Which is Ford’s Greatest Hot Hatch? We take a look at 10 of our favourite models…

Ford has a long and illustrious legacy of creating hot hatches. From the earliest turbocharged pioneers like the Escort RS Turbo through to the modern-day performance icons such as the Focus RS with its famous ‘Drift’ button, fast Fords have continuously pushed the boundaries and set new standards in the world of hot hatchbacks.

The Ford community is blessed with incredible show scene too. Major events throughout the summer such as Ford Fair the RSOC National Day give owners plenty of opportunities to show off their fast Fords to fellow enthusiasts. This year also sees the return of Ford Fest – the end-of-season celebration of all things Blue Oval. New for 2024, Ford Fest moves to Mallory Park, where the picturesque venue combines a relaxed atmosphere on the showground alongside the fast and furious action on track.


One of the most anticipated spectacles at Ford Fest 2024 is the Hot Hatch display. And that got us thinking, what are the greatest Ford hot hatches?

Well, here’s our Top 10 Ford Hot Hatches. See if you agree…

S1 Escort RS Turbo

The Ford Escort RS Turbo Series One, introduced in 1984, quickly became an icon among hot hatch enthusiasts. This pocket rocket was Ford’s response to the growing demand for small, powerful cars that delivered thrilling performance. It was oh-so Eighties in design, with its distinctively aggressive styling, flared wheel arches, and Diamond White-only finish. The Escort RS Turbo was an instant standout, but its looks were just the tip of the iceberg. It was another Eighties phenomenon that really grabbed your attention – the addition of a turbocharger!

The motorsport-spec turbo gave the 1.6-litre CVH engine an impressive 132 horsepower. Paired with a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission, this hot hatch could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just under 8 seconds—a remarkable feat for its time. The turbo gave the Escort exhilarating acceleration while race-bred underpinnings maintained a nimble and responsive driving experience.

What sets the Escort RS Turbo Series One apart and solidifies its place on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches is not only its performance but also its iconic status within automotive history. It symbolizes a pivotal era in the evolution of hot hatches, showcasing Ford’s dedication to blending performance with practicality. With its dynamic design and impressive power output, the Escort RS Turbo Series One remains one of Ford’s most celebrated hot hatches, leaving an indelible mark on car enthusiasts worldwide.

Looking to buy one? Check out our S1 Escort RS Turbo buyer’s guide!


Ford Fiesta ST at a car show

Mk6 Fiesta ST

The Mk6 Ford Fiesta ST(150) holds a special place in the hearts of hot hatch enthusiasts as it marked the highly anticipated return of a performance-oriented Fiesta. Introduced in winter of 2004, the Fiesta ST(150) took on the torch as the successor to the beloved XR2, injecting new life into Ford’s hot hatch lineup.

Powered by a two-liter Duratec engine tweaked by TeamRS, the Fiesta ST(150) delivered an exhilarating 148bhp. This naturally aspirated powerhouse showcased its prowess with a top speed of 129mph and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 7.9 seconds. Enhanced with variable intake and free-flowing exhaust, this pocket rocket offered plenty of grunt and thrills that left drivers grinning.

The Fiesta ST(150) remains a favourite among enthusiasts due to its superb driving dynamics and easy tunability. Combining performance, style, and affordability, the Mk6 Ford Fiesta ST(150) is undoubtedly deserving of its place on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches. Its spirited nature and enduring popularity make it a true hot hatch that continues to captivate drivers seeking thrilling yet accessible performance.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk6 Fiesta ST buyer’s guide!


Mk2 Focus RS at Ford Fair

Mk2 Focus RS

The Mk2 Ford Focus RS holds a special place in the hearts of fast Ford enthusiasts. It is widely regarded as one of the finest hot hatches ever produced. While the more recent Mk3 RS may have its merits, many fans still consider the Mk2 as the ultimate choice for its unbeatable combination of performance, character, and driving enjoyment.

Introduced in March 2009 as a high-performance upgrade over the already-impressive Focus ST225, the Focus RS Mk2 retained its front-wheel-drive setup. This powerhouse derived 301bhp from an enhanced version of the ST’s Volvo-sourced 2.5-liter engine, featuring graphite-coated piston liners and a larger turbocharger. To ensure impressive handling and exceptional grip, it boasted an ATB limited-slip differential and innovative RevoKnuckle front suspension.

The aggressive exterior of the Focus RS Mk2 featured wide wheel arches, a full body kit, and a prominent WRC-style rear wing. This muscular appearance perfectly matched the car’s performance capabilities. Inside, Recaro bucket seats enhanced driver comfort and support while optional Luxury Packs added extra touches of refinement.

While opinions may differ on which version of the Focus RS is best, there is no denying that the Mk2 holds an irrefutable place on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches. With its head-turning looks, exhilarating performance, and engaging driving experience, the Focus RS Mk2 embodies the essence of a true hot hatch. Whether enjoyed in stock form or modified to achieve breathtaking power, this iconic Ford model continues to captivate enthusiasts around the world.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk2 Focus RS buyer’s guide!


