Which is Ford’s greatest hot hatch? We examine five of our favourite fast Ford models

The Ford community is made up of a passionate bunch. As well as some fantastic classic cars, the Blue Oval brigade also hosts some of the biggest and best shows of the summer. From Ford Fair to the Classic Ford Show, owners have numerous opportunities during the summer to display their fast Fords and connect with fellow enthusiasts.

And this year, we are pleased to see the return of Ford Fest – a grand end-of-season celebration that pays homage to everything Blue Oval, including some impressive classic Fords. Excitingly, in 2024, Ford Fest will relocate to the picturesque Mallory Park, combining a relaxed atmosphere in the showground with exhilarating on-track action.

Among the anticipation surrounding Ford Fest 2024, there is one spectacle that has caught our attention: the Hot Hatch display. This got us thinking about the greatest hot hatches Ford has ever built. Obviously, we’re not that bothered by the all-too-samey modern stuff, but there are plenty of Ford hot hatchbacks that are now over 20 years old. Here’s our pick for our top five greatest Ford hot hatches.

S1 Escort RS Turbo

Launched in 1984, the Ford Escort RS Turbo Series One quickly became an icon among hot hatch enthusiasts. With its distinctively aggressive styling, flared wheel arches, and striking Diamond White finish, this pocket rocket perfectly embodied the spirit of the 1980s. But it wasn’t just about looks – the addition of a turbocharger elevated its performance to new heights.

The 1.6-litre CVH engine, equipped with a motorsport-spec turbo, churned out an impressive 132 horsepower. Combined with a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission, this hot hatch could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in under eight seconds. The Escort RS Turbo Series One is not just a performance powerhouse; it represents a pivotal era in the evolution of hot hatches and showcases Ford’s commitment to blending power with practicality.

One of the hotter Fords in the sale is this Mk1 Ford Focus RS. Remarkably, this 2004 example has covered just 13,332 miles but has remained continually serviced. It’s expected to sell for £28,000-£32,000.

Mk1 Focus RS

In October 2002, Ford unleashed the Focus RS onto the hot hatch scene, marking a true game-changer. Developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering division, this performance-driven Mk1 Ford Focus revived the legendary Rallye Sport brand after a ten-year hiatus.

Drawing inspiration from motorsport legends Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, the Focus RS boasted numerous upgrades sourced from suppliers to the WRC team. It was powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter Zetec engine, delivering an impressive 212bhp. With its wide track, WRC-style OZ alloys, and striking design elements, the Mk1 Focus RS demands attention wherever it goes. Limited production numbers and exceptional performance make it a highly sought-after addition to any collection.

Described as being in excellent original condition, this Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2 showed a mere 60,754 miles and had recently been used as a prop for period TV work. The 1983 example was offered with no reserve and sold for an impressive £20,720.

Fiesta XR2 Mk1

The Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2 holds a special place in the hot hatch hall of fame as the car that started it all for fast Ford hatchbacks. Introduced in 1981, this high-performance variant of the popular Fiesta quickly captured the hearts of enthusiasts.

The Mk1 XR2’s history in motorsport paved the way for easy and affordable upgrades. Enthusiasts could achieve significant power gains through old-school tuning methods like improved air filters, exhaust systems, and high-lift cams. Its classic status and tunability make it a beloved choice among those who appreciate heritage and seek an engaging driving experience.

Escort RS Cosworth

When it comes to classic performance cars and rally heroes, the Escort RS Cosworth deserves a place on any list of greatest Ford hot hatches. Introduced in May 1992, this formidable machine replaced the Sapphire Cosworth 4×4 as Ford’s motorsport champion. Featuring a heavily reworked Mk5 Escort bodyshell and powered by the mighty Cosworth YB engine, the Escort RS Cosworth generated an impressive 227bhp in road-going form.

Not only did it possess outstanding power, but its jaw-dropping design also left a lasting impression. The return of the Sierra Cosworth’s famous ‘whale tail’ rear wing, adjustable splitter, and aggressive design elements showcased its aerodynamic prowess and made it a true icon of its generation.

ford fiesta ST

Mk6 Fiesta ST

The Mk6 Ford Fiesta ST(150) may be a surprising entrant to this list. But stick with us, as we reckon it has all the hallmarks of a surefire future classic Ford. Launched in the winter of 2004, it marked the much-anticipated return of performance-oriented Fiestas. The Fiesta ST(150) was the spiritual successor to the beloved XR2, injecting new life into Ford’s hot hatch lineup after several ‘warm’ hatches from the late Nineties.

Powered by a 2.0-litre Duratec engine enhanced by TeamRS, this pocket rocket delivered an impressive 148bhp. With superb driving dynamics, affordability, everyday practicality and easy tunability, the Mk6 Fiesta ST continues to capture the hearts of drivers seeking thrilling yet accessible performance.

Ford CVH Engine

Other great Ford hot hatches

These are just a few examples of the greatest Ford hot hatches that have left their mark on automotive history. But there are plenty more to choose from. Does our Top 5 match yours? Here are just a handful of others that could appear on the list of greatest Ford hot hatches. Would you include any of these?


See these cars and more at Ford Fair and Ford Fest!

If you love fast Fords, then make sure you visit Ford Fair at Silverstone on August 11! Ford Fair is the biggest Blue Oval gathering of the year!

And don’t forget Ford Fest is back for 2024! The end-of-season festival for all Fords moves to its new home at Mallory Park on September 22nd.