There’s something particularly cool about classic Eighties hot hatches – especially when they’ve got a Ford badge on the boot.
The Blue Oval has been leading the field in the hot hatch market for decades with iconic cars like the Escort XR3, RS Turbo and Cosworth variants and the Focus RS.
However, for some people like me, there’s nothing better than a hot little Fiesta.
My first car back in 1998 was a Fiesta XR2 – a MKII in red – and I was forced to sell it when I got my first journalism job because the wages were so poor I couldn’t afford the fuel. However, more than a decade later I had to have another one – and that’s the car you see here.
So when Ford offered me the chance to put my 27-year-old XR2 up against the new Fiesta ST, I really couldn’t refuse. Both cars feature 1.6-litre engines, although the new one is turbocharged, and both aim to entertain the drivers while still ensuring they’re usable as daily drivers.
But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The difference between the two cars is stark. In the XR2 you get luxuries like a digital clock, three-stage heater and wind-up windows. There’s no ABS, no power steering and traction control consists of tyres and a brake pedal.
In the ST things are positively plush. Air con, Bluetooth, DAB radio and windows that keep out the sound of forward momentum all feature. It’s also got ABS, traction control and airbags.
While both cars have 1.6-litre engines, the XR2’s is a CVH unit producing (well, when it was new) 96bhp and 131Nm of torque. It was capable of hitting 60mph in 10.2 seconds and had a top speed of 112mph.
The ST has a turbocharged 1.6 Ecoboost unit. With 176bhp and 240Nm of torque it can hit 60mph in 6.9 seconds and go on to a top speed of 137mph. Emissions in the XR2 are wild bee killingly high while in the ST they’re just 138g/km. The old car returns 32.9mpg but despite the improved performance the ST still manages 47.9mpg.
It’s on the road where they really feel different though. The XR2 suffers from hideous body roll, heavy steering and brakes that struggle to haul it to a stop. The ST, on the other hand, is extremely nimble, has a fantastic turn of speed and the electric steering is light and crisp. The gear changes are notchy and precise in the ST while in the XR2 you’re often lucky if you find a ratio after a minute’s stirring.
It’s clear to see that nearly three decades of refinements have been put to good use when you drive these two hot little Fiestas back to back. However it’s just as clear that Ford’s aim of bringing fun thrills to the motoring masses is still very much at the core of what the company stands for. And I, for one, am very grateful that’s the case.
See below for a video of what happened when we introduced the XR2 to the new ST.
You can also search for a used Ford Fiesta here.
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 96bhp, 131Nm
Max speed: 112mph
MPG: 32.9mpg (combined)
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo
Power: 176bhp, 240Nm
Max speed: 137mph
MPG: 47.9mpg (combined)