The cars : 1990 Ford Escort 1.8D

Ones they’d rather forget: It was a $1bn make-or-break car for Ford, and they blew it by allowing the marketing department to call the shots.

Escort MkV: Not Uncle Henry's finest hour.

Escort MkV: Not Uncle Henry's finest hour.

Picture the scene: it’s 1986 and you’re a Ford product planner. Your brief is to come up with a replacement for the UK’s best-selling car, and you have an extremely conservative customer clientele. You’ve already been told that against all better instincts, you’re not there to innovate – the Sierra showed that advanced looking Fords were hard to sell – and that means making more of the same. But that’s surely a recipe for success?

 As it happens, the 1990 Escort was Ford’s most heavily clinicked car to that date, and without doubt it offered exactly what the customers wanted. Styling moved away from the crisp origami folds of the 1980 Escort, to be replaced by a far more organic form – but unlike the Sierra, there was no overt aerodynamic detailing to scare off customers. In the showroom, it offered a little more of everything – more space inside, more equipment, and larger price tags across the range.

 But under the skin, the engine range remained a carry-over – so that meant rattly CVHs for the petrols and the gutless, rough, Endura Ds for the diesels. In standard 1.8-litre form that meant 60bhp and a less than scintillating performance. When launched, the Escort MkV failed to impress the magazine road testers – and even worse, the new car’s abject failure to improve on its predecessor was such that it entered the national psyche and converted into disappointing sales. Ford, it seemed couldn’t win: innovate and customers shied away; play it safe, and the result was very similar indeed.

 The impact on Ford of Great Britain’s bank balance must have been enormous: in 1980, the UK’s best selling car was the mid-sized, high-profit, Cortina. By 1990, the Ford Fiesta was the company’s chart-topper.

 On the road, the Escort Diesel truly disappointed. It proved slow to warm-up, vibratory and sluggish in the extreme. Compared with class-leading rivals from Peugeot and Renault, it was light years off the pace. Factor in a resurgent Rover with it PSA XUD powered 218D model, and there seemed little choice for aspirational buyers – other than to abandon their local Ford dealers and head west. Thankfully the turbo versions (in 75 and 90bhp form) redressed the performance issue, but not the lack of refinement.

Within weeks of going on sale, Ford pressed ahead with an emergency facelift, pushing it forward to September 1992, barely two years after the original car’s launch. Petrol powered buyers were wooed back with the arrival of the DOHC Zetec powered cars, but as for those who needed DERV, the Endura would have to do – although detail engineering changes did smooth its most vocal tendencies.

This was an interim facelift, with more far-reaching changed being introduced for the 1995 mid-life overhaul. But again, the diesels were forced to soldier on using Endura D power.

As for the 1990 Escort’s epitaph, it’s clear that its failure to innovate would lead to Ford’s engineering excellence that underpinned the 1993 Mondeo. The company had been stung by the press and customers because it cynically expected its clientele to stomach a car that simply wasn’t good enough. When it came to replacing the Escort, it reverted to revolutionary form, combining Mondeo style dynamic excellence with concept car styling. The result – it was the UK’s best selling car for every year it was in production.

 Sometimes, it’s best not to listen to your customer, and trust your instincts.

Posted in: Escort
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

97 Comments on "The cars : 1990 Ford Escort 1.8D"

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  1. Eric van Spelde says:

    Autocar & Motor’s infamous one-star road test of the 1.4 LX model here: http://www.autocar.co.uk/CarReviews/RoadTestsHistory/Ford-Escort-1.4-LX-/204154/

    I’d wager to guess all the clinicking they did was with the cars on static display; there’s a difference between conservatism and outright under-development…

  2. Daveyp says:

    When I owned a Rover 214 in 1991 I took a drive in my friends brand new Escort 1.6 and and was absoultely appalled at what I found. It felt more like a light commercial vehicle.

  3. Daveyp says:

    When I owned a Rover 214 in 1991 I took a drive in my friends brand new Escort 1.6 and and was absoultely appalled at what I found. It felt more like a light commercial vehicle

  4. Will M says:

    I once owned a 1992 K reg Ford Orion.
    It was a 1.8, one of the first DOHCs. It was pre-facelift (I actually preferred the pre-facelift grille and even considered a Cosworth-style grille). Around 1993ish they dropped the Orion name entirely with the first ‘oval grille’ facelift.

    The engine in mine was actually called Zeta.
    Ford at a later stage had to rename it to Zetec as Lancia owned the name Zeta.

    To be frank, it was a lemon.
    The engine was unreliable – prone to misfiring, constant stalling on startup and eventually blew an oil seal.
    The fuel tank was like a seive. Though the fuel gauge stopped working so you weren’t sure where you stood.
    Wishbones were weak, under acceleration it would tend to veer to the left.
    The electrics were shoddy, left me without offside lights on a drive from England to Scotland.
    Interior-wise the front windows were electric (and did work!) but the rear winders broke off!
    The rear arches got terminal rust very quickly.

    Around the same time a friend had an H-reg Escort, the 1.3 CVH. It was somewhat more reliable until I was out with him in it and it left us stranded. Calling the RAC, they pulled out one of the spark plugs and half an oily plug came out. He got rid of it soon after.

  5. Adrian says:

    I always regarded the 1990 Escort was Ford’s Allegro..

  6. dontbuybluemotion dontbuybluemotion says:

    Dare I admit it? I was once a Ford man, However my 1st new car was the last of the Escorts (mk7?) 95 on a N plate, I had driven many of the mk 5 and 6 models and was pretty shocked at how awful they were (absolute shopping trolleys), along with the mk3 Fiesta, Mine was the 1.8d, no pas (It really needed it)no electric anything, in fact Billy Basic Poverty Model, I remember paying both legs and an arm for it (Ford Finance) It was a slug to drive But surprisingly held its own on the motorway… was amazed at how quiet Ford had made it, (though you could still get Vibration white finger) Quite economical and not much went wrong although the oil light took its time to go out after just 60k My other half had a Fiesta L reg which started to rust all over the place (at around 4 yrs old) So we traded it in, whilst almost to the same age of the Fiesta, Our Escort did the same. We have never bought another Ford since!

  7. Mike Bushell says:

    In my lifetime, this was the worst car that Ford made, and clearly the diesel was the worst version. I tried the TDX 90 bhp diesel and now have a hearing defect!

    This car was proof that asking the public what they want leads to conservatism and lack of new thinking. However, Ford are still here and look what happened to Rover. total shame. unfortunatley, but by bit, each subsequent Focus excites me less than the previous.

  8. HILTON DAVIS says:

    I had a J reg Escort 1.4LX (CVH) company car which had 2 tone paint & boot spoiler. Looked better than the original launch cars (then the first facelift looked better again.) As I read somewhere – “despite having a spoiler it doesn’t make it a Ferrari” How true!

    Having said that, it lasted till 106K miles despite needing clutch and rear wheel bearings replaced. After MGRover ownership, I’ve just bought my second Focus MK2 and they are much better cars than the Escort.

