Softer and smoother than the earlier Ford Escort RS Cosworth, the run-out Small Turbo T25 model was the ultimate evolution of the road-going Cossie – an iconic masterpiece that’s a fast Ford perfect ten.

Ford Escort RS Cosworth T25 History

January 1990 – Sierra Sapphire Cosworth 4×4 launched, based closely on the previous Sapphire Cosworth but with stronger cylinder block (200), Sierra XR4x4-type viscous-coupled four-wheel-drive system and MT75 gearbox, floating front brake callipers and ventilated rear discs.
27 April 1992 – Production of Escort RS Cosworth begins at Karmann, Rheine, Germany. Based on shortened Sapphire Cosworth 4×4 floorpan and mechanicals, mated to Escort Mk5 bodywork with 400-plus new components. Now with 227bhp Cosworth YBT engine. Bodykit including whale-tail wing, adjustable splitter and wide wheelarches is standard, with 8x16in five-spoke alloys.
May 1992 – Escort RS Cosworth launched in the UK. Standard spec includes headlamp washers, fog lamps, remote tailgate release and central locking. Luxury gets Recaro seats (cloth), sunroof, electric windows, opening rear windows and heated windscreen. Raven leather upholstery offered at extra cost.
January 1993 – Homologation achieved. No-cost Aero Pack-deletion option now available, deleting upper rear wing and lower front splitter. Luxury model gains electric sunroof as standard.
Autumn 1993 – Airbag steering wheel made standard. Passenger airbag becomes optional.
February 1994 – Monte Carlo special edition available in Mallard Green, Ash Black or Jewel Violet, with OZ 8x16in alloy wheels and Luxury trim plus Raven Flow cloth Recaros, alloy gearknob and handbrake, and dashboard plaque with build number.
May 1994 – Flush-fitting fuel cap replaced by opening flap.
June 1994 – Escort Cosworth production switches to YBP engine, EEC-IV and T25 turbo, thus receiving nickname Small Turbo (as opposed to original Big Turbo).
January 1995 – Minor facelift includes smaller (Escort Mk6) door mirrors, darker blue Ford oval badge in the tailgate centre, with revised Escort Mk6 badging on the nearside tailgate.
December 1995 – Escort RS Cosworth production ends after 7145 have left the assembly line.

Front end shot of Ford Escort Cosworth T25

Why you want a Ford Escort RS Cosworth T25

  • If you don’t like Cossies, you’re reading the wrong mag. The Escort Cosworth was the culmination of legendary motorsport experience, and the Small Turbo was the final road-going evolution of the breed.
  • It’s not exactly an ideal everyday car, but the Small Turbo Escort is the one Cosworth that can still be used and enjoyed like a modern motor – albeit with iconic jaw-dropping looks.
  • Spend big on tuning, and the EsCos is as good as ever at scaring supercars on road or track, meanwhile turning more heads at shows. It’s the poster car for an entire generation.

Why you don’t want one

  • You might well be disappointed… Step out of a new Fiesta or Focus ST, and the Escort will feel like a lazy old dinosaur, especially in standard 217bhp form.
  • The Small Turbo is the least tuneable of all Cosworths (without incurring massive costs), and you’ll tire of everyone saying you should have bought a Big Turbo instead.
  • Mention the word ‘Cosworth’, and whatever you’re buying will double in price – for the parts, servicing or rust repairs that Escorts require.

Side profile shot of Ford Escort Cosworth T25

What to look out for when buying a Ford Escort RS Cosworth T25


This is crucial. A bad Ford Escort RS Cosworth T25 can be a very bad car indeed – potentially resulting in you losing your entire investment.

Cossies were renowned for being nicked, crashed, reshelled and faked since new, and with today’s values so high, there are still dodgy machines on the market. A thorough history check is essential, including searches for outstanding finance and being an insurance write-off.

Compare the chassis number on the logbook with the VIN plate (riveted to the slam panel on the driver’s side), the stamps under the carpet flap on the driver’s inner sill, and the visible ID tag on the dashboard, facing outwards through the windscreen at the passenger side. The VIN number should start with WF0BXXGKAB, followed by two more letters and five numbers; these seven digits should be repeated on the Karmann body plate on the slam panel at the passenger side.

