The 2015 Geneva Motor Show brought us sensational hypercars like the Koenigsegg Regera as well as concepts like the Bentley EXP-10 Speed Six. However, it was the unveiling of the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R that stole the headlines and caught us by surprise.
We have heard industry insiders report some outrageous claims for the 2016 Ford Focus RS over the past couple of months. Forgive us for being skeptical, but it was genuinely difficult to believe Ford would throw down more power into a Focus than even its Ecoboost Mustang. What’s more, would Ford actually fit an AWD drivetrain to a Focus hatch? However, that is exactly what Ford has done and I guess I’ll have to eat my shoe for doubting them.
Ford announced that its 2016 Focus RS will boast an uprated version of the turbocharged 2.3-liter Ecoboost 4-cylinder power unit to deliver “well in excess” of 315 horsepower to all four wheels. Compared to the Ecoboost in the Mustang, the Focus RS will feature a new low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger as well as a bigger intercooler.
The cylinder head has also been revised and the cast iron cylinder liners are made stronger as well. As a result, Ford says the Focus RS will deliver a “free-revving top end” significantly greater than the Ecoboost Mustang’s 6,800 rpm red line.
The brand-new all-wheel-drive system for the Focus RS includes a torque-vectoring system with twin electronically controlled clutch packs that control the rear drive. Up to 70 percent of the power can be distributed to the rear axle. Yaw control sends torque to the outer wheels during turn-in to reduce understeer and sustain more than 1g of lateral acceleration. In fact, Ford announced that there is also a special “drift mode” that can actively delivers a controlled oversteer at the track.
In order to accommodate the improved performance that the new AWD system provides, Ford has updated the chassis of the Focus RS by giving it firmer springs, bushings, and anti-roll bars. Exterior aero add-ons including a restylized front bumper and a functional rear diffuser work hard to reduce lift and increase downforce. Ford also reached out to Michelin to design tires specifically for the new car.
However, the new all-wheel-drive hardware translates to extra weight. A standard Ford Focus ST weighs just over 3,200 lbs. Expect the Focus RS to weigh a little closer to 3,300. To avoid ending the Focus RS discussion on a low note, we bring some good news: despite all the dramatic changes, rest assured that the new Focus RS will exclusively offer a six-speed manual gearbox. What’s more, Ford will finally deliver the Focus RS to the U.S. market sometime next year.
At first glance, the 2015 Honda Civic Type R looks far more aggressive than the Focus RS. Aggressive fender flares make room for a set of 19-inch alloy wheels. A low front splitter puts more downforce to the front wheels while a functional front-fender vent eliminates lift. A functional rear diffuser and an enormous rear wing complete the “time-attack” look. The typical Honda haters will call the new Civic Type R “ricer,” but then again that’s nothing new.
On paper, the front-wheel-drive Honda Civic Type R is a more conservative approach to the hot hatch formula. That said, this is the most radical Civic Type R yet: powered by a turbocharged (a first for the Civic) 2.0-liter VTEC engine that develops 306 horsepower (310PS) at 6,500 rpm and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,500 rpm. Unlike the VTEC engines in the Type R sports cars of the past, the new Civic Type R possesses a relatively low redline at 7,000 rpm. According to Honda, the new Civic Type R will be capable of launching from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in just 5.7 seconds and will continuing accelerating onwards to a top speed of 168 mph (270 km/h).
Pound for pound, the 306 horsepower turbocharged VTEC engine in the Civic Type R should be no match for the 315+ horsepower that is promised by the 2.3-liter Ecoboost in the Focus RS. However, you cannot argue with results: a prototype version of the brand-new 2015 Civic Type R completed a lap of the Nurburgring in 7:50.63, effectively breaking the record for the quickest time by a front-wheel-drive car on the legendary track. While the AWD Focus RS has yet to post a time on the German circuit, it is worth noting that the Civic Type R’s unreal Nurburgring lap time is quicker than the record set by the renowned AWD Japanese supercar R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R back in 1999.
In order to tackle a track as tricky as the Nurburgring, it is obvious that the new 2015 Civic Type R is more than just its engine. Four-piston Brembo front brakes that grab hold to 13.8-inch rotors to make sure the Civic Type R stops as well as it goes.
The new Honda also offers high-end performance hardware including an adjustable dampers system that features four modes. At “+R,” the Civic Type R not only sets the dampers to its stiffest setting, but also tightens the steering and quickens the throttle response. Honda has also developed a Dual Axis Strut Front Suspension, similar to the Ford RevoKnuckle, to tame torque steer. The rear suspension also features an H-section torsion beam for improved rigidity.
Unfortunately, the Civic Type R has gone with an electronically assisted steering setup, a system that is often criticized for offering less feel than the hydraulic assist in older models.
Normally, all it takes to create a hot hatch is a moderate engine tune and a firmer suspension setup to deliver better handling for driving enthusiasts. The definition of a hot hatchback is simple. Well it’s supposed to be, anyway. With the brand-new 2016 Focus RS and 2015 Civic Type-R, we’re not so sure anymore.
Now it’s your turn: let us know which of the latest pocket rockets you would like to have in your garage!
Poll: Which hot hatch is for you?