  9. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    I had an Escort 1.6L as a company car in 1989-90. It seemed to go like stink, although the front wheels failed to grip the road under sharp acceleration. The 1990 version was much looked-forward to as its predecessor had been in production for 10 years, but was still generally quite well thought of for its convenience and its styling. Big disappointment when the car that replaced it was at best no better, and perhaps inferior? Bit like the ’95 Rover400 / R8 in that respect.

  10. Chris C says:

    Better engine but the base 218D wasn’t brilliant – lack of power steering led to many sales of PAS kits if I remember correctly while the 1.9 (as opposed to 1.7 turbo) left it a bit sluggish?

  11. Richard16378 says:

    I remember Jeremy Clarkson calling the Mk5 a car designed by accountants, & that it should have been like the mid 1990’s restyle from the start, but Ford didn’t want another Sierra on their hands.

    My friend’s parents had an L reg estate in the 1990’s which seemed to cope well with plenty heavy loads, so by 1993-4 things must have been sorted out.

  12. Adrian says:

    Yep, the Mk 7 Escort was light years ahead of the Mk5 & 6, however not as good as the Focus.

  13. yme402 says:

    Probably the lowest point in Fords recent history in the UK.
    One of these over an R8…..

  14. daveh says:

    My dad had a 98 plate si. He love’d it and hated the day he had to pack up driving – worse to come the friend of a friend who bought it then saw his neighbour reverse into it and write it off – especiallay as ut only 42,000 on the clock back in 2008. My brother love’d it to and bought a three door version of the same car but his had quite a few probs with the electrics. My Grandad had a 96 plate Orion and he loved that too.
    What did not help Ford was the crap build quality that cursed the Escort – Halewood’s build quality was the worse in European arm of Ford – amazingly in now produces some of the best built Land Rovers ever.

  15. daveh says:

    Oh – My opinion the Focus was miles better – I had two Mk1’s, though build quality is still not great – my last one was bought by my brother and the turbo has gone after 7 years and only 48,000 miles.

  16. HILTON DAVIS says:

    Re: Daveh. I remember the Escort Si (it was one of the first Fords to feature white dashboard dials). I would have fancied the Si 1.8 petrol model. The build quality of my last (Cologne built?) Focus seemed OK so I hope my new one will be as good.

  17. Mike C says:

    The terrible Escort Mk5 was a godsend for Rover, who had a car that was much better and more desirable, and hence could sell good numbers of R8s at a healthy margin. After the slating Ford got (and deserved), they turned things around and produced a series of excellent driving cars – Mondeo, Fiesta IV, Ka, Puma culminating in the 1998 Focus.

    The final Escorts produced at Halewood (in parallel with the imported Focuses) at least had good build quality, as Jaguar were taking over the factory and introducing much higher standards.

  18. Ryan says:

    ok mas somone who has own quite a few escorts over the years i have to come to there defence. there were not as bad as people seemed. ture the 1990 escort wasnt much to write home about (although i think it looked the best out all of the facelifts) but by the time 1993 came they were pretty much soirted out. true they were no sparklers on the road but they did the job well enough. only the less than impressive gear change being a real irritant.
    i currently own a 1993 ford escort ghia si (with air con no less) and i have fallen for it hook line and sinker. yes its a bit hopless and that fake walnut dash makes me laugh every day. but she has got what all fords have dispite there adveragenesss…personality, by the bucket load. nothing has more peronality like an old ford!

  19. Steve Bailey says:

    I had two Escort Diesels – a J reg 1991 Escort 1.8 LX (60ps)and an R reg 1997 1.8 TD (70ps) LX.

    Both were utter garbage. The only thing in their favour was decent equipment levels for the time – central locking, electric front windows, rev counter and internal hatch release (manual on the J reg – fine, electric on the R reg – worked when it felt like it).

    The J reg was slow but okay(ish) on fuel – it used to do about 46mpg, despite being driven with the foot to the floor most of the time. The build quality of the interior was truly shocking – bits literally came off in your hands. Mechanically, though, it was perfectly reliable (in a cheaply engineered way).

    The R reg one – where do I start? It went through three gearboxes, had wishbones at every MoT test, started rusting at two years old, only did 38mpg, and was incredibly slow – it didn’t feel any faster than the old J reg. I replaced it with an equally unreliable secondhand Mondeo Ghia after 108k miles in the Escort. I sold the Escort to a mate for £400 (no MoT), on the condition that it was completely sold as seen (a cheap price for an eight year old car). Within eighteen months the engine was dead.

    I have driven Japanese cars ever since! I was (and still am) truly shocked by how bad the Fords were, and at how reliable and well-made Hondas are.

  20. Steve Bailey says:

    At the same time that I had a J reg Escort 1.8 D LX, a friend had a H reg Maestro 2.0 D LX.

    I expected the Maestro to feel like a Seventies throwback when compared to my Escort, after all, my Escort was a brand new design, whereas the Maestro design dated back a decade.

    I was wrong. My friend’s Maestro was more comfortable, quieter, easier to drive (power steering), had a more spacious and luxurious Rover-style interior with velour seats and a rear armrest, was noticeably quicker and was about 20% more economical. I was impressed. The only thing against it was that it looked like a Maestro,although the two-tone R8-style paint made it look more modern. It was a far better car than my Escort, yet mine was worth £4000 at four years old and his was worth half that. The power of Ford’s marketing!

  21. Howard says:

    The most below average car ever built!
    How any major car firm could still offer a 4 speed box on some models of its middle ranking motor in 1990/91 is beyond me.The Maxi had a 5 speeder in 1969.But coming from the firm that still had cross-plys as standard on the 1978 Escort Pop should it surprise you?

  22. BobM BobM says:

    A friend had a late Escort van (x reg) with the diesel under the bonnet (not sure if turbo or not tbh!). In a metallic silver with alloys he loved it, it was a “car van” so wasn’t laden down all the time and never got dirty. Anyway having driven it myself I thought it was pretty nippy – no ball of fire but not bad. Screwed together well but it was rusty in places at about 4 years old iirc. He’s got a Berlingo now.

    As an aside I’m pretty sure a GTi badge was ever fitted to a Ford was on the Escort. A neighbour has one, I confess I quite like it…

  23. Steve Bailey says:

    @BobM Yes, the only GTi (as opposed to GT) badge ever fitted to a Ford was the Escort GTi, which wasn’t a bad car – it was available in 3 & 5 door hatch form and also in the estate bodystyle (very rare). It had the RS2000 bodykit, ABS, a 115ps 1.8 Zetec, sports suspension,Escort Cosworth-style 15″ alloys (an inch smaller than the “proper” Cosworth alloys) and half-leather interior trim. Equipment was same as the LX (central locking, electric windows, manual sunroof) but with a CD player. Air conditioning, electric mirrors and heated front screen were options.

    Basically an upspecced 1.8 Si, a modern-day XR3i really, but a nicely thought-out package nonetheless. A friend had one and loved it, in fact he preferred it to his Volvo S70 2.5. I still quite like them!

