Performance Fiesta Mk3 History
Posted: 20th April 2001 | Author: @AdrianFRST | Photography: @AdrianFRST
Right from the early 1980s with the Mk1, Ford has produced performance variants of the Fiesta. It took four years for the first Supersport to appear, followed a year later by the XR2. With the Mk2 it was still a while before the XR2 version showed up, but with the Mk3 the XR2i was launched just six months after the initial cooking models.
When Ford launched the mk3 Fiesta in 1989 they found themselves with a quantity of 1600 CVH carb XR2 engines which would be obsolete with the launch of the XR2i. They used these engines in a mk3 and called it the 1.6s. It featured a rear spoiler, spotlamps and the option of electric windows, remote tailgate release and central locking. After producing a number of these to use up the last of the XR2 engines they launched the XR2i.
This XR2i had the 1600 cvh engine again, but this time with the new EFI fuel injection system and the EEC-IV management. It produced 110bhp, 20bhp more than the XR2 and 1.6s. Externally the car came with a full bodykit comprising of arch extensions, side skirts and all new front and rear bumpers with integrated driving lamps in the front bumper. A blue stripe ran round the car and 13” alloys were standard until 1991 when they became an optional extra. Also present was the same tailgate spoiler as the 1.6s. Inside was very similar to the 1.6s, only with velour “Zolda” trim and the electrical options as standard. Blue plastic “XR2i” trims adorned the carpet by the sills.
The XR2i was available in Black, Radiant Red, Diamond White or Mercury Grey. The car was discontinued in 1992 with the launch of the emission compliant Zetec engined XR2i 16v. The last of the line models were Moondust Silver and came with the option of Recaro front seats. Most were on a J plate although some K plates exist.
The RS Turbo was launched in May 1990, a year after the XR2i. The engine was based on the 1.6 turbocharged CVH from the Series 2 Escort RS Turbo. Due too lack of space in the Fiestas engine bay, the T3 turbo as on the Escort was replaced with a smaller Garett T2 unit. This also helped to minimize lag as it began to boost at just under 2000rpm. The Bosch K-Star management was also not retained, with Ford utilising the EFI EEC-IV system from the XR2i.
The performance of the car was a substantial improvement over the XR2i with 132bhp on tap, 0-60 taking 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 133mph. The Fiesta was geared lower than the Escort, but it did not have the Limited Slip Differential (LSD) and as a result, torque steered a little. The RST’s suspension was 1” lower than the XR2i, with shorter dampers on the rear, and the addition of a rear anti-roll bar. The braking system was the same as the XR2i with the option of ABS at extra cost. Externally the RST had 14” three spoke alloy wheels, a colour coded hatch spoiler and the stripe running down the side was green. Too aid cooling bonnet vents were fitted and the grille was removed.
Like the XR2i, the RST was only available in Black, Radiant Red, Diamond White or Mercury Grey, although the last production run were all Moondust Silver. The RST was produced until the emission laws of 1992, and as some cars were manufactured, but not registered until after August 1st, there are a few K plate examples around.
The XR2i 16v arrived in May 1992 to replace the three year old CVH model that would not be compliant with forthcoming emission regulations. It featured the 1800cc 16 valve 105ps (104bhp) Zetec engine from the MK5 Escort XR3i, and the same EEC-IV management as the Fiesta RST. The XR2i came with a catalytic converter, which would be legally required by the 1st of August, 1992.
The revised b5 gearbox had different gear ratios than the older CVH box, a shorter first and second, and a longer fifth. This meant that although power was down by 10bhp, the 16v’s 0-60 and top speed was almost identical to the CVH model. Visually, the 16v looked more up to date than the previous model, with body coloured wing mirrors and larger 14” alloy wheels. The alloys were the same 5 spoke deign as fitted to the Escort XR3i and were an option at extra cost on later models. Silver plastic badges replaced the stickers on the CVH and the rubbing side strips were removed.
There was now a larger choice of colours available, including Moondust Silver and Pacifica Blue. The biggest change was to the interior was the use of very black carpets, dashboard and trim parts, replacing the grey trim of the CVH models. The 16v had the same “Raven” trim and the leather steering wheel and gearknob from the RST, only this time in black rather than grey leather. The electric window switches were now located in the door pockets and the boot release moved to just forward of the gear stick, which gained a leather gaiter. The 16v also had the same “winged” seats from the XR3i with supportive side and shoulder bolsters, and net pockets on the backrests. Production stopped in 1993.
Also launched in May 1992, the RS 1800 was introduced as a replacement for the soon to be discontinued RST. From May until Autumn of 1992 you could buy both models new from Ford. The RS 1800 is essentially a slightly higher specified XR2i 16v, the engine is almost identical, but is rated at 130ps (128bhp) over the XR’s 105. The extra power came from a larger throttle body, the same used in the 2.0 Zetec engine, different cams, remapped ECU and a few other parts.
Externally the RS 1800 looked virtually identical to the XR2i, the only differences were as follows: A colour coded rear hatch spoiler, this was the same plastic as fitted to the RST, rather than the “rubbery” black spoiler fitted to the XR2i. “RS” and “1800” badges on the tailgate. Polished 14” five spoke alloys, these are the same design as the Escort RS 2000 was fitted with, only 1” smaller. The tyres were the same 185/55 R14. Inside the trim was identical to the XR2i 16v, except for the addition of Recaro seats. The trim at the start of the production run was the “Raven” used earlier in the RS Turbo.
In March 1994 the Mk3 became the mk3.5 with a strengthened shell, airbags and a fuel flap filler. The car also gained power steering, smaller mirrors, oval side repeaters and further colour options including Noveau Red Metallic. The interior trim changed to “Jigsaw Raven” and a lights on warning buzzer was a welcome feature. Mk3.5 cars are fitted with the “winged” Si / XR2i seats, this is due to Ford keeping costs down to maintain competitive pricing with the cars main rival, the Vauxhall Corsa GSi. For the same reason these cars have matt finish alloys rather than the earlier polished ones. The colour range in mk3.5 form was Diamond White, Radiant Red (solid), Cayman Blue, Java Blue, Moondust Silver, Ash Black and Mallard Green (metallic). Production ceased in December 1994 and the last models were registered on the N plate.
The Si 16v was introduced in 1994 as an insurance friendly yet sporty Fiesta, a kind of successor to the CHV 1.6 S and SX models. The XR2i and RS 1800 in groups 14 and 15 respectively were becoming severely hampered by increasing premiums that would eventually lead to both cars being discontinued within two years. The Si was powered by the 1.6 version of the Zetec that appeared in the 16v XR2i. This unit, rated at 90bhp, managed to get the car to 60 in just over 10 seconds yet still keep the car in group 8.
From the outside the car looked quite different to any previous MK3 Fiesta. Both the front and rear bumpers were of a new smoother design, without the swage lines and coloured stripes of previous models. The front bumper had two 10cm round fog lights and a moulded grille. The Si shared the same black hatch spoiler as the XR2i, with the option of a larger spoiler that fitted on the tailgate, just above the rear clusters. This spoiler was offered with or without an integral brake light. The front arches had small plastic extensions, similar in design to the S2 Escort RS Turbo, but without the side skirts. The rear arches were left as standard. Factory issue on the Si were 14” steel rims with plastic trims of a design first seen on the MK5 escort. Alloys were an option at extra cost, and these are the same as the 16v XR2i. The interior on the Si is regarded by many Fiesta fans as Ford’s best. It has the same black dashboard and trim parts, with the new “Jigsaw Raven” pattern and the same winged seats as the XR2i.
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