This Escort’s mix of sporty looks, bargain price and eager performance made it a hot hatch hit with British motorists during the Eighties.
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 XR3iChart position: 15
In this review
- 1IntroductionThe Blue Oval’s performance hits From 1963-2009.
- 2New Focus RSThe latest – and possibly greatest? – addition to the blue oval’s stable.
- 31st Sierra RS CosworthAs with all the best fast Fords, the Sierra RS Cosworth exists because blue oval bosses wanted to go racing.
- 42nd Escort RS CosworthIf our top fast Fords were picked on visual impact alone, then the Escort RS Cosworth would be a clear winner. With its bulging wheelarches, aggressive nose and wild rear wing, it looks like nothing else on the road.
- 53rd GTIntroduced to celebrate the blue oval’s 100th birthday, the GT has the performance, power and looks to take on exotic rivals from Ferrari and Lamborghini.
- 64th GT40The sunning GT40 took Le Mans victory spoils four times between 1966 and 1969 – and racing pedigrees don’t come much better than that.
- 75th RS200Jaw-dropping styling, fearsome performance and rarity – the RS200 has it all.
- 86th Escort RS1600To the casual observer it might appear to be a humble entry-level model, but the plain looks hide thoroughbred racing mechanicals.
- 97th Escort MexicoWith racy looks, a lightly tweaked engine and a family-friendly saloon body, the Escort Mexico served up a winning blend of performance and practicality.
- 108th Lotus CortinaFor many fans, this is the first fast Ford. With its powerful engine, motorsport pedigree and affordable pricing, it set the template for the blue oval’s future high-performance models.