An original car will have a matching number on the engine; if not, it’s evidence that the motor has been replaced. Check it’s a 200 block rather than 205, with corresponding casting numbers on the side of the crankcase.

Other digits to look out for on the VIN plate are N5 in the engine code box, 2 or B (right-hand drive) for drive, 8 for trans, and ABLC4 in the type box. A car with original leather interior will have LW in the trim panel; Hexagon cloth should be E9, G9, L9 or O9.

If you fancy a Monte Carlo limited edition, you’ll be paying a premium for its rarity. Montes were offered in Mallard Green, Ash Black or Jewel Violet, with OZ 8x16in alloys, unique Raven Flow upholstery and a numbered plaque on the dashboard. The VIN plate should show LB in the trim box.

If you’re concerned about an EsCos being a fake, first make sure there’s a YB engine under the bonnet. Authentic Karmann-built shells are dimensionally very different from the regular Mk5, with a longer wheelbase. The easy way to tell is by comparing rear quarter panels, which on a genuine Cosworth are positioned higher where they meet the tailgate and form a neater shape in alignment with the lower rear spoiler.

YB cosworth engine

Ford Escort RS Cosworth T25 Engine

Cossies are known for big power potential, but the Small Turbo’s YBP powerplant was never simple to tune beyond around 300bhp – so if that’s your intention, think carefully about buying an earlier EsCos instead. You’ll easily be able to tell the difference under the bonnet – Small Turbo cars have a smooth, modern-looking cam cover with plastic insert, whereas Big Turbo examples have the traditional Cosworth cover with four HT leads plugged into the top.

On the plus side, the YBP was internally a better unit, and if it’s not been highly modified, it means the engine has been running relatively unstressed, and shouldn’t be exhibiting signs of wear.

Beware of knocking from the bottom end – probably a knackered crank or bearings – or diesel-sounding piston slap, especially from cold. Either way, the engine needs a rebuild. Watch out for smoke from the exhaust – don’t worry about the odd blue puff at idle, but plumes under throttle point to worn piston rings or a knackered turbo (check it for play by wiggling the compressor wheel). White clouds suggest head gasket failure (or worse still, a damaged head); check for external coolant leaks from the head gasket, water mixing in the oil or dripping down the cylinder block on the exhaust side. Black smoke means the engine is overfuelling – which is typical of a tuned YB, so suspect it’s been remapped.

Underfuelling – running lean – is always a concern on Cosworths, typically caused by fuel pump problems; check beneath the boot floor to ensure the pump, cradle and filter aren’t rusty. Wiring problems are rife with fast Fords of this age, not least due to owners adding alarms, immobilisers, lights, stereos and gauges. Check the cables for chafed, corroded or poor joints and connectors, and be prepared to invest in a new loom – if not to avoid misfires and poor starting but to avoid fire risks. Likewise, the Cosworth’s standard Escort Mk5 fusebox suffers from water ingress, burnt-out tracks and dry joints, in turn causing electrical failures.

Poor performance or bad running could warn of serious faults or something simple – such as a boost issue due to split or loose hoses, sensors, coil packs and regulators. The Small Turbo’s airflow meter is a common cause for complaint, but expect to spend heavily on diagnostics.

Finally, remember that a stock Small Turbo produced just 217bhp when new, and it may feel somewhat underwhelming today. Meanwhile, big-power modifications will decrease the car’s resale value. The sweet spot is usually around 300bhp, but ensure the work’s been tackled by a reputable tuner – and services have been carried out regularly.

dials inside of EsCos


Escort Cosworths are renowned for having a weak transmission – but that’s more of a problem with tuned early cars, because most Small Turbo examples aren’t running close to the 400bhp limits of the four-wheel-drive setup.

Even so, it’s crucial to ensure the MT75 five-speed gearbox doesn’t make funny noises or fight back.

The gearchange should feel firm and precise, if a bit agricultural. If it crunches or is difficult to select cogs (especially on the down change) the synchromesh rings are probably knackered – meaning a gearbox rebuild is required.

