Ford Fiesta XR2 (Hatch), 1981-1989
The Ford Fiesta XR2 was in production from 1981 until 1989. Styled in house, it is a front-engine, front wheel drive hatchback range seating five adults.
The Ford Fiesta XR2 was a high performance iteration of the MK1 Ford Fiesta. Introduced to replace the 1.3 Supersport, it featured the same 1.6 litre CVH engine as fitted to the Escort XR3, detuned to 85bhp - 1.6 litres fuelled through a Weber carburettor. It had big wheels and a sharp bodykit - just the thing for the style conscious 1980s. From outside, the other visible change was the replacement of square headlamps with large round ones - the indicators moving to the bumpers. 60 came up in just over 9 seconds, and the top speed of 105 was impressive for its day. 1983 saw a comprehensive facelift - the MK2. This gained an even wilder bodykit and the Wolfrace Sonic aping wheels for which the XR2 model became known. Power was upped to the 93bhp of the XR3, and the four speed gearbox replaced with a five speed.
Discontinued in 1989, it was replaced by the XR2i when the Fiesta MK3 was launched. This used a fuel injected variant of the same engine, also seen in the Escort XR3i - but the car was seen as larger and softer than its forebear. Existing supplies of the carburetted engine were used up in a warm hatch variant of the MK3 called the 1.6S.
The CVH might not have been Ford's finest hour, but it's a grunty little engine - and the Fiesta's diminutive size means that it makes an entertaining package. The gearbox, whether four or five speed, is precise. The steering may not be 205 sharp but it's good enough, and the lower suspension with uprated dampers means the XR2 feels more planted than the Popular Plus your granddad had. There's a reasonable amount of space for a small car too, so you shouldn't find it hard to get comfortable.
Mechanicals rarely cause issues - the majority of difficulty you'll experience is with the trim or the bodywork. Footwells and kick panels can rot out, so get the carpets up to check if you can. The bulkhead, inner wings, slam panel, A pillars, scuttle, inner arches and chassis rails can also rot, and the plastic bodykit is manna from heaven for the tinworm. Make sure you inspect as much of the sills and arches as you can access, and assume the worst for the bits you can't see. Mechanical spares are ten a penny wing to the ongoing popularity of old Fords, and specialists such as Burton Power should be able to provide anything you can't find in your local motor factor.
Rarity means that the MK1 XR2 is more desirable than the MK2, though the MK2 retains a significant appeal for those of the generation which hankered after them when they were new. There are also a number of XR2 replicas in existence, a hang over from the Max Power era when teenagers would buy cooking models and steadily uprate them into the cars of their dreams. XR2 replicas are worth considerably less than the real thing, though if the conversion is well executed it's not necessarily a bad purchase. Turbo Technics conversions are worth pretty much what the owner wants to ask, such is their rarity and desirability.
The same hot hatch appeal can be had from Vauxhall with the Nova GTE, while Peugeot's 205GTi and Citroen's Visa GTi both offered even more pace in lightweight bodies. The Alfasud Sprint might have been considered as a used car alongside the XR2, or perhaps the MG Metro Turbo would be seen as a viable rival. If you want the same Max Power appeal that these cars attracted later in life, a Citroen Saxo VTR or VTS makes a compelling modern classic bargain.