One belter from the Noughties that’s flown under the radar lately is Ford’s Focus XR5 Turbo. It arrived in 2006, its styling a ‘just right’ blend of raciness and maturity, taking on the likes of Golf GTI and Astra Turbo as a sort of Euro hatchback extrapolation of the then popular Falcon XR6 Turbo.
Ford’s feisty five-door generally garnered rave reviews in the local media, that ‘just right’ promise executed via solid refinement and everyday-friendly manners with a cracking chassis and flexible powertrain.
With its 6.8sec 0-100km/h performance claim it wasn’t the hottest hatch on the block, it delivered loads as an all-rounder, brought useable real-world performance and, at $36k and cheaper than Golf GTI, it didn’t break the piggy bank.
Its quality is in pedigree. Built in five-door only, in German, its go-fast chops were largely developed by the Ford Team RS World Rally Championship arm in the United Kingdom. And to source its muscle, the XR5 Turbo lifts its turbocharged 2.5-litre five cylinder from Volvo. Add the fact its platform shared development with Mazda 3 makes for a real international cocktail.
The big five-pot afforded both the desired power, 166kW in Aussie spec, and broad torque of 320Nm at 1600-4000rpm. Despite its notoriously abrupt clutch take-up as standard, the six-speed manual-only XR5 Turbo is renowned for its flexible drivability. At a respectable 9.6L/100km claimed, it runs on a minimum of 95RON fuel.
A fine ride and handling balance and sharp steering arrive through myriad tweak that separated the XR5 Turbo from the base $20k Focus. Spec includes body reinforcement, (30-percent) firmer and (15mm) lower suspension, a quicker steering with three-mode electromechanical adjustment, big brakes and 18-inch wheels. Damping is bit terse by today’s standards, but for 2006…
Inside, the showcase is the conspicuous Recaro sports buckets, that could be had with leather trim for an extra $2k. There’s also a go-fast array of boost, temperature and oil pressure gauges. The level of standard equipment is quite decent, including six airbags, air-con, central locking and a six-stacker CD player, though the absence of cruise control is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Otherwise, Ford’s interior design and execution in this era were an acquired taste and certainly not a highlight, though the cabin is reasonably roomy and the five-door makes for decent practicality, even if the boot is bit small.
The early LS versions were mildly facelifted in late-2007’s LT guise and this generation lived through LV (2008) and LV II (late 2010) model designations. The package, though, remained largely unchanged.
In 2010, the XR5 Turbo was joined by a manic, limited-edition, three-door, high-performance Focus RS, boasting 224kW and 440Nm with a suitably steep $60k price tag to match its pace, credentials and exclusivity.
While the Focus RS would live on as an all-wheel-driven monster hatch, the XR5 Turbo
nameplate and its appealing five-cylinder heartbeat were put to pasture after it was replaced, in late 2012, by a new 2.0-litre turbo-four-pot Focus ST.