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New Ford Focus RS 2023 officially axed! Plug pulled on hybrid hot hatch - for now

The third-generation Focus RS was powered by a Mustang-sourced 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine.

Ford has officially abandoned plans for a fourth-generation Focus RS, with the hot hatch left on the drawing board due to external factors.

Last week, Caradisiac claimed via an unnamed and unquoted Ford source that the new Focus RS program had been cancelled due to the European Union’s fleet-wide average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions target of 95 grams per kilometre, which is due to kick in next year.

Since then, Autocar has contacted a Ford of Europe spokesperson who said: “As a result of pan-European emissions standards, increased CO2 taxation and the high cost of developing an RS with some form of electrification for a relatively low volume of vehicles, we are not planning another RS version of the Focus.”

And just like that, the hopes of a next Focus RS have gone up in smoke, with Ford unable to overcome its developmental challenges, which revolved around its mooted hybrid powertrain.

As reported, Autocar claimed in April 2018 that the new Focus RS would retain its predecessor’s Mustang-sourced 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine but add an emissions-reducing 48V mild-hybrid system.

But two months ago, Autocar published another report, citing a senior Ford of Europe executive who claimed “the mild hybrid is not enough”, with a high-performance version of the Escape mid-size SUV’s plug-in hybrid powertrain instead set for the next Focus RS.

Now we know for sure neither added up and there won’t be a new Focus RS to challenge the Mercedes-AMG A45 S for bragging rights.

That said, there is of course a chance the Focus RS will return in the long term, as part of the Focus small car’s fifth generation, which could include non-performance hybrid variants, setting the table for the next flagship hot hatch.

But that all hinges on the development of a fifth-generation Focus, which may not eventuate in an SUV-focused world. And even if it does, don’t expect the next Focus RS until the very end of this decade at the earliest.