  24. Darren says:

    Imagine the scene in Ford’s development department: the 1990 Escort has been signed off for production, and then Rover launches the R8!

  25. Benny Ben Adams says:

    “Ford pressed ahead with an emergency facelift”

    And history repeated itself with the MK2 Focus, so bland and boring after the Original Focus that they once again had to push through a facelift 20 odd months after its launch.

    As others have said it seems mad that in 15 short years Ford have gone from strength to strength sales wise whereas Rover, who were on top of the world in 1990 with R6 and R8 went down the toilet.

  26. Howard says:

    Ford’s market share at the momemt isn’t great.Approx 13% now compared with 35% in the 1980s.But I can’t believe how the motoring press swoon over every Ford product that’s been launched over the last 10 years or so.The latest Focus and Astra are comparable,but because the Astra hasn’t got fully independent rear suspension,one of our ‘famous’ motoring magazines won’t give it the credit it deserves.

  27. dolomitefan says:

    This was a truly awful car. I remember it also initially had a bad safety test result too which didn’t help the sell. I struggle to think of anything good about this car except it was so badly made there are thankfully very few around now. You’ve only got to drive a last of line version with an early Focus to realise just how bad the inherant design was.

    The diesel is without doubt the worst version too, slow and usually no PAS.

  28. Dennis says:

    From what i understand the 1.8 Diesel in the Ford was of the same Lineage as the 1.8XUD in The Rover’s. Trouble is instead of Ford buying updates from PSA as PSA developed the engine, they just bought one design in the late 70’s and kept it. In the 70’s is wasn’t a bad engine, but everyone else had moved on. If you thought it was noisy in the car, try it in the Escort Van with out a bulkhead!
    Ford’s diesels were always rough, the VM 2.5 used in the Range-Rover and Rover 825, was a bit harsh, but the same engine seemed 10 times worse in the Ford Granada!
    The old Di engine used in the Transits, was bullet proof and would pull down a mountain with it’s torque but my god it was noisy! It wasn’t until Ford signed their JV with Peugeot that things improved. From what i can see Ford signed the Cheques, while PSA did the work!

    Still the piss poor build quality on the MK5 Escorts does show Ford were better at putting things right, the MK5b was a big improvement in terms of reliability, sales picked up again. It shows that if Rover had sorted the K-Series, rather than burying their head in the sand they could have salvaged it!

  29. Ryan says:

    see once again i disagree/ like i said before im comging from the faclift point of view with my car. but its faily well screwed together. not outstanding but ok none the less. like most cars hey imporved with ages. and they were an ok car. apart from one (which im convinced was down to 2 dodgy mechanics) all the fords i have ever owned, most of them being the 1990 – 2000 escort have been fautlessly reliable. which unfortunatly is more than i can say for most of the rovers i have owned. thats one thing i cant compain about them with….apauling seats though….im lucky i have the posh seats in mine.

    many people are questioning why ford is here and rover is not. well for me its down to one thing. rover gained a reputation for unreliability in the 70’s and some 35 years later they still couldnt shake it of. thanks to the horrible 1.8 k series.
    if u ake unreliable cars then people wont buy them. however much they want to. that is why for is here and rover is not. and this is coming from a big rover fan

  30. Ryan says:

    btw i should have read that last post back….sorry for the terrible spelling!

  31. Marty B says:

    I have first hand experience of the trusty 1.8D engine in a very early mk5 Escort van. That van in 2 years did 180,000, and only needed a new clutch at 120k, plus the usual service items every month. It was basic inside, but was fairly comfy. It could crack 95, JUST, but at the time, the competition was no better or faster. The Maestro D van was even noisier, and more basic! The 1.8 D endura lump wasnt a bad engine if you looked after it, and I know many Escort Mk5 1.8 D’s that were minicabs. Plod seemed to have plenty of 1.8 TD Endura Focuses over the years too, and so did the MOD. My mate runs an early Focus 1.8TD Ghia saloon (ex taxi), and an 02 plate ex MOD Focus Estate TD, both with high miles, and both are reliable. The ex minicab saloon was a recent buy for a few hundred quid, and it sailed through its MOT. It is always how any vehicle is maintained. if it is abused and rarely serviced, it will be pants, but if well cared for, will go on forever.

    Early mk5’s were a bit pup tbh, but once the better engines came along, and better handling, it wasn’t a bad car. Early 1.8 ‘Zeta’ branded engines were recalled due to poor timing gear, but the improved ‘Zetec’ units weren’t bad. Many Escorts that have rotted away have donated their Zetecs to Mk2 Escorts, and kit cars

  32. Steve Lee says:

    The Mk4 suspension set-up has to be one of the ill-considered lash ups of all time. Stuck with the rather rudimentary basics of the Mk3 suspension they then tried to make it ride properly to match the competition of the day. They ended up with over soft springing and next to no damping – truly awful – VW pulled off a similar trick (to a lesser extent) with the Mk4 Golf.

    And people slate the Maestro which in standard form rode and handled very nicely indeed.

  33. Craig W says:

    I owned 2 Escorts in between and along side my various Austins and Rovers. Both petrol ones, so I can’t comment on the diesel engines. Both cars were dull but dependable. The first one was one of the last mk4 shape, a very pretty blue metalic “Eclipse” run-out special. Can’t remember much ever going wrong with it, at all.
    The second one was a base 1.3 1994 “emergency facelift” model. This was supposed to be my wifes car, but she developed a taste for my Rover 416GSi, and later 623 GSi & I used it to go to work in for about 4 or 5 years, and she never drove it. It was boring and not very fast, had no power steering, but was good on fuel, and very cheap to own. Lower front wishbones were the only part I had to get replaced (twice)apart from the regular exhaust, battery, tyres etc.
    I recently checked all of my old cars on the DVLA website, and this Escort is the only one still on the road. By wierd coincidence I then saw it on my way to work last week.
    I never really liked it like my Rovers, but it did a job.
    I only sold it (and the 600) when I saw the ncap test videos, as I have young kids.

  34. Steve says:

    Your article seems to forget the very underated MK5 RS 2000 (The bonnet bulge model). Mine is 18 years old and still puts a smile on my face. It had it’s own twin cam engine that pulls like a train plus don’t forget the Escort RS Cosworth.

    Performance Fords rule.

  35. Mark Pitchford says:

    A mate of mine had one of the Escorts from this era and we alternated lifts to football matches. It was really harsh and rough, and I had always thought there must have been something wrong with his particular car – but this article shows that it was typical of the breed.

    The only puzzle remaining is what made him buy it!

