Baby boomers

Ford Fiesta XR2 vs Renault 5 Gordini Turbo

by practical-classics |
Published on


In the first of a new series, we pitch two early hot hatches against each other in a battle of thrills


FORD FIESTA XR2 1981-1983

In the early Eighties, before the hot hatch war kicked off, manufacturers were flexing some tiny muscles. Inspired by motorsport these were fast cars for city dwellers: little fun chariots that would do the commute and the shopping run, but still get you away first from the lights.

The Renault 5 and Fiesta were Group 2 rally rivals and are today highly sought-after. There’s also an anniversary to celebrate here: we mark 50 years of the R5 by putting one of its lesser known variants, the gorgeous Gordini, up against Ford’s answer to the baby hot hatch – the XR2.


By the time the XR2 arrived as the long-awaited firecracker of the Fiesta range in December 1981, the Renault 5 was pensionable, having been launched almost a decade earlier. But there was nothing retiring, or indeed shy, about the Gordini. ‘The Gordini is for the man who wants to go fast, but who wants to do it in a bit of style and comfort,’ proclaimed the period advert, and the plush red corduroy seats feel like they come from a royal theatre, all soft and plump. Except they have matching side bolsters grafted on.

In mainland Europe the model was called the R5 Alpine, but Chrysler already had dibs on ‘Alpine’ over here, so the Gordini name came out of retirement. Amédée Gordini was a racer turned tuning magician who was a folk hero in his homeland, but his name didn’t have the same clout here. Maybe that’s why the Gordini Turbo sold so modestly in the UK compared to its continental Alpine cousin.

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