Listen for whining, especially in second or third gear, which warns of impending drive failure; rattling at idle (which sounds like clutch bearing vibration) points to tired layshaft bearings.

Some Escort Cosworths have been converted to rear-wheel drive, which increases fun factor but hammers down the value. If it’s been done properly it will be using a T5 gearbox (or similar), but unscrupulous sellers might just be covering up for a blown centre differential; beware of clonking, whining or snatchiness in the transmission.

Vibrations may be from broken propshaft joints or engine/gearbox mounts, while loud clicking is probably a knackered CV joint.

Clutch slip is common, especially if the Cosworth gets driven hard, or has a tuned engine with a standard clutch. Check for slip by booting the throttle at 3000rpm in fourth gear, ensuring the car accelerates as the revs increase. A stiff pedal could suggest a paddle clutch, but a similar leg-breaking feel can simply come from a sticking clutch cable.

Suspension on Ford Escort Cosworth T25

Suspension & Brakes

If you’re stepping out of a modern hot hatchback, a stock Ford Escort Cosworth T25 will feel dull and heavy, especially if it’s still on the original suspension. Most aren’t by now, of course – they tend to wear aftermarket springs and dampers, which are great if good quality, but can have a detrimental effect if not appropriately specified.

For example, cheap coilovers can kill the ride quality, excessive lowering (more than 25mm) can damage the CV joints, and track-focused kit – such as rose joints – are too harsh for road use.

Take a test drive and check for wandering from the front, which tends to be caused by worn track control arm bushes. Sloppiness at the back end often comes from the trailing arm bushes. Polyurethane replacements are the sensible answer, available in black for an OE look.

Vagueness at speed may also be due to steering faults, such as a tired rack (pricey) or worn column bushes (cheap). Jack up the front end, feel for play, look for leaks and ensure the PAS pump isn’t noisy.

Clonking could be caused by collapsed bushes, but if there’s any creaking, suspect cracked strut top cups. It’s also worth checking for snapped coil springs or knackered dampers, especially if the steering pulls to one side.

Stock EsCos wheels

While you’re there, make sure the tyres are decent-quality brands. An Escort on cheap Chinese rubber says it’s been skimped on all-round – a very bad sign for any Cossie.

Stopping an EsCos can be troublesome if it’s driven hard because the stock brakes weren’t up to scratch. The standard system included regular Ford floating callipers with 278mm discs up front and 273mm (vented) discs at the back, so after all these years’ use they’re often inadequate.

Ensure the pedal feels firm and gives plenty of feedback. If there’s juddering and clicking, the brake pads and/or discs should be renewed – but ensure there aren’t any broken suspension components to blame.

Ensure the car stops in a straight line and doesn’t pull to one side – a symptom of a sticking calliper. The rear calliper mechanism is particularly prone to seizing, either in the on or off position, so jack up the car and spin the wheels to check.

The stock Teves ABS setup is relatively trouble-free, but faults may arise due to age and/or broken wiring – pricey to trace and repair. Check the ABS light doesn’t stay on with the engine running. Dirty or faulty wheel sensors are often the cause, but fuses, fluid level sensors or a failed ABS pump are also suspects.

stock interior on Ford Escort Cosworth T25


It’s a Mk5 Escort, so don’t expect a modern Aston Martin. The Escort’s hard plastics are prone to rattling, and the switchgear liable to failure. That’s all part of the experience of owning an old Ford. Fortunately, many of the bits were shared with lesser models, so they’re cheap and easy to source.

That doesn’t extend to the instruments, of course. The dashboard’s white dial faces go blotchy with age, and the digital clock might have missing digits; you’ll pay heavily to fix them.

Gear lever gaiters and the steering wheel could be tatty, and mint replacements are dear. All Small Turbo models had a driver’s airbag, so make sure the dashboard warning light is working properly.

Ignore anyone telling you that Luxury trim included leather upholstery – it was an optional extra, which should be revealed on the VIN plate. Standard upholstery for all Escort Cosworths was cloth, in Hexagon design (or Flow on the Monte). Hexagon was available in grey, red, blue or green (depending on body colour), and certain shades are now incredibly rare. Check the seat bolsters for wear and tears, ensure the bases haven’t collapsed, and test the reclining mechanisms aren’t floppy.