  36. jemma says:

    The John Zoidberg of british motoring. We had a white bargain basement 1.4 Orion, unreservedly the most horrible thing I have ever driven. A 1928 Rolls could take corners better than this. It rattled, it creaked and it had all the tensile strength of a lump of hot plasticine. I have no idea what they made the bodywork from, but it looked and felt like compressed plastic milk bottles!
    But the worst of it was Fords new steering system. In the 1900s early aircraft maneuvered using wing warping, bending the wings profile, much like a bird does, to make turns. Ford updated this for the Escort/Orion 5 enhancing and developing it into chassis warping. Simply leaning ones bodyweight over the sill gave 10 degrees of turn. Godawful doesnt even begin to describe it. My father drove it the grand total of once and wouldnt get in it again. He loathed it.
    Thankfully we didnt have to live with it for too long, I think even my mother could sense its awfulness (and she has a mechanical & vehicular tin ear that has to be seen to be believed) and put it out of its misery by doing a 3 point turn on a 60mph limit road – at which point some duffer T-boned the Orion out of existance. I wonder if the soul of the thing thanked her as it left…? We will never know…

  37. Dolomitefan says:

    @Steve The Cossie version was actually based on a Sieraa platform not an Escort.

  38. Graham says:

    Hi

    I remember being asked to house-sit and car-sit for friends in 1990 when they were on holiday. The car was a brand new H-reg Escort 1.3 (ohv I think) LX with, wait for it, electric front windows and a radio/cassette. Possibly even a glass sunroof.

    I thought it was tediously slow and foul-handling with the worst points being the shapeless, flat front seats that tried to throw you sideways off them on the gentlest of bends as the car heeled over.

    I had been so looking forward to swanning around in a brand new car. In the end I left it parked up and went back to my Dolly Sprint-engined TR7, as you would.

  39. daveh says:

    The 1.8D engine was dire, but it was not just PSA doing the work. Ford have had huge imput on the new TDCI engines with their research centre at Dunton. The 1.8 was a great block and Dunton were working on this engine to create a performance Diesel back in the late 90’s Early naughties. The torque was so powerful that it ripped up every gear box they threw at it including the one used in the RS Cosworth rally cars! It was abandoned because it was just too expensive to produce, but the research used from this was put into the Lion V6 that is so loved in the Jag and Land Rover.

  40. Steve says:

    To Dolomite Fan.

    Yes I know the the cossie version is a Sierra 4×4 cosworth platform. It was still sold as a MK5 Escort. The RS2000 is still a great drivers car today. Mine isn’t rusty, doesn’t rattle and still does 130mph.

    The funny thing here is people slagging of Ford when the utter crap that Austin Rover was producing at the time was trully dreadfull in comparison.

    Ford saves it’s self by making desirable, affordable performance models. Austin Rover never made a decent performance hot hatch. Halo models make people buy the hum drum stuff.

  41. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    To Steve : The Maestro EFi was a decent performance hot hatch

  42. Jeff says:

    My first car (in 1978) was a 1965 Mini traveller. I never thought I would travel in a rougher car than that until I went in an uncle’s brand new J reg Escort 1.4. My god, it felt like the engine was in the front seat next to you. I seem to remember he did not have it long and got a Vauxopel which he had ages.

  43. Steve says:

    Yes The Maestro EFi wasn’t that bad to be honest. The rare Tickford Turbo was fast but overall not good enough against Peugeot 205 GTi’s, MK2 Golf GTi’s, RS Fords etc etc.

    Don’t get me wrong I love proper Rovers (P4, P5, P6 SD1) but take yourself back to 1990 what would you buy, an MG Maestro or an RS Turbo?

  44. Darren says:

    MG Maestro Turbo.

  45. Tony Evans says:

    Used to get these on hire and my girlfriend at the time had a 1.6 Zetec version. Steering was approximate at best. Seats weren’t comfortable and reliability was iffy. The steering was marginally better in the facelift but the car was so DULL inside. Automotive equipment of cold porridge.

    The outside was… boring. The inside was … boring and uncomfortable. The build quality was indifferent, the electrics dodgy and rust would appear at frightening speed especially round rear wheel arches and bottoms of doors. As for the “sporty” white dials, about as fashionable as wearing white sports socks with black formal lace-ups. Naff in the extreme.

    Never had an issue with the disel other than the fact that the GM Isuzu unit in the Astra was 10x better. The Ford diesel was economical if driven gently … the problem was that it was so gutless that you had to drive all the time with your foot to the floor. I can recall flogging one of these down the M6/M5/M40/A34 where it would drop down to 60mph on the hills and you had to change down to keep the momentum up!

    I was so glad when my company changed from hertz (owned by Ford) to Avis for their hire cars … and i got rid of the girlfriend too. 🙂

  46. Paul says:

    Fords sold in the UK then and now where pan-european models. I doubt the UK would have been the only market concerning them as they developed the MK4 Escort.

  47. Andrew Elphick says:

    Tony Evans @ I remember those uphill downshifts! You just couldn’t rev a 1990 on Derv escort, yet the preceeding mark 4 went like a rocket!

    Driving new fleet fodder (cars and vans) in period, the Astra was the choice for speed if not handling (or demisting!) the Maestro was “failure fodder” even then. The Prima went well if you were wearing ear defenders. But for kerb appeal (the reason anyone truly buys a car) they didn’t cut it.

    The 1995 Escort had a a fantastic chassis, it really did out shine the opposition, hell I even bought a 3 month old one 1997!

  48. John Greenwood says:

    Some pretty harsh comments about the Escort here!

    A product of its time it doubtless had some flaws but as I recall, having owned a few, perfectly acceptable and up to the job.

    Yes, the diesel wasn’t all that but, French cars being the exception, not many manufacturers were churning out decent oil-burners and they certainly weren’t Ford’s forte.

    Don’t forget too that it is only in recent times that diesel sales have really stepped up significantly so there probably wasn’t the same demand two decades ago.

    The bean-counters had squeezed the soul out it, but I don’t think it was that terrible. The ‘one star’ review link in the first post makes for entertaining reading, but there’s huge bias and nothing in the text to justify the eventual score.

    I suspect people either have a tendancy to compare cars of this vintage against the modern counterparts, with an obvious outcome, or alternatively look at the reputation of the cars long after they had passed their warranty period.

    Ford sold bucket loads of these things, and the majority will have suffered neglect in latter years, and it’s from this point that poor reputations will stem.

    The CVH engine is a case in point – nothing wrong with it when serviced regularly and properly, but I recall regularly de-sludging clogged up and rattly cylinder heads caused by shoddy maintenance.

    Problems not so far away from our beloved K-Series?

  49. BobM BobM says:

    Some decent Escort-bashing going on, but as has been said Ford sold loads of them, so got something right at least. A chap at work recently got rid of his much beloved TD Escort, replacing it with (in his words) a far far more unreliable “crappy” TDCi Mk1 Focus.

    On the subject of which, and not really ‘owt to do with the Escort as such, but reading through the comments I’ve noticed a few remarks about how dull the Focus has become. With which I agree! Anyone notice that the more dull the Focus becomes, the more interesting the Astra becomes!

    Having said that I’m finding that early Focii really are quite “sheddy” now, rusty and knackered and quite dated – my Cavalier looks better imo!

