Fast Fiestas – A History
To celebrate the launch of the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST, which comes with the option of the Quaife ATB Differential for the first time, we take a look back at past fast Fiestas. Which is your favourite?
Back in the early 70’s, Ford needed a new B-segment/supermini contender to rival the likes of the Renault 5 and Fiat 127. Developed under the project name ‘Bobcat’, the Mk1 Ford Fiesta was launched in 1976, with UK deliveries commencing in early ’77.
While UK television commercials proclaimed the Fiesta to be ‘a very advanced baby’, customers clearly agreed, with the Fiesta netting impressive sales from the off. Even to this day, the Fiesta is regularly the No1 seller within the United Kingdom, with other markets similarly keen on the Blue Oval’s pint-sized hero.
The Fiesta has always been a good basis for a ‘hot hatch’, and Ford hasn’t disappointed over the years. Check out these fast Fiestas through the ages…
Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2
The Fiesta XR2 arrived on the scene in 1981. Following on from the short lived 1.3-litre Supersport, the XR2 featured a 1.6-litre Kent Crossflow engine developing a ‘healthy for its time’ 84bhp. Running through a 4-speed manual gearbox, it was capable of reaching a top speed of 105mph and could complete the 0-60mph sprint in 9.3secs.
The XR2 featured black plastic trim both inside and out, while the headlights were round units, replacing the standard model’s square-like offerings. For early 80’s boy racers, the Mk1 Fiesta XR2 became a cult car, enhanced by its short production run before the arrival of the Mk2.
Mk2 Ford Fiesta XR2
A more comprehensive bodykit featured on the Mk2 Fiesta XR2. The good news for performance fans was the larger CVH engine taken from the Escort XR3 which developed 96bhp. Running through a 5-speed gearbox, the Mk2 took 8.7secs to reach 60mph from rest. 1986 brought a change to the engine through a lean-burn design, including a revised cylinder head and carburettor which improved its environmental credentials.
Inside, owners could revel in contoured sports seats, grip a sports steering wheel and enjoy those banging 80’s tunes through a standard fitment radio/stereo cassette with four speakers! And for those who demanded more power, English tuning firm Turbo Technics offered a power upgrade to 125 bhp, approved by Ford at the time.
Mk3 Ford Fiesta XR2i/RS Turbo/RS1800
The Mk3 Fiesta featured three performance iterations throughout its eight year production run. The first was the XR2i, launched in 1989. Featuring an eight-valve CVH engine developing 104bhp, as its name suggests, the XR2i was the first sporting Fiesta to benefit from fuel injection. A Zetec 16 valve version supplanted it in 1992.
1990 saw the introduction of the RS Turbo, a model that remained in production for two years. Based on the XR2i and featuring relatively minor trim alterations, the standout features included larger wheels and the availability of ABS as a cost option. Mechanically, the RS Turbo had a lower compression ratio of 8:1, while a Garrett T2 turbocharger was fitted. Performance levels bettered the XR2i, with power quoted at 133 bhp and the 0-60 mph sprint taking 7.9 seconds. Top speed was rated at 133 mph.
Finally, the RS1800 replaced the RS Turbo in 1992. The engine was enlarged to the 1.8-litre Zetec, although power output remained similar at 130 bhp.
Mk4/5 Ford Fiesta Zetec S
The sporty Mk4/5 (market dependent) Fiesta took the Zetec S nameplate and featured a 1.6-litre 16v Sigma engine developing 101 bhp. Stiffer anti-roll bars and uprated brakes were shared with the highly prized Puma, Ford’s Fiesta based coupe.
Although many called for more power, the Fiesta’s chassis coped admirably with the grunt available, with drivers praising the car’s sweet handling and the engine’s perky character. Still, performance parts were available through Milltek and Shawspeed for those who demanded more power.
Mk6 Ford Fiesta ST
Although some critics were beginning to wonder if Ford had lost its performance supermini mojo with the Mk3 & Mk4/5, the Blue Oval reacted with the impressive Mk5 ST, launched at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show. This ‘Sports Technologies’ model featured a 2.0-litre Duratec petrol engine developing a respectable 150bhp and a top speed of 129mph.
Built to go head-to-head with the Volkswagen Polo GTi, the Fiesta ST was generally rated higher than Wolfsburg’s offering, with keener handling and a slightly more involving driving experience. Ford specialists Mountune soon began to offer performance upgrades, the most powerful of which brought power up to 182 bhp.
The Mk5 Fiesta ST bowed out with the limited edition ST500, a model that featured 17’’ alloy wheels, red brake calipers and carbon fibre pattern interior trim.
Mk7 Ford Fiesta ST
The Mk6 Fiesta saw a radical change in design compared to its predecessors, with sharp lines and a dashboard architecture inspired by mobile phone handsets. This revolution in design caused many to believe that the Fiesta nameplate would be dropped and replaced with ‘Verve’, the name given to the concept that previewed the Mk7.
It wasn’t until the facelifted Mk7 appeared in 2013 that Ford unveiled the ST. A 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine developing 180 bhp with 177 lb.ft of torque meant the ST could undertake the 0-100 km/h sprint in under 7 seconds and reach a top speed of 136 mph. This wasn’t the whole story though, as an overboost function meant that for periods up to 15 seconds, the car could develop 197 bhp.
This generation of ST received rave reviews from the motoring press; indeed, Top Gear awarded it their Car of the Year in 2013. More agile than Peugeot’s 208 GTi and featuring a traditional 6-speed manual transmission, unlike RenaultSport’s EDC equipped Clio RS, the Fiesta ST has been one of the stand out pocket rockets of the period, with production coming to an end in 2017.
Mk8 Ford Fiesta ST
2018 sees the arrival of the All-New Fiesta ST, a car that promises more performance potential than any of its forebears. The evidence to back this statement up lies in the option of our ATB Differential, the first time the Fiesta flagship is available with a mechanical LSD.
One thing’s for sure, we can’t wait to get behind the wheel…
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