The standard specification didn’t include many gadgets, but it’s worth ensuring everything works as it should. A Luxury should contain electric front windows, opening rear quarter glass, heated windscreen and electric glass sunroof. Air conditioning was optional.

Unless it’s cheap, it’s important to buy a car with the best-condition cockpit you can find, because sourcing mint-condition replacements can be very costly.

Rear 3/4 shot of Ford Escort Cosworth T25


It looks fabulous; of course it does. But beneath the wild wings and iconic styling is a Sierra 4×4 floorpan welded to an Escort Mk5 bodyshell. It can and it will rot.

Most Escort Cosworths have by now experienced some form of corrosion on the sills, hidden by the side skirts; if there’s no evidence of repairs (not necessarily a bad thing, if welded expertly), you’ll need to inspect the car carefully.

Check for rust throughout the floorpan, paying particular attention to the rear chassis rails and spring mounts. Inspect the bulkhead, inner wings, suspension turrets, battery tray, front crossmember, rear wheelarches (inside and out), fuel filler flap area and door bottoms, which are all prime rot spots.

Almost every panel (excluding the roof, pillars and doors) was unique to the Escort Cosworth, so they’re typically expensive to replace. Bumpers, wings and Cosworth-specific lamps (even the front sidelights) are particularly pricey, and splitters are especially prone to breakage.

Loads of Cossies were stolen thrashed and crashed many years ago, but the signs (and damage) may still be present. Examine the inner wings, floorpan and boot floor for creases and non-factory seam-sealer. Inspect the panel gaps, and look for mismatched paintwork, filler and overspray. Repaired write-offs are still around, which are worth considerably less than straight cars (even without a Cat C/D/N/S marker).

Although quite a few early Escort Cosworths were produced without a sunroof or electric front windows, the majority of Small Turbo models were Luxury specification, and equipped with opening rear quarter glass and heated windscreen. All should have a fuel filler flap instead of the earlier cap, but only cars built in 1995 had the smaller Mk6-type door mirrors.

If there’s no rear wing, the EsCos is probably a rare Aero Pack deletion option, but this shouldn’t affect its value, unless you’re dead set on lairy looks. Likewise, all colours are similarly desirable – so unless you’re set on a certain shade, buy on condition instead.

Guide from Fast Ford magazine. Words: Dan Williamson. Photos: Fast Ford archives.

Tech Spec: Ford Escort RSCosworth T25


1993cc four-cylinder, 16V, DOHC Cosworth YBP with cast-iron 200 block and alloy cylinder head, 8.0:1 compression ratio, toothed belt drive, Ford EEC IV engine management system, Garrett T25 turbocharger with intercooler


Four-wheel drive with Ford MT75 five-speed manual gearbox, viscous coupling front and limited-slip viscous coupling rear differentials, 34/66 per cent front/rear split


Front: MacPherson struts, gas-filled dampers, coil springs, lower track control arms, 28mm anti-roll bar; rear: semi-trailing arms, coil springs, gas-filled dampers, 22mm anti-roll bar


Front: 278mm ventilated discs; rear: 273mm ventilated discs; Teves ABS

Wheels & Tyres:

8x16in RS alloy wheels and 205/45ZR16 tyres


Three-door Escort hatchback body stretched to fit shortened Sierra 4×4 floorpan, assembled by Karmann with 50 per cent new panels, Aero Pack including adjustable front splitter and whale tail rear spoiler (no-cost delete option). Sunroof, electric windows, heated windscreen and electric door mirrors on Luxury model. Colours: Diamond White, Radiant Red, Ash Black, Imperial Blue, Mallard Green, Pacifica Blue, Auralis Blue, Dark Aubergine, Petrol Blue or Moondust Silver


Recaro front seats with Hexagon or optional leather trim, leather-rimmed steering wheel, auxiliary gauges (boost, oil pressure and volts) in dashboard pod, optional air conditioning