  50. Dennis says:

    I drove an early Focus not long after they came out, i was impressed, roomy, comfortable and nice to drive.
    I had an 07 Focus company supplied hire car a couple of years ago. It was a Zetec model, handled well and was quite pokey, but the ride was atrocious and the cabin noise was so bad you couldn’t hold a conversation on the motorway without raising your voice and forget trying to have a phone conversation in the passenger seat. I even checked to see if there was a window or door open, there wasn’t! I would have preferred taking my mini it was actually quieter inside!

    When talking about the 1990 escort you need to be clear you’re thinking of the 1990 escort and not the revised 1994 escort, which was basically the same car but with most of the faults sorted. The 1990 one was a dog, everyone said so at the time (apart from Ford), the mk5b model wasn’t too bad, that’s the ones with the first ‘oval grille’. Ford introduced this minor facelift and bug fix in response to the volume of warranty claims they were getting.

  51. Eric van Spelde says:

    @ John Greenwood: it was as early as ’95 when mr Richard Parry Jones was quoted in Car magazine about his getting a rental Escort somewhere and pondering how noisy, unrefined, uncomfortable and generally horrid it was. In the same edition another writer remembers talking to a senior engineer during the Mondeo press launch about the Escort with the engineer saying that it was a lost cause (he was to be proven wrong with the 1995 ‘facelift’ that was introduced on the same pages – although the re-engineering on that was so extensive they could have called it a new model…)

    That is how bad the Mk5 was.

    Everyone knew, Ford knew that everyone knew and realised it was of no use denying it – I’m sure that senior people at a major car manufacturer normally would have gotten short shrift by the powers that be if they were frank to the point of cruelty about a product their company launched not even a handful of years ago…

  52. John Greenwood says:

    @ Eric van Spelde: Fair enough, but that’s just more comments from magazines whose reviewers might be more at home in something far more upmarket. I would doubtless offer very similar comments about a low-rent Kia today when comparing with my daily driver.

    Thousands of customers must have been happy with their purchase – if not, they would have bought something else. Okay, so it wasn’t going to set the world alight, but there wasn’t much on the market that did at this price-point.

    Think carefully about the horribly tinny Vauxhall Disastra, its main rival, which wasn’t offering anything better (Rover were well on the way to pricing themselves out of this sector).

    The Escort was a cheap, cheerful, cleanly designed family car of its time which was treated to various changes after launch, in keeping with continuous improvement policy.

    I do not recall the senior engineer who lambasted the Escort but I expect, if it is true, that he would have been reprehended – comments like that from senior personnel must have been very damaging.

    The MkV Escort was far from being a great car, in fact I thought it to be a step down from the MkIV but, from working at dealerships through the early 90’s I remember it just ‘got on with the job’ with minimal fuss, the reputation for poor reliability really kicking in later on due, predominently, to poor maintentance.

    I’ve no particular fondness for it – just offering a different point of view!

    All the best.

  53. David Dawson says:

    The mid nineties car was not too bad but the 1990 original was bloody awful. Overall shape ok but the front was terribly bland, the interior cheap and the rear with its multitude of creases looked as though it had suffered a minor impact!!

    What a massive contrast – R8 200 vs early nineties Escort!!
    How was this advantage lost?

  54. Steve Bailey says:

    By the way, the one in the photo is the “luxurious, top of the range” 1990 launch spec Ghia (available with that paragon of internal combustion engineering, the 1.4 or 1.6 CVH), complete with nasty black mirrors and 13″ steel wheels! What were they thinking?

    When you compare it to the Astra CD of the time which was already 6 years old by 1990, it makes you wonder how Ford sold any Escort Ghias. The Astra CD was available with a 1.8i engine capable of 120mph, had standard power steering (a £1000 option on the Escort), and had wood trim, leather steering wheel and a whole chemical factory worth of velour, including even the parcel shelf. The Ford had far less velour and nasty plastic door top casings.

    At the time, though, I wouldn’t have had either – I’d have had a Rover R8. I really wanted a Rover 214, but they were too expensive secondhand (their residuals for the first few years were extraordinarily high due to Rover’s semi-premium image back then), so I ended up with an Escort Bonus 90 – not quite an R8, but it was my first car so I still have fond memories of it!

  55. John Greenwood says:

    @Steve Bailey: The Ghia badge had perhaps become diluted somewhat by that time, the 1.4 or 1.6 engined variants you highlight probably being more of a ‘GL’ by comparison (and priced accordingly), but it did offer average chap/ chappess the chance to have nice badge on their motor.

    I believe people were also more interested in electric gadgets than bits of wood in the 80’s and 90’s. Steel wheels, 13″ ones at that, were still very common at that time!

    Your comparison against the Astra CD is perhaps a little unfair as Escort also offered the 1.8i 16V which, as I recall, was no slouch and generated a reasonable and refined 130bhp.

    The Astra was also very hollow and tinny and felt, to drive, like it had more in common with its van brother than higher range cars. Also velour everywhere, which Vauxhall had been pumping into their cars since the late Seventies, was not to everyone’s taste…

    The question you raise on volumes of sales is extremely easy to answer – fleet deals. Ford ruled the roost and offered the very best packages for its customers (verified elsewhere on this site in various articles).

    With you all the way on your last comment – new 2 series Rover all the way. Lovely stuff.

  56. Landyboy says:

    Back in 1992 when my wife returned from maternity leave to the West Brom Building Society she found that her 1.6 Montego had been re-allocated and the car policy had changed to cheaper models with wonderfully economical diesel engines. She was to be the lucky recipient of a new 1.8D 3-door Escort. It was truely awful and she had to change employers to escape the thing.

  57. didierz65 didier ziane says:

    it did cost £9840 in 1990, then below the autocar report there’s an ad for a new focus @ £12495… 21 years later!!! THE BILLION MUST HAVE BEEN RECOUPED FAST…

  58. Steve Bailey says:

    @John Greenwood. I agree that the Escort with the 1.8i Zeta later renamed Zetec) engine was a far better Escort (and probably better than the old Astra), but it wasn’t available at launch – it came along in late 1991 / early 1992 on J reg cars, and was part of a wholesale upgrading of equipment just before the 1992 emergency facelift. That upgrading of equipment did see the Escort Ghia become almost worthy of the name, with 14″ alloy wheels, better audio equipment (with CD player availability), a better suspension set up, higher equipment levels and much needed power assisted steering as standard equipment. The 1.8i Zeta 16v engine was made available in the Ghia at this point (although not the 130bhp version; that came with the 1993 Ghia Si), and the suspension on most models was upgraded. My point is that the launch Escort Ghia was a cynically equipped vehicle (as you rightly say, it was more to GL spec than Ghia, in fact the short lived Escort GLX had pretty much everything the Ghia had, with the exception of map reading lights and a heated front screen) and, as such, was not even comparable to the ageing Astra CDi.

