road test; Ford Escort RS2000

Whatever happened to the Ford Escort XR3i? Huge success as this automative expression of Essex laddism was, Ford's marketing people are happier without it now that we're in the responsible Nineties. But its demise did not mean the end of souped-up, but sub-Cosworth, Escorts. Those to whom pace matters more than pose have long gravitated towards fast Fords with RS (it's meant to stand for Rally Sport) badges, and they'll still find an Escort RS2000 in today's price lists. Or, to be more precise, two of them, one with normal front-wheel drive, one with - uniquely in the class - power to all four wheels.

There has, in fact, been an RS2000 among current generation Escorts since 1992 - it was the one with the pair of power bulges, only one of which actually needed to be there, but like all Escorts it was thoroughly remodelled earlier this year. So it now has a smooth, rounded, un-bulged front with a big oval grille and a vastly more appealing interior with added softness, smoothness and solidity. There are added ovals, too: Ford's themed shape is echoed on buttons, switches, the shape of the door trims, even the instrument needles and air-vent symbols.

That much applies to all new Escorts but the RS2000 is sported up with racy Recaro seats, a leather rim steering wheel, shapely sill covers and fat alloy wheels. Otherwise it resembles the Escort Si, a kind of tepid XR3i substitute, and shares that car's white instrument faces and mesh- filled front grille.

Cosmetics apart, there are two other important aspects to the Escort range's make-over. These are revised suspension, designed to soak up bumps with less fuss while also making the car respond more precisely to the driver's commands, and reduced noise levels, achieved with a new exhaust system and improved sealing between the engine compartment and cabin.

Do they work? They do. Never a particularly sweet engine, the RS's 2.0 litre is now decently smooth and rather less aurally intrusive under duress. It always pulled quite lustily, but now you feel more inclined to open it up a bit. However, though the Recaro seats clamp you well when you're exploring the strong grip and newly fluid cornering style, the steering remains aloof from the action in a way unbecoming of a sporty hatchback.

Things feel a bit more positive in the 4x4, which can whisk round wet bends with great confidence, but you pay the penalty in pace because the four-wheel-drive transmission soaks up a fair chunk of pulling power.

These latest RS2000s are competent enough, but they don't really excite. Trouble is, that applies to many of today's sporty hatchbacks, which partly explains why insurance companies no longer hate them. For a hot hatchback that's really fun to drive, try a Golf GTi 16V or a Peugeot 306 S16 instead: these are cars the design engineers became passionate about. All the RS2000 seems to do is show that Ford still offers a credibly sporty Escort, post-XR3i. It needs a bit more spark than that.

John Simister

rivals

Honda Civic VTi, pounds 15,485 A bumpy ride and an interior filled with plastic are not enough to spoil the fun from the most manic engine of any hot hatchback.

Citroen ZX 16v, pounds 15,810 Splendid as most Citroens are, they tend not to translate well into hot hatchbacks. This ZX is no exception, with a noisy engine, nervous handling and little sign of Citroen's usual suppleness.

Peugeot 306 S16, pounds 16,075 Mechanically related to the ZX, the 306 comes together much better, with fluid handling, ample pace and the best looks in the class.

Vauxhall Astra 1.8 Sport, pounds 13,115 Vauxhall has replaced the Astra GSi with this visually half-hearted Sport. The surprise is that it is actually a nicer car, with tidier handling and a better ride.

Volkswagen Golf GTi 16v, pounds 15,345 Remains the ultimate rational buy in this class; equally adept at the roles of fun car or family friend. You could go for the not-so-fiery eight-valve version, still quick enough for most, and save pounds 2,000.

specifications

Ford Escort RS2000, pounds 13,995; RS2000 4x4, pounds 15,295

Engine: 1998 cc, four cylinders, 150bhp at 6,000rpm. Five-speed gearbox, front- or four-wheel drive. Top speed 129mph, 0-60 in 8.2 seconds (RS2000), 8.6 seconds (RS2000 4x4). Fuel consumption 25-30mpg.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home