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The hottest of hatchbacks: 2016 Ford Focus RS rumor roundup

The current Ford Focus ST is one of the best hot-hatchbacks (AKA ‘hot-hatch’) around, but Ford hasn’t laid all of its cards on the table.

The Blue Oval offered even hotter RS versions of the first two generations of Focus in Europe. They weren’t imported to the U.S., but thanks to the carmaker’s “One Ford” policy of synchronized global product lines, it’s widely expected that the next RS will make the trip across the Atlantic.

If the rumors prove true, it’ll put the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R on notice when it gets here. Here’s what we know so far.

Styling

Expect a more muscular version of the styling seen on the Focus ST, with big wheels and tires, and copious ducts, vents, and spoilers further enhancing the base Focus design. Like the ST, the RS will probably be available only as a five-door hatchback.

The biggest styling change could be at the front. Spy shots dug up by Motor Authority show a larger bar across the grille, closing the ST’s gaping maw a bit. This could be a bit of trickery to disguise the car’s true appearance, though.

Previous RS models featured rally-car styling cues in the vein of the Subaru STI or Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, so expect some fender flares and a bigger rear spoiler as well.

Powertrain

Under the hood, we’re expecting the 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine from the 2015 Ford Mustang and 2015 Lincoln MKC. Rumors of this engine being used in the RS have persisted for years, with no alternatives seriously mentioned.

The EcoBoost engine produces 310 horsepower in the Mustang, but it could get a big boost in the Focus RS to the tune of 325 hp to 350 hp. That would give the Ford hot-hatch a big advantage over its rivals.

In fact, Ford was reportedly a little concerned that a powerful Focus would steal sales from its hallowed Pony Car, leading some to believe that the RS would be cancelled altogether.

Related: 2015 Ford Focus ST gets a sharper look, more tech

The company seems to have resolved that issue, perhaps concluding that customers will find enough differences between a five-door hatchback and a two-door sport coupe to not consider cross-shopping them.

The EcoBoost’s power will most likely be channeled through a six-speed manual transmission, and all-wheel drive is rumored to be on the menu as well.

Ford hasn’t been able to make a business case for introducing all-wheel drive in the standard Focus, but it could help erase the negative handling characteristics typical of a more powerful front driver like the RS.

The system would be unique to the RS at first, but could be applied to other performance models as well. Fusion ST, anyone?

Interior

The Focus RS’ interior will likely get a similar performance-inspired upgrade as the exterior. That means sportier seats with more side bolstering to hold you in place through corners, a thick-rimmed steering wheel, and plenty of Alcantara trim and colored stitching. Because what’s the point of going fast if you don’t look fast?

Other than that, expect the same layout as a standard Focus. Ford may dial up the level of standard equipment to justify a higher price for what is likely to be a low-volume model, so there should be plenty of bells and whistles as well.

Technology

Tech options should be similar to what’s available in the standard Focus as well. That means Ford’s Sync with MyFord Touch infotainment system – which may receive a few updates between now and whenever the RS launches – along with the Sync AppLink app suite.

Ford is also confirmed to offer Apple CarPlay on certain models at some point “down the road,” although its unclear whether the timing will align with the RS’ launch.

When to expect it

Speaking of the RS’ launch, that’s expected to happen sometime next year, meaning the sportiest Focus could go on sale as a 2016 model.

Previous generations of RS showed up late in their respective Focus models’ lifespan, giving Ford a way to boost interest in aging cars. While the current Focus has been around for a few years, it’s not expected to be replaced right away, meaning the 2016 RS could have a relatively long life compared to its predecessors.