    I also remember reading an article in Performance Ford magazine back in 1986 (when it was a fantastically well-written and knowledgeable magazine headed up by the sadly missed Dennis Foy, rather than the boy racer magazine it became) that published a letter from a owner of a brand new MK3a facelift C reg Orion 1.6i Ghia. This gentleman had previously owned a B reg pre-facelift Orion 1.6i Ghia, which was an incredibly well equipped small saloon for the time, with electric front windows, central locking, variable intermittent wash wipe, adjustable lumber support, electric mirrors, auto-reverse stereo cassette, courtesy lights galore, wood trim on the doors, low coolant/oil/washer fluid/brake pads electronic display etc. When he took delivery of his facelift 1.6i Ghia, which he had ordered before seeing the full specification list for the newly launched car, he was so shocked at its lack of equipment when compared to his previous Orion (one courtesy light, poor audio equipment (it was another year before the Ghia came with the separate four channel amplifier and auto-reverse cassette system), manual mirrors, no electronic monitoring display, no adjustable lumber support, no wood trim), that he actually got out of the car to check the badge on the back! The following year they upgraded the specification on the Ghia model considerably, so at the time this was probably a concious Ford marketing ploy – hope that the novelty value of the new model sells the cars then upgrade the specification to attract more buyers.

    The Rover 214, despite its quite poor equipment specification in relation to its price, managed to carve out a reputation as a car that was a more classy option than the mainstream opposition due to its high build quality, understated yet classy appearance and high quality and well-designed interiors. I remember riding in one and being really impressed with its big car feel and gorgeous interior. It still feels a bit strange that the MG Rover company has gone when you consider that the R8 was the best car in its class for several years – I remember the R8 being launched and thinking at the time that Rover was going places and had put the Austin Maestro/Montego era behind them. The rest is sadly history…

  59. Steve Bailey says:

    @David Dawson. I’d forgotten how bad the back end of the 1990 Escort looked! It was like the boots of two different cars, one smaller than the other, had been welded together (badly). It also had no less than FOUR swage lines down the side to give the body panels strength (always the sign of a bad design). One was under the side windows, one huge one went along the line of the door handles and all the way round the boot(!), and the remaining two were down on the lower portion of the doors, cunning disguised by the bodyside moulding (unless you bought a 1.3 Popular, where they were there for all the world to see).

    Horrid thing.

  60. mark says:

    hi well ive still got pre-cat version orion 1993,still going strong,have only just needed to weld a small plate on the sill,first time in 19 yrs,still as solid as the day it came out,have just done cambelt,last done 2005.

  61. Adrian says:

    I had the misfortune to briefly work at a company that had 1990 Escorts as company cars in 1995 (so they old as well as crap by that point).

    They were universally loathed by all those who drove them. They were chronically underpowered, and therefore hopeless at transporting a heavy car load of computer equipment across the country, as they were often required to do. Also the interiors was very fragile, and simply fell to pieces due to the heavy use they were subjected to.

    I remember one of them was taken for servicing to the local Ford dealer, and had a long list of faults written on a sheet of A4 was left on the front seat. I don’t know if any of them were fixed, but if they were it must have cost what the car was worth just to do this.

    Eventually there were replaced by Mk 3 diesel Astras, which were in a different league of comfort and build quality..

  62. Alan Hill says:

    We had a family Ford retail dealership back when the Escort V was launched and i remember going to two launch events one in Vienna and one at the Birmingham NEC where Ford had made one of the halls the week before the motor show into a Caribean island beach resort inside with 1000s of tons of sand and palm trees, But the reality was there were hardly any cars available to show at the launch and one of our best sellers was gone due to the insurance companies crackdown on hot hatches at the time ,The XR3i. After we had sold some cars we started getting recalls from Ford ranging from interior trim problems to the body shell cracking at the top corner of the door aperture !
    Also tow bar fitting had to be halted for a while due to the possibility of the bracket pulling away from the body due to poor design.
    The handling was terrible due to poor suspension the interior was basic and unappealing the engines were harsh and thrashy and the worst was the 1.3 valencia/kent it was a clattery bag of nails. We had to wait ages for the new 16v Zeta engines in 1.8 and when they arrived they were not a nice unit.
    When the XR3 “replacement” arrived the ,S it was a dreary un-injected 1.6 CVH engined device that along with other escort/orions if ordered in black were the subject to many paintwork warranty claims due to soft paint reaction to Bird lime.
    Then when the Orion arrived in the showroom it was the most boring update of an already boring car, but at least the previous Orion Ghia i versions were acceptable the new versions only claim was its short lived rear screen wiper on the Orion Ghias!
    Back when these cars were designed Ford thought they could get away with minimal standards and still sell by the bucketful ,They had to try harder with the Mondeo and succeeded even though we used to call it the mundane-o.
    The poor old Escort limped on although significantly improved but really died on a low ebb,so much so that unlike the Fiesta the car needed a new name at replacement time enter the Focus.

  63. Will M says:

    The 1.8 Zeta was a dog of an engine. More of a pre-production testbed than a production unit.
    Stop-start technology? The Zeta did that as standard. Every time you stopped.
    I’m sure the later Zetecs were properly tested, but it put me off Ford for life.

  64. Woolymatt says:

    In the spring/summer of 2010 I ran a 1994 ex-police Escort 1.8 LD (60 bhp) saloon. It had 150k miles. Turning the engine over took about 2 to 3 seconds. Occasionally it would fail to start 1st time but would always start by the second attempt. It vibrated so much that checking the rear view mirror presented a blurry image of whatever was behind you.

    It was a bit like driving a boat but for £250 and 6 months motoring, it did the job well. The fuel economy was excellent. The car was basic but on a 16 year old car it meant less things to go wrong. It had the optional ABS and power steering, which I guess were mandatory requirements as a police car.

    When finances allowed, I traded it in for my current car: a 2003 Nissan Almera 2.2 dCi. The Escort was rotting around the very reliable but unrefined engine unit and the boot leaked, causing mushrooms to grow out of the carpet!

  65. Adrian says:

    This is the Escort that Ford should have launched in 1990:

    http://autocade.net/index.php/Ford_Escort_Mk_VII

  66. Will M says:

    What were VW thinking?

    http://autocade.net/index.php/Volkswagen_Pointer

    http://autocade.net/index.php/Volkswagen_Logus (Though this actually looks quite good, like a coupe Orion)

  67. Paul says:

    Escort MKV? surely not:

    Escort Mk1(RWD) 1968 – 1975
    Escort Mk2(RWD) 1975 – 1980
    Escort Mk3(FWD) 1980 – 1990 (with facelift in 1986)
    Escort Mk4(FWD) 1990 – 2000 (with facelifts in 1992 and 1995)

  68. Paul says:

    Escort Diesel engines had absolutely nothing to do with Peugeot Ciroen XUD designs. They where based on the bottom end of the Ford Kent Petrol engine and where first used in 1.6 litre form in the Fiesta and Mk3 Escort in 1983. Over time they where enlarged to 1.8 litre and gained turbos and direct injection and then common rail injection(TDCi) in the Mk1 Focus. Ford only started using engines developed through a joint venture with PSA (that doesnt mean started using PSA engines!)with the Mk3 Fiesta in 2002 and Mk2 Focus in 2004.

