For the follow-up XR2i, however, the sporty hatch gained fuel injection as well as a price tag of almost £10,000 – about £1200 more than the XR2. Suddenly the fast Fiesta was positioned against the Renault 5 GT Turbo, Peugeot 205 GTI and Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Under its bonnet was a new version of the CVH 1.6-litre engine, a development of the unit found in the Escort XR3i, with a power output of 110bhp giving it a 14bhp advantage over the outgoing XR2. Backing it up was 102lb ft at 2800rpm.
Those figures placed the £9995 hot Ford mid-way up the performance ladder, about a rung down from the most accomplished contender, the 115bhp, £9835 Peugeot 205 GTI 1.6. It was that six-year-old model, in many respects still the pacesetter, that Autocar lined up as a rival for a comparison test on Dartmoor.
“The XR2i has certainly got what it takes to stay with the 205 in any bar-room contest and comfortably shadows the French car on the road,” wrote our testers. “The 205 holds a 5bhp power advantage, the Ford a 4lb ft torque advantage. These are small margins but accurate pointers to how the pair feel in practice: the XR2i is more energetic low down, the 205 crisper high up.
“On the road, the Fiesta is far from outclassed. Its low-end torque actually makes for more effortless progress, as it allows the driver the luxury of foregoing the occasional downchange and revelling in the bubbly, Alfa-esque exhaust note the engine produces as it hauls up to peak torque at 2800rpm.