Fort Escort XR3i

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One of the most common convertibles seen on British roads is Ford’s Escort, seemingly belying the fact that it was introduced only in February 1984, so one tends to take it for granted. For the fastidious this is a minus point as a car only becomes more acceptable according to its rarity value, but on the other hand to many owners cannot all be wrong.

This Escort is a handsome car, Ford successfully transmogrifying the hatchback into a drophead, and somehow endowing it with an element of chic. Initially the cabriolet was introduced with three engine options, the 1.3, 1.6 and 1.6i, but the former was dropped within a year and the carburettored 1.6 in 1987. The engine that nestles under the bonnet now is the familiar one found in the XR3i.

Weighing more than the hatchback, the cabriolet’s performance is not overly impressive, taking 10 seconds to reach 60 mph from standstill and having a top speed of only 106 mph. At high revs the engine also lets the driver know just how hard it is working, but set against that is the gearbox, which is sweet and light and a delight to use.

Although perfectly adequate in normal driving conditions, it understeers at the limit with body-roll its most pronounced feature. But since most owners are unlikely to drive in such a fashion, this is not a major criticism. Although the car falls down from a performance point of view, it scores high marks everywhere else.

There is no doubt at whom the car is targeted, for women place a greater priority on looks and creature comforts than on outright performance and the Escort certainly delivers in these areas.

For instance, along with the electric front windows and mirrors there is the electrically powered hood which is operated by the simple press of a button on the central console. The edge of the hood neatly lines up with the windscreen, ensuring the clips on both pillars do not require too much effort to lock it into place. When folded, it slightly obstructs rear vision, but it actually enhances the look of the car. The rake of the windscreen ensures that the driver is quite sheltered from the wind when the windows are wound up.

The seats are comfortable, the boot space is limited but par for the convertible course. Being a Ford it may not be a particularly distinctive car, but it is economical to run, highly-equipped and has won a good reputation for reliability even if it does cost £12,337 to put new on the road. WPK

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