  69. francis brett francis brett says:

    RS2000 apart,these cars were horrid.

  70. Adrian says:

    Vauxhall made pretty much the same mistake in 1995, when the much loved and reliable Cavalier was replaced by the in many ways inferior Vectra..

  71. Chris Baglin says:

    I had a 1993 Escort (‘smiley face’- the car not the driver), and it was awful- but then it only cost me £85! I was delivering Chinese food on the side at the time, and my ghastly Astra had just lunched its gearbox). There wasn’t a straight panel on it- as my Chinese boss was an appalling driver. The spare wheel well was full of water and the oil light was on (luckily it was the Endura 1.3- a poor engine but tolerant of no maintenance). Only ran it for a few months.

    I replaced it with a 1.8 diesel Fiesta Classic (the run out Mk 3 marketted alongside the ‘dead fish look’ Mk 4). There was no turbo, nor any anti-roll bars, despite which it went far better than it had any right to. Although the unassisted steering was very heavy (as were all the controls) it actually handled well. My neighbour ‘Dodgy Dave’ who was a bit of a car nut was constantly amazed at the speeds I got out of that thing! It was crude, but I miss that car. No wonder the Mk 3 chassis spawned the Mk 4, the Ka, and the Puma, all of which were very good to drive.

    I’ve had a Mk 6 Escort (emergency purchase) for over a year now, with the sweet 1.6 petrol engine. Its remarkably refined and a good all-rounder. Love the built-in ‘Fisher Price’ stereo- reasonable sound quality, easy to use, and Ford radios have the best reception of any make of stereo I’ve ever had. Ok, the Mk 6 ain’t stylish, but it can be run for peanuts and its reliable.

    Owned a 2.0 Ghia Focus once- best car so far- excellent chassis (and everything else bar far too much road noise).

    If you want to look at a poorly developed car, I’d offer the early Audi A4 as an example. I had one (again- emergency purchase), and it was awful. Looked good (standing still) but it was very poorly developed. The front and rear springing and damping rates were all over the place, the car would pitch and yaw and wallow; brakes were extremely ‘grabby’, 1.8 engine tended to ‘bog down’ when trying to accellerate and became vocal on motorways, traction was useless (twice had to reverse down Welsh mountain lanes in the dry because it wouldn’t go round a hairpin), build quality wasn’t very good (rattles, and vents, headrests, etc wouln’t stay adjusted to taste for more than a few hours), locking was poor, and the alarm would go off repeatedly for no reason in the small hours (couldn’t be switched off). Yet the British motor press thought that German brands walked on water!

    The Focus that followed it was vastly superior in every respect.

  72. rob says:

    my mate had a diseasel version and my overriding memory is how you could sound the horn by FLEXING the steering wheel!!!

  73. James Godwin JAG75 says:

    Cambs Police had the 1.8D Escorts at the time when the 1.8D was developed to sound metallic. Local crims would be warned of the cops’ arrival from 3 miles aways. Crime went up I think….

    Anyhow the RS200 was a peach. And errrrrrr I suppose they had nice heaters. Otherwise the competition must have been rolling over with laughter!

  74. didierz65 didierz65 says:

    @28. The first granada diesel used the very old design as it goes back to the 60’s Taxi 403 diesel/peugot van indenor-peugeot engine in various forms(2,1L-60ish bhp through 2,5TD-92bhp, following peugeot’s increase in power during the 80’s and then the scorpio had a more modern VM 2,5TD 115/125bhp as found on the Iveco van, Rover 825, some Alfas(75-90-164) and the first voyager TD. I believe that problem with VM engine was head gasketS, capital S as it had one head per cylinder. Back then-40 odd years ago, up to XUD’s arrival, diesel engines were for plants-trucks and vans, refinement wasn’t paramount!!!
    My dad had a MK4 escort 1,6gl in France, it never impressed me neither did the Mazda 121 D he bought later, which was just a rebadged fiesta that rusted very quickly. Let alone, both needed a new g’box under warranty….

  75. Ford Focus owner says:

    I actually think the Mk 5 and 6 Escorts looked better than the Mk 7 Escort, which was too ovoid in the same way the Mk 3 Fiesta looked better than the Mk 4 Fiesta. I was never a fan of the mid 90’s ovoid designs, so I was glad when the crispier Focus debuted.

  76. Paul says:

    Its often said that the Mk5 (surely its really a Mk4) Escorts failure resulted in the Mondeo being great. But the Mondeo followed only a couple of years after the Escort. They must have been in development at the same time, in fact a CAR magazine feature in 1991, just after the Escort was launched showed images of the “new Sierra” in pretty much finished Mondeo form. I guess the A team was put on project Mondeo and D team given the task of cobbling together the new Escort.

  77. P Newman says:

    I worked for Royal Mail at the time these Escorts came out. Got a batch of new vans. The first time I had seen the new shape Escort as it had just been launched. The quality was rather bad! Over the coming months all sort of things irritated. Broken seat runners, mega heavy steering due to no power steering, sluggish engines, drivers doors that seemed to weigh a ton, window winders that you needed muscles the size of Mr T’s to operate, gearboxes that felt like they were stuffed with elastic bands, rear doors that wouldn’t open (due to a tiny flimsy piece of plastic inside the door handle that broke too easily).
    The old Mk3/4 vans were much better. Seemed to go on forever and improved with age.
    After these they changed to the first Corsa vans…..don’t get me started…..noddy wing mirrors which stuck out a mile, rear windows you couldn’t see out of as they were too high, hazard warning lights that wouldn’t turn off, wipers that broke if there was a tiny bit of ice on the screen which stopped the wipers, baulky gearchanges, gear knobs that hurted your hand after a while, and stupid door openings that meant you banged your head on the vehicle everytime you got in or out, windscreen raked back too steeply so that the sun visors were 5mm from your forehead when driving. Hideous pieces of junk!!! In fact I would prefer the Mk5 escort now!!!

  78. tim brett says:

    The police had 1.8d’s-proof they gave up on criminals a Sinclair C5 was faster!

  79. Adrian says:

    @76 yes, with the last of the Escorts obviously the designers thought “Hey, we’re Ford designers, so let’s make all the dashboard dials and switches oval”

  80. Steve says:

    Always thought they were good looking, yes the terrible CVH rattlers were below par, but they weren’t bad cars as such. At least, the majority of the car buying public at the time werent bothered about handling etc… The VW golf of the time (MK2) was an ancient, spindly looking thing with a horrifically dated, cheap and ugly interior which creaked, groaned and fell to pieces (I had one), no one seemed to bear a grudge with VW for that…

  81. Phil Simpson says:

    My Mother had a Mark 5b Escort 1.4L. Being an L it had no power steering & the 1.4 engine, whilst perfectly adequate in my Grandpa’s E-reg Orion was no use in a car which had been bulked up by side impact bars etc.

