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.
- 119th Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4It looks like a sober-suited saloon, but beneath this four-door Sierra Sapphire’s low-key lines lurks supercar-rivalling performance.
- 1210th Racing PumaWith bulging aluminium wheelarches, a deep front spoiler and 17-inch multispoke alloy wheels, the Racing version is certainly a head turner.
- 1311th Focus RSWith looks inspired by the firm’s World Rally Championship contenders, the RS is a real head-turner.
- 1412th Capri 2.8iBilled as the car you always promised yourself, the rakish coupé was a sales hit the minute it was launched in 1969.
- 1513th Escort RS2000 MkVShocked to see the MkV Escort RS2000 finish so high up the order? Well, you shouldn’t be – this is a fast Ford through to its very core.
- 1614th Focus STWhen it was unveiled in 2005, the ST was an enormous leap forward from its slightly underwhelming predecessor, the ST170.
- 1715th Escort XR3i - currently readingThis Escort’s mix of sporty looks, bargain price and eager performance made it a hot hatch hit with British motorists during the Eighties.
- 1816th SportkaIntroduced in 2003, the Sportka is the spiritual successor to the original Fiesta XR2.
- 1917th Escort RS1600iThe striped bonnet graphic, deep front spoiler, seven-spoke alloys and biplane rear wing all mark this car out as very special.
- 2018th Fiesta ST185On the move, the tuned motor pops and crackles like a rally car’s, while the Fiesta ST is a joy to drive on twisty back roads.
- 2119th Escort RS2000Despite its RS badges, this model was never intended to enter the heat of competition. It looked like a road racer, though.
- 2220th Escort RS TurboThe famous RS badge is fitted only to the quickest, most driver-focused Fords – and the Escort RS Turbo is no exception.
- 2321st Focus ST170It lacks the raw, hard-edged thrills of the turbocharged Focus RS, but the ST170 is still entertaining.
- 2422nd Fiesta XR2 MkIIWhen bosses finally revealed the XR2 in 1981, it became an instant hit with boy racers – and it certainly looked the part.
- 2523rd Sierra XR4x4The all-wheel-drive Sierra XR4x4 was designed to be a practical sports car for all seasons.
- 2624th Granada Scorpio V6 24vBy radically overhauling the Granada’s mechanicals, engineers at the firm completely altered the model’s character.