THE Ford Focus RS is a blue-collar hero. Since its introduction in 2002, the RS - which stands for Rallye Sport - has been the halo model for fast Ford fans.

It's a nod to legendary cars like the Escort RS1600, Capri RS3100 and the Sierra RS Cosworth, all of which were attainable and immensely quick.

Prices for the RS start at just over £30,000, and its driving dynamics and sheer power would challenge cars costing three times that. With an all-wheel-drive set-up, it hits 62mph in 4.7 seconds, and it sounds like thunder when pressed to reveal its awesome capabilities.

Aggressive bodywork includes a spoiler above the rear windscreen and a sculpted front and rear, yet the overall appearance is relatively subtle. Your choice of colour, together with the £100 optional extra of painted brake callipers and £500 upgrade on the standard 19-inch alloy wheels, will dictate just how noticeable your RS will be in a traffic queue.

Ford has used up some interior space to build the unique all-wheel-drive system with dynamic torque vectoring to replace the front-wheel drive system of the previous version. You lose around 60 litres from the boot, but that loss is more than compensated by the more secure handling.

The other major change from the previous version is introduction of the 2.3-litre Ecoboost petrol engine to replace the 2.5-litre turbocharged unit. Horsepower is up from 300 to 350PS, fuel economy is improved, CO2 emissions are lower and it has a slightly higher top speed of 165mph.

Despite being a performance-oriented car, the RS has all the mod cons you might expect in a high-spec hatchback. A couple of 12v charging sockets up front, loads of stowage space, auto stop-start, automatic headlamps with jet wash, nine-speaker audio, rain-sensing wipers and hill start assist are among the features that come as standard.

So, too, do the RS branded Recaro front seats with leather side bolsters. Recaro shell seats costing £1,145 are also available.

Ford has undoubtedly built a brilliant driver's car.

The RS has four main driving modes. Normal, Sport, Track and Drift. If those last two words don't excite you then you should probably stop reading, as the RS isn't for you.

'Drift' mode enables you to drive sideways in a cloud of tyre smoke. The amount of technology that has gone into creating this toy is staggering, especially considering it has no real-world application outside a deserted carpark at 2am.

'Track' mode is where the RS really shines. Built to flatter amateurs and satisfy professionals, it ensures that ham-fisted driving is smoothed out by the car's computer. If you want track day success, but lack talent, this could be the car for you.

One of the best-handling cars currently for sale, and the most versatile performance hatchback ever, the RS remains a sensible, five-door, family car package that you can use every day.

Within the first mile, the RS delivers a major surprise. Far from being the track-biased, temperamental beast its looks would suggest, at sensible speeds it is compliant, comfortable and easy to drive – like a regular Focus. You could use the RS every day without feeling it. Ford clearly knows its customers, and they’ve got the driveability down to a tee.

Pitch the RS hard into a bend and it shrugs off your feeble attempt as if you weren’t trying hard enough. The faithful Focus steering is here but amplified, feeding back all the information you could need. Despite riding like a medium-to-hot hatchback, the RS grips as if its life depended on it. Push harder and harder and it grips more faithfully.

If you're not a track driver but the kind of person to occasionally take a longer, twistier, more interesting route home, then this is the car for you.