Of all the rapturous delights featured here, the XR2 caused the most raised eyebrows
11 December 2014

Of all the rapturous delights featured here, this was the one that caused the most raised eyebrows. Yes, it’s 24 years old. And yes, it’s slow and feels to be made of tin foil and cheesecloth.

But the Fiesta XR2 is a forgotten high in hot hatch history, and a day spent pedalling this Mk2 car over the finest Welsh B-roads proves that we were right to bring it with us. Oh, so right.

The XR2 delivers a sense of involvement from the moment you get behind the art-deco steering wheel. With no assisted steering, ABS or ESP, it has a direct line to your fingertips and your tweed-ensconced behind, and that makes it rewarding in a car park, never mind on the open road.

Today’s safety standards are a modern miracle, but an enthusiast can’t experience cars like the XR2 without yearning just a little for the days when motoring was unencumbered by safety aids and additional weight. It wasn’t even remotely frustrating to watch the rest of our convoy disappear into the distance every time we set off. Speed is secondary to fun when it comes to narrow, muddy and damp roads.

It’s not razor-sharp like the very firm Focus RS and Racing Puma (if you haven’t experienced old-school body roll, you’ll find it here). Nor does it have the cult classic status of the Sierra Cosworth. And we won’t deny that the nostalgic draw of the boxy, retro Fiesta boosts its 21st century appeal twofold.

But the fact that the XR2 has been mostly ignored over the past decade means that you can now get hold of one for less than £2k. The car we drove, owned by Ford of Europe, has an impressive 99,000 miles on the clock and feels amazingly solid.

The 96bhp 1.6-litre engine is uncomplicated, so body rust is the main enemy. There aren’t many original XR2s around (a tatty runner can be yours for £1500), but we found a show-worthy car for £3250. It’s no daily driver, or any kind of benchmark, but it’s a cheap way into purist fun and a charismatic slice of Ford heritage.


Dates produced 1984-1989; Price new £5713; Top speed 112mph; 0-60mph 10.2sec; Economy 32.9mpg; CO2 na; Kerb weight 839kg; Engine type 4 cyls in line, 1597cc, petrol; Power 96bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 97lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual

Complete Fast Ford buying guide 

Ford Sierra Cosworth

RS Cosworth is starting to feel its age, but can still deliver thrills; steering wheel is a tactile delight, seat trim is of the picnic blanket variety and its four-pot motor makes 204bhp.

Ford Racing Puma 

This limited edition, 153bhp ball of fun has limitless amounts of charm and is supremely easy to fall for.

Ford Focus ST 

The ST's blend of five-pot burble, occasional rally-style bang through the exhaust, light but feelsome steering and 324lb ft of torque can turn the most sedate driver into a hooligan.

Ford Focus RS

RS produces 212bhp, but the focus here is more on handling than power; steering wheel features a useful 'this way up' marker.

Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta
Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

The seventh-generation Ford Fiesta is the UK's best selling car, helped by frugal engines, handling verve and a big car feel

Join the debate


4 February 2012

Surely, even with modern legislation someone could make a car as tactile as this again.

Fantastic to see a car like this put through it's paces again.



It's all about the twisties........

4 February 2012

It doesn't feel like long ago at all when these were all over the place. It's a shame they're now a rare sight, but what a cracking car. I really want one!

4 February 2012

Yes I remember my sister having a Mk2, a reasonable car but poor compared to the 205, but she then bought a Mk3 Fiesta and that was awful, very poor handling.

4 February 2012

[quote TegTypeR]Surely, even with modern legislation someone could make a car as tactile as this again.[/quote] +1

Where has all Japanese design went to?

4 February 2012

Absolutely loved mine.It was slow and noisy but a scream to drive.I just loved finding a nice damp roundabout and a bit of lift off oversteer would follow.Happy days.

4 February 2012

Lovely little thing. A minter fetches a surprising amount of money these days but I'm not sure I could part with 3k on a XR2 when I could get a decent 205 for the same money.

4 February 2012

[quote Evo_ermine]

Lovely little thing. A minter fetches a surprising amount of money these days but I'm not sure I could part with 3k on a XR2 when I could get a decent 205 for the same money.


When cars get to this age price is more dictated by nostalgia than ability.

Thing is, either car would be a revelation in feel and feedback compared to modern machinery.



It's all about the twisties........

4 February 2012

[quote TegTypeR]

When cars get to this age price is more dictated by nostalgia than ability.


That's true Teg. It is amazing though how someone will pay crazy money for a Vauxhall Nova 1.2 or something. Just because something's like new doesn't mean it's not a complete turd to drive.

I understand someone spending 4 ot 5k on a Gti or XR2, something a bit special in it's day, but some people buy boggo versions that lets face it were dire then and dire now. Funny thing nostalgia!

4 February 2012

4 grand for a Nova 1.2! Imagine what else you could get for 4 grand. Full marks to people looking after their cars so well but I just couldn't spend that much money on something that was awful in it's day. At least search for a GTE or something.

I know not everyone wants a performance car so that 4k would get you a nice Focus or something. Which is light years ahead of a Nova to drive.


6 February 2012

An 800kg car that can only do 0-60 in 10 seconds and still struggles to hit 33mpg. Things have moved on a bit!

Frankly, given the choice between this and a modern Fiesta ST, I'd go for the newer car every time.

Maybe it doesn't help that I still have bitter memories of an '87 Fiesta with the old 950cc engine in...


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