Although it lacks rarity and competition history, the XR3i finishes ahead of the RS1600i here. When engineers at Ford added fuel injection to the XR3’s 1.6-litre engine in 1983, they created a performance legend.
While the Peugeot 205 GTi was faster and sharper to drive, it was the Escort’s mix of sporty looks, bargain price and eager performance that made it a hot hatch hit with British motorists during the Eighties.
The original version stood out thanks to its eyecatching ‘cloverleaf’ alloy wheels and large black spoilers front and rear. The facelifted car pictured here gained smoother lines, red stripes and a more luxurious interior. There was also a version to suit all tastes.
It could be a mini executive express in booted Orion 1.6i Ghia guise, while the Cabriolet model served up wind-in-the-hair thrills for those on a budget. Later cars were also more technologically advanced than rivals. Buyers could pay extra for big car features such as anti-lock brakes and a heated windscreen.
Today, the Ford struggles to match the pace of junior hot hatches such as the Suzuki Swift Sport. But its raspy 105bhp 1.6-litre motor still feels strong, without needing to be revved like many modern hot hatches. With no power-assistance for the steering, low-speed manoeuvres are a pain, while there’s plenty of body roll in fast corners despite stiffer sports suspension. However, the Escort’s uncomplicated charm still shines through and helps it secure a place in hot hatch history.
* Performance: 2/5
* Heritage: 4/5
* Style: 3/5
* Driver appeal: 3/5
Model tested: Escort XR3i
Chart position: 15
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 105bhp
* 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
* Top speed: 115mph
* On sale: 1983-1990