The Ford Escort RS Cosworth is the greatest hot hatch

They just don't make them as they used to

29w ago

"They just don't make them as they used to"... you hear this sentence all the time, but is it true though? Well, it may actually be the fact for hot hatches. They have become bigger, heavier, and for some more civilized. I don't know about you, but I think I'd rather own an old 205 GTi than a brand new 208 GTi. The first hot hatches appeared in the 70s, and they were pure analog, extremely light, and had awesome designs.

Don't get me wrong, current hot hatches are amazing cars. Take the Ford Focus RS, for example. But, is it still a hot hatch? In my opinion, it's much more than that. The current Focus is bigger than the first BMW 3-Series. I get it, all cars have become bulkier, but even though it has 350 horsepower, size has a direct impact on the driving dynamics a hot hatch is supposed to procure. Maybe that's why we have the Fiesta ST, but that's another story. I consider the Focus RS to have become a serious sports car, not a hot hatch.

I​f you want a true hot hatch, we need to go back to the 90s. In other words, the golden age of these cars. From Delta Integrales to Golf VR6s, we had an epic selection to choose from. However, one of the best and most iconic that was ever produced was a Ford, but not just any Ford. It was the Focus RS's predecessor; The Escort RS Cosworth.

I don't know if you remember, but Ford used to do a lot of rally racing. Actually, they were pretty good at it with 76 rally wins and 3 constructor championships. When Ford officially finished the development of the Escort to go rally in 1993, they needed at least 2'500 homologation specials for the road in order to compete. Therefore, between 1992 and 1996, Ford produced only 7'145 cars Escort RS Cosworths. Today these cars are still regarded as some of the best hot hatches ever and have become highly collectible.

"They just don't make them as they used to..."

Jonathan Yarden

Designed by Frank Stephenson, the three-door hot hatchback's looks were very distinctive from the normal Escort. It featured the iconic gigantic whale-tail rear spoiler, wider wheel arches, redesigned front and rear bumpers, and a new bonnet with integrated air vents. I'll just go as far as saying that this car is completely different from the car it is based on. And it's actually closer to the Sierra Cosworth than the Escort. Additionally, what made this car even more special was its engine and transmission. It was equipped with a 2.0 turbocharged inline-four power unit paired to a five-speed manual gearbox that made 227 horsepower. Cherry on the cake, it had four-wheel drive, was capable of hitting 240 km/h, and go from 0 to 100 km/h in only 5.7 seconds. Seriously, this car is completely bonkers. Just for reference, the Volkswagen Golf Mk3 2.9 VR6 only made 190 horsepower, and that was a lot back then in a family hatchback. Ford simply went the extra mile and the Escort RS Cosworth was in a class of its own competing with the bigger BMW M3s and Audi Quattros. The Escort's only true contender was the Lancia Delta Integrale Evo II,​ a car that also competed in rally racing.

The fact that the Escort RS Cosworth derived from a race car meant that it was a blast to drive, and this is still relevant today. It's a very quick car, and you obviously get that old school turbo lag that kicks in about half an hour after pressing on the pedal. It will never be as focused , fast, and grippy as the Focus RS, but that's not the point. A hot hatch is supposed to be fun, and it definitely is the case with the Escort.

You jump inside the Escort and it really reminds you of how basic 90s cars used to be, and that's awesome. You get these really cool Recaro seats, some extra gages on the dashboard, but otherwise it's pretty much a good old Escort. That's what I really enjoy about these 80s and 90s hot hatches, it's the rawness and simplicity. There are no big screens and not too many buttons that will get in the way of the driving experience.

You may have realized that this car is finished in a beautiful Zinc Yellow. This is its original colour, and it is extremely rare indeed. It is believed that only between 10 and 13 cars exist in this particular yellow. It used to be owned by a Swiss rally driver who had a Ford dealership. To celebrate his championship win, he asked the factory to make him an Escort RS Cosworth in Zinc Yellow. The car was then bought by our friends from Private Car Collection, and they were kind enough to let us review this legend.

Yes, the Escort RS Cosworth might just be one of the greatest hot hatches ever. It's not only due to its distinctive looks (talking about that rear wing), but also it's rarity, and the way it drives. It'd be ridiculous to say that there aren't any great hot hatches out there today. However, it's true, they just don't make them like they used to.

I​ would like to extend my gratitude to my friends from Private Car Collection. They have been nice enough to let us review their car. They have a pretty cool collection of cars that you can see on their Instagram account, or Facebook page. Without them, this article could have never been possible.

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Comments (81)

  • Yo, Pulsar GTI-R's anyone? Understated AF.

      6 months ago
  • Hm. I dont think so. Okay, maybe its a wonder in performance and reliability, but for my own, i would love the honda Civic from the early 90' more. The engines and the sound was great. And its also an reliable car.

      6 months ago
  • "Hatch"

    Say no to drugs, kids!

    Like seriously, what on Earth are you smoking? That's clearly a COUPÉ! It looks absolutely nothing like a hatchback! Hatchbacks are NOT styled like that!

    It's like calling the Jeep Grand Cherokee a convertible!

      6 months ago
  • Great write up! We didn't get this in the States but the watered down version. Not Cosy greatness. We were left out of some fun but not all. I am of the opinion the greatness ended with the R32. But the 90's had some great hot hatches for sure. I love this Escort RS. I would have loved to have had one. Ford Europe makes cars that are more fun. It's stodgy here.

      6 months ago
  • I remember reading about this Cosworth engine back in the 90s in a NA car mag. What a car. The engine was mounted longitudinally instead of transverse as the series production. This and the mid engine RS200 I think it was called were bonker times in the race / automotive world.

      6 months ago