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Classic

TG drives the fast Ford Fiestas

Ford hands us the keys to its collection of old Fiestas. We get all Essex

  • Everyone loves a fast Fiesta - including us. Everyone knows someone who's owned one, or has owned one themselves. They're fun for the everyman, and unbeatable value for money. Which is why when Ford asked us back down to its Heritage Centre - a (purposefully) nondescript shed in deepest Essex - to drive some old, fast Fiestas, we just about bit its hand off.

    It's all in honour of the ST200, the latest version of today's ST, which from the factory has more than twice the power of the very first XR2s. Progress, huh? It'll be a few months before we get a a go, but if (most of) the oldies are anything to go by, it'll be an absolute riot. 

    Images: Terry Paul

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  • 1989 Ford Fiesta XR2 MK2

    What is it?

    Not the first XR2 – but the one everyone remembers. First seen in 1984, a year after the revised MK2 Fiesta was launched, the MK2 XR2 was a sales success. To the humdrum Fiesta Ford added ‘pepperpot’ alloys, rally-style fog-lamps and a load of bodysyling to make it look the part, plus a new exhaust and 1.6-litre ‘CVH’ four-cylinder to give it the go to match.

  • 1989 Ford Fiesta XR2 MK2

    What’s it like to drive?

    Properly fun, unencumbered as it is with any concession to modernity. That little 1.6-litre engine is rewarding to rev out, with a kind of fizz as you approach the red-line that’s oh-so-satisfying. And it’s both slow enough that you can do it pretty much anywhere without endangering your driving licence, and quick enough so as not to be laborious.

    The unassisted steering feels darty and feelsome alongside your typical modern, electronically-assisted setup, the trade-off being you need fairly hefty upper-arm muscles to be able to park the thing with any degree of urgency. The XR2 feels light – chiefly because it is – honest, mechanical, and therefore pleasingly involving. You can carry loads of momentum through bends, and you’ll need to because the XR2 hails from a time before effective brakes. Gripes include the driving position, which like pretty much every other performance Ford is maybe an inch or two too high, and the image, which is still a bit seedy. This is no Golf GTI.

    It may not live up to the highs of early Golf GTIs and 205 GTIs (buy one today and it’s cheaper than either), but the XR2 remains a mightily fun thing to hoon about in, and at around £5K for a decent one, maybe the cheapest way into a (good) old, fast Ford.

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  • 1989 Ford Fiesta XR2 MK2

    Specs: 1597cc 4cyl, 96bhp, 5spd manual, 110mph, £8,430 (new)

  • 1993 Ford Fiesta XR2i MK3

    What is it?

    A follow-up to the MK2 XR2, now with added fuel-injection. From that early Nineties period when few were buying hot hatches - they were stealing them instead. Early cars had a version of the old 1.6, but from 1992 XR2is were equipped with a new 1.8-litre 16v engine tasked with meeting more stringent emissions regulations. Like the old car, XR2is had special bumpers, headlights and alloys to go along with the power hike. This one’s a 1993, which means it gets the big (but no more powerful) engine.

  • 1993 Ford Fiesta XR2i MK3

    What’s it like?

    The XR2i wasn’t brilliantly received in period, and having driven the MK2 XR2 ahead of this one, we concur. It just feels a bit numb after the oldie, which admittedly you might expect with the added weight. There’s still no power steering, which is fine, but what’s not is the heavy stodginess that sullies the feel. It’s a fraction quicker, but the power isn’t delivered as keenly or with as much fizzy drama. It does have functional brakes though, which is a big improvement. If you’re buying in that awkward Nineties phase of hot-hatchery, when insurance premiums were sky high and thus good hot hatches a relative rarity, we’d go for a 205 GTI (which hung on gamely into the Nineties. Just).

  • 1993 Ford Fiesta XR2i MK3

    Specs: 1800cc 4cyl, 105bhp, 5spd manual, 116mph, £11,553 (new)

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  • 2006 Ford Fiesta ST

    What is it?

    The first Fiesta to wear the ST badge, and the first Ford full stop to do so without having advertising its power figure or how many valves it has (if you don't count the Mondeo ST TDCI, which we don't). See, 148bhp wasn't that much even in 2004 - and besides, Ford was relying on the quality of its chassis, not outright power to make the ST a winner.

  • 2006 Ford Fiesta ST

    What’s it like?

    One of the last wave of naturally aspirated hot hatches, before everything went turbo, the ST's by comparison massive 2.0-litre four is linear and predictable, if a little unexciting for such a car. It’s not as light on its toes as the current ST, but with hydraulically-assisted steering over today’s electronic setups, the steering is more satisfyingly weighted and delivers decent feel. The gearshift is nice and snappy too. Like the other three cars in this gallery, you sit too high. Maybe more so here than anywhere else, but it doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the car. It's a good thing, but not one that will be revered for years to come.

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  • 2006 Ford Fiesta ST

    Specs: 1999cc 4cyl, 148bhp, 5spd manual, 129mph, £13,595 (new)

  • 2016 Ford Fiesta ST

    What is it?

    The modern-day Fiesta ST, a former TG award-winner and still one of our favourite hot hatches some three years after its release. Reacquaint yourselves with why we like it so much here and here.  

    What’s it like?

    Quite excellent. When we entered the ST into our massive hot hatch shootout last year, in which we pitched almost 20 hot hatches against one another to once and for all find the absolute best, the Fiesta came third only to two vastly more powerful mega-hatches, the Golf R and Civic Type R (that was obviously pre Focus RS). We came away from that test convinced that, for the money, the Fiesta ST is unbeatable for driving pleasure on a UK B-road. It's precise, playful, agile and eager - our only real complaint is the steering, which though quick and effective is lacking in feel.

    Specs: 1596cc 4cyl turbo, 182bhp, 6spd manual, 139mph, £17,360 

  • 2016 Ford Fiesta ST

    What is it?

    The modern-day Fiesta ST, a former TG award-winner and still one of our favourite hot hatches some three years after its release. Reacquaint yourselves with why we like it so much here and here.  

    What’s it like?

    Quite excellent. When we entered the ST into our massive hot hatch shootout last year, in which we pitched almost 20 hot hatches against one another to once and for all find the absolute best, the Fiesta came third only to two vastly more powerful mega-hatches, the Golf R and Civic Type R (that was obviously pre Focus RS). We came away from that test convinced that, for the money, the Fiesta ST is unbeatable for driving pleasure on a UK B-road. It's precise, playful, agile and eager - our only real complaint is the steering, which though quick and effective is lacking in feel.

    Specs: 1596cc 4cyl turbo, 182bhp, 6spd manual, 139mph, £17,360 

  • 2016 Ford Fiesta ST

    What is it?

    The modern-day Fiesta ST, a former TG award-winner and still one of our favourite hot hatches some three years after its release. Reacquaint yourselves with why we like it so much here and here.  

    What’s it like?

    Quite excellent. When we entered the ST into our massive hot hatch shootout last year, in which we pitched almost 20 hot hatches against one another to once and for all find the absolute best, the Fiesta came third only to two vastly more powerful mega-hatches, the Golf R and Civic Type R (that was obviously pre Focus RS). We came away from that test convinced that, for the money, the Fiesta ST is unbeatable for driving pleasure on a UK B-road. It's precise, playful, agile and eager - our only real complaint is the steering, which though quick and effective is lacking in feel.

    Specs: 1596cc 4cyl turbo, 182bhp, 6spd manual, 139mph, £17,360 

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