    Handling wise it was dreadful making left foot braking a necessity. Steering feedback however was excellent in that you could feel every stone of tar spray you were under steering over.

    The car was an ex-rental one from Jersey & due to the lack of power steering, she only kept it 18 months so w never witnessed the rusting but having looked at the wheel arches & sill bottoms, I can see where the problem lay. The Nouveau Red paint was sprayed so thinly over the dog eared pressings that the white primer showed through & it flaked to the bare metal.

    The car’s only redeeming features were the moulded seats (unstrung ones such as these were unique to the 5b) & the, amazingly, the car’s efinement on a motorway although if a slip road was on a long incline, it would never make 70.

    Performance & handling weren’t issues for her so I was glad that she hadn’t got the power steering equipped LX as she would probably have kept it eleven years as she did with the far superior Volvo 440 that followed it. (Rust wouldn’t have been a problem for my Dad seeing we had a Datsun Bluebird in the seventies which made the two FIATs that followed look like they were made from premium quality steel!)

  82. MM says:

    Only one of the many car magazines on the shelf of WHSmith had the guts to tell the truth, all the rest were too afraid, Ford and their advertising budget again.

  83. MM says:

    After the Mk 5. I think Ford gave up designing engines, they employed Yamaha, who had at least a clue about these matters.

    The 1.25 16V, initially only fitted to the top of the range Fiestas, what a sweety!!!

  84. Paul N says:

    @1. No it isn’t.

  85. Glenn Aylett says:

    You could hear the laughter from Longbridge when this came out. The 1990 Escort was Ford’s answer to the Morris Ital, ancient and unrefined engines, dull design, poor build quality and no performance in diesel and 1.3 versions.

  86. Nate says:

    @84 MM

    Always wondered why 1.25 Ford Sigma / Zetec-SE engine (along with maybe the 1.4 version) never replaced the 1.3 Ford Kent and 1.4 Ford CVH units in the Escort.

  87. Will M says:

    @MM

    And it is the Germans who have the largest advertising budget these days, who always seem to obtain rave reviews for their latest A3 diesels or 320ds.

    The mk5 Escort at least played into the hands of Rover, with the excellent R8.
    Friend’s parents had one, it was a class above an Escort or Astra.

  88. Paul says:

    Fords Allegro or Marina, maybe but not for long. Whilst the Allegro fell at the starting gate and never managed to pick itself up, Ford pulled out all the stops to sort the Escort. By 1992 the car looked the same but was a very different car. Re-engineered body-shell, Zetec Engines and recalibrated suspension. I have a copy of CAR from early 1992 that tests the recently launched 1.8 Zetec (with the new Engine but yet to receive the other late 92 mods) with the then new Golf MK3 and the supposed class leader Citroen ZX. The Escort wipes the floor with the Golf and comes very close to matching the Citroen. They really seem to like the car.

  89. Adrian says:

    The 1990 Escort was quite rightly derided as being a disaster. However, by the time of the very last version of the Escort (made up until 2000) Ford had quietly produced one of the best cars of the 90s, but without anyone actually noticing, as it was overshadowed by its successor, the ground breaking Focus..

  90. Mike T says:

    I was given a 1.8 diesel estate as a company car, the first face lift mini oval grill. I kept it for 9 months and in all that time the back doors could not be opened. This was replaced with a Rover 214i that was never serviced in the 65,000 miles and two cracked windscreens (through stress and body shell flex). They called it cost cutting.

    Yet when I started my own business in 1995 I bought a 96,000 mile 1.4 H reg Escort estate. It never missed a beat until I part ex’d it with 149,000 miles on the clock 3 years later.

  91. Andy says:

    @ 83

    I don’t think Top Gear mag came out until ’93. But I recall Quentin Willson saying that Ford tried to sue them after him & Jeremy Clarkson were bluntly honest on Top Gear about how poor the car was. I think the clip of the review is on YouTube.

    I don’t know about the first ones but my Grandad had one of the last MK5b M reg 1.6 16v LX from new and passed it to me as my first car in 2006, lasted until 2009 with no real problems.

    As with other poorly received cars though (like the first Vectra) they still sold in their thousands here & in Germany & that’s what Ford wanted.

  92. Murray Snudge says:

    All these negative comments about the 1990 Escort are from people talking nonsense. I drive a J-Reg 1990 1.8D non-turbo and it’s the best car I’ve ever owned and if Ford still made them I would buy a new one. I bought it from eBay for £600 in Jan 2004 and it’s cost me very little in repairs. It is utterly reliable and I get 60mpg – ok it’s slow but thst’s ok for me.
    Look at all the problems with modern cars – dual-mass flywheels, diesel particulate filters, engine management light comes on because one of the multitude of sensors has flagged up fault. For most people that means a trip to the dealer for a plug-in diagnostic check costing up to £100 just to identify the fault. My Escort only needs 12v on the stop-solenoid and it starts – no ecu to go wrong.
    Ford Escort 1.8D non-turbo – best car ever!

  93. Matt says:

    I have to say that the mk5 was an awful car (RS2000 and XR3i aside), but the 1995 onwards car was an excellent car, just a shame the damage was already done. But, at the same time the bias towards Rover here is laughable, things like “You could hear the laughter from Longbridge when this came out” – well I don’t think Ford were too worried about Rover to be honest, Vauxhall yes. I mean, aside from these figures being from Wikipedia which isn’t the most credible source, take a look at the figures – I do not remember the Escort being out of the top 5 for sales figures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:DeLarge/Top_10_best_selling_cars_in_Britain Whereas it seems that Rover couldn’t get into the top 5.
    Such as shame that there is so much bias, this site looks to have some good content yet undermines. We all have our favourites but the thing that’s laughable is the disillusion opinions that are stated as fact.

  94. Paul says:

    The references to all these “Marks” above is confusing me. As far as I’m concerned there where 4 Escort marks:
    Mk1 : 68-75
    Mk2 : 75-80
    Mk3 : 80-90 with a facelift in 86
    Mk4 : 90-2000 with facelifts in 92 and 95

  95. OL says:

    I don’t think the endura Diesel engines were bad at all for the time. No ball of fire for sure, but look after them and they were capable of huge mileages. I had a 1.8 td mk1 mondeo that did 280k miles and know of minicab mk1 focuses with even more. Will the more modern Tdci do that without attention to injectors/injector pump? Doubtful.

  96. Glenn Aylett says:

    My dad had a K reg Escort 1.4 LX as a company car in the early nineties. It had a nice stereo and looked OK in metallic silver, but that was as good as it got. The car struggled to do more than 33 mpg even on a long journey, was as noisy as a Lada above 50 mph, wouldn’t start in damp or hot weather and the central locking had a mind of its own. It was a pile of rubbish and he was glad when his protests about the Escort’s shortcomings saw it replaced with a Vauxhall Astra.
    It was a shame as in 1980 the new fwd Escort was one of the best cars for the time and way ahead of the car it replaced, but the 1990 Escort offered nothing over the previous version and proved to be a lemon.

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