There have been some truly cracking versions of the Fiestas over its 40-plus year history, but which one do you buy? Here we take a closer look at six of the very best models from the last four decades to bring up to speed with the latest buying and tuning advice…

What’s your favourite Fiesta? Ford’s front-wheel-drive terrier has been a leader in the small hot hatch class for four decades, during which time it’s gone from featherweight buzzbomb to fully-fledged road rocket.

In the beginning was the mildly fancy Mk1 Fiesta 1300S, which spawned the Supersport and laid the path for the XR2 – a funky-looking go-kart fitted with a 1598cc engine boasting a mere 84bhp but meaning lively performance and bags of tuning potential.

The Mk2 XR2 followed in 1984, repeating the recipe of big, humdrum engine (now a carb-fed 1.6-litre CVH) in a basic, little body. The Mk1’s plastic wheelarch extensions and wide Pepperpot alloys were repeated, as was the limpet-like handling. With 96bhp, its performance put many an XR3 to shame.

An often-overlooked Mk2 1.4S was replaced by a 1.6S for the Mk3 Fiesta of 1989, and the fuel-injected XR2i arrived with 110bhp and colour-coded bodykit. But it didn’t exactly set the world alight, so Ford unleashed the Fiesta RS Turbo, a 133bhp tyre-shredder with a 1.6 CVH EFi and up-for-debate three-spoke alloys.

The short-lived Zetec 1.8-engined XR2i and RS1800 came and went (1992 to 1994), and a forgettable fling with the Si badge almost saw the end of the fast Fiesta.

Thankfully, the Zetec S of 2000 kept the Fiesta flag flying, with 113mph top speed and a fun-loving chassis, making the ideal entry-level hot hatch for any Ford enthusiast.

A measly 99bhp Mk6 Zetec S appeared later, with an extensive run of limited editions, but it was an also-ran compared with the all-new ST of 2004 – a chuckable and affordable machine offering 150bhp and 0-to-60mph in 7.9 seconds from its two-litre powerplant. It was possibly the best Fiesta yet.

Until, that was, the ST180 appeared. Sporting a turbocharged EcoBoost engine with 197bhp overboost, 0-60mph took 6.9-seconds. Even today, it’s reckoned to be the best car in its class.

Here, in a bid to work out which gives the most inspiration for buying and for tuning, we’ve selected the six sexiest models from the last 40 years, from classic to current.

Let’s start at the beginning, obviously, with the Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2…

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