It does seem odd, to say the least, that you might line up a 1988, 96bhp Ford Fiesta next to cars wearing such vaunted badges as Cosworth and RS. But we wanted to produce an insight into the more attainable Fords that an enthusiast could enjoy, given that much of the Blue Oval’s performance heritage is increasingly out of reach to most. And if the Fiesta XR2 is anything, it’s cheap and fun.
I became acquainted with the XR2 throughout a long and very un-heritage car friendly drive through a mildly flooded and very dark central Wales, dressed in full ski jacket and winter hat combo because the heater wasn’t working. By the time I got to the destination I was besotted.
The vigour of my appreciation was partly because I was relieved it had made it without the aid of the recovery services that Ford had tactfully handed me the contact details for when I picked the car up. And partly it was because the journey had felt like an adventure, as so few trips in modern cars do. But beyond that it was just a genuinely entertaining car. Simple, lightweight, immediate and characterful.
Is it nostalgia? Of course it is, but I see no harm in revelling in yesteryear, and even objectively the Fiesta was enormously entertaining. Lots of body roll tempered by lots of grip, and a free-revving motor that allows you to rinse every ounce of performance out of it on a regular basis and without fear of imminent death.
Ultimately, if I had a few grand to spare to buy an XR2 I’d do it tomorrow. Actually, scratch that, if I had a few grand spare I’d put it towards a Focus RS and watch the value go up whilst enjoying one of the great front-wheel drive performance cars. Then I could buy a Fiesta in a few years time with the profit. And a long holiday.
But regardless, I was amazed that of the five cars we drove around Wales I ended up most taken with the unpretentious Fiesta. The Focus ST makes an astonishingly good all-rounder if you don’t mind the economy, the Sierra Cosworth hardly needs explaining, and the Racing Puma and the Focus RS both offer a particular style, reward and rarity that appeals to just about every enthusiast.
Maybe it’s the underdog status, or maybe it’s just those epically retro spotlights. Whatever it is, the Fiesta XR2 was the surprise favourite for me.