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.