the Ford Focus RS has a very smooth infotainment system, the Honda Civic Type R has come under some criticism for its system. Automotive journalists say that the vehicle’s touchscreen interface is awkward and confusing and is sluggish in responding to commands. The last word any performance vehicle owner wants to be associated with any aspect of their vehicle is “sluggish.”

Another key criticism of the Civic Type R’s tech features is that its forward collision system is hyper vigilant and sounds many false alarms. Electronic safety systems save lives and are an integral part of modern vehicles, but ones that don’t work properly undermine that progress by contributing to user distrust and disdain for these systems.

ford rs steering wheel

Pricing – The Civic may offer a cheaper option than the Ford Focus RS, but the emphasis is on the word “cheap.” Ford Focus RS buyers get much more value for their money and, in the world of performance subcompacts, that’s what really matters. The Ford Focus RS starts out at around $40,675, according to Edmunds. With incentives and some old-fashioned wheeling and dealing, consumers can probably knock that price down a little. Edmunds lists the Honda Civic Type R’s starting price at around $34,775.

Ford Focus RS History

The RS (RS being an abbreviation of Rally Sport) version of the Ford Focus replaced the Ford Escort as Ford’s performance subcompact in the early 2000s in Europe. The vehicle has been quite successful there; Ford sold more than 200,000 Focus vehicles in Europe in 2016. The RS also won the Car of the Year award at the 2016 Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

The RS has been popular in the U.S. since its launch, with California and Michigan being the states where the most Focus RS vehicles have been sold. Indiana is not far behind and Bloomington Ford and other Indiana Ford dealers are hoping to soon close the gap.

Focus on the Future

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Ford will unveil the fourth generation of the Focus in 2018. Few details about the 2019 Focus are out yet, but consumers can almost certainly expect further fuel efficiency and performance upgrades. Recent spy photos of the conventional Focus show a longer and wider vehicle than the current standard model of the Focus. Production of the new generation of the Focus will shift from the Michigan Assembly Plant to facilities in China and Europe.

Consumers in Indiana who want to find the latest Ford vehicles, including performance vehicles like the Ford Focus RS, should find a Ford dealer with a history of providing excellent customer service and maintenance support to customers.

Bloomington Ford dealer Community Ford Lincoln is a great option for Ford buyers in southern Indiana. Just a short drive away from the state capital in Indianapolis, Bloomington Ford provides an excellent selection of the latest Ford vehicles, as well as some excellent pre-owned options. Visit today and enjoy one of the best car-buying experiences of your life, as the dealership’s knowledgeable sales staff and helpful finance department help you put together a deal that gives you the best value for your money.