Mk7 Fiesta ST

The Mk7 Ford Fiesta ST(180) is hailed as one of the greatest-ever hatchbacks, delivering a captivating blend of performance, drivability, and affordability. No wonder it has secured its place as a hot hatch icon.

This formidable Fiesta continues to stand as a testament to the best four-wheeled fun money can buy. Launched in January 2013, the ST180 was a product of Ford Team RS’s dedication to crafting a true driver’s car. Its 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine packed a 197bhp punch with an overboost function unleashing an additional 15 seconds of sheer power. Acceleration from 0 to 62mph took just under seven seconds, but it’s the in-gear acceleration and torque that truly makes you smile.

The Mk7 Fiesta ST(180) has garnered immense popularity among driving enthusiasts and car modifiers alike. Its superb handling and tunability have made it a firm favourite for performance enhancements. Bolt-on upgrades alone will increase power to around 400bhp!

With its exceptional performance, sharp styling, and unwavering appeal, it’s no wonder the Mk7 Ford Fiesta ST(180) remains one of Ford’s small cars to date. Its position on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches is well-deserved, representing a pinnacle in hot hatch engineering and providing an unforgettable driving experience that will continue to captivate enthusiasts for years to come.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk7 Fiesta ST buyer’s guide!


Mk1 Ford Focus RS at Ford Fair car show

Mk1 Focus RS

The Mk1 Ford Focus RS was a true game-changer in the hot hatch world. Introduced in October 2002, this performance-driven hatchback revived Ford’s legendary Rallye Sport brand after a decade-long hiatus.

Designed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) division, the Focus RS was a celebration of Ford’s triumphs in the world rally championship, drawing inspiration from motorsport legends Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. Based on the Focus ST170 three-door model, the Focus RS underwent extensive enhancements, with a reported 521 new and unique components sourced from suppliers to the WRC team.

At the heart of the Focus RS was a turbocharged 2.0-liter Zetec engine, branded as Duratec RS. Equipped with forged pistons, modified cylinder head, and a Garrett GT2560LS turbo, it delivered an impressive 212bhp. The MTX75 gearbox received close ratio gears, an AP Racing clutch, and a trendsetting Quaife ATB differential for enhanced performance.

Further upgrades included beefier driveshafts, WRC-inspired suspension arms, Sachs springs, Brembo four-pot front brake calipers, and revised ABS. The stunning wide track and WRC-style OZ alloys were seamlessly integrated into bespoke broad wheel arches, complemented by striking bumpers and side skirts.

With only 4,501 units produced at the Saarlouis assembly line, the Mk1 Ford Focus RS is a rapidly appreciating asset today. Its exceptional performance, stunning design, and limited production numbers make it a deserving addition to our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk1 Focus RS buyer’s guide!


Mk2 Ford Focus ST(225)

The Mk2 Ford Focus ST(225) is a hot hatch that stands as an icon in the fast Ford community. It earns its place as a must-have for enthusiasts seeking a truly remarkable driving experience.

Launched in September 2005, this practical, fun, and highly tuneable hot hatch was marketed under the Sports Technology brand, showcasing its prowess as a rapid road machine. At the heart of the Focus ST(225) beats a turbocharged 2.5-liter Volvo-based five-cylinder engine, delivering an exhilarating 222bhp. With a growling engine note and impressive acceleration, it could sprint from 0 to 60mph in just 6.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 150mph. Coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox, revised suspension, and powerful brakes, the ST(225) offered a meticulously balanced package.

While the arrival of the larger Focus RS may have overshadowed it, the ST(225) continued to gain popularity among drivers who appreciated its exceptional performance and engaging driving dynamics. Its immense tuning potential further solidified its status as a favourite among car modifiers looking to extract even more power from its capable engine.

Today, the Mk2 Ford Focus ST(225) remains a perfect fusion of power, poise, and practicality. With prices still within reach, it stands as the ultimate Blue Oval bargain—the hot hatch that excels in all aspects of driving pleasure. Whether on road or track, the Focus ST(225) delivers an unforgettable experience, making it a deserving member of our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk2 Focus ST buyer’s guide!


Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2 at a car show

Ford Fiesta XR2 Mk1

The car that started it all for fast Ford hatchbacks. The Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2 is a special car in the hot hatch hall of fame, cementing its status as a true classic. The model history of the XR2 dates back to the early 1980s when it was introduced as a high-performance variant of the popular Fiesta.

The Mk1 XR2 benefits from decades of motorsport success, making upgrades relatively easy and affordable. Bolt-on power gains can be achieved through old-school tuning such as improved air filter, exhaust system, high-lift cam, and a ported head with bigger valves. With the right modifications, power outputs well over 100bhp can be achieved, and even more can be unlocked with enhancements like a pair of twin-40mm Webers. Or, a full engine swap is easy enough.

The Mk1 Ford Fiesta XR2 deserves its place on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches due to its classic status and tunability. It represents an era when Ford showcased their dedication to producing thrilling and accessible performance cars. With its iconic design and potential for modifications, the Mk1 XR2 continues to captivate enthusiasts who appreciate its heritage and enjoy the driving experience it offers.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk1 Fiesta XR2 buyer’s guide!


Ford Focus RS Mk3 at a cra show

Ford Focus RS (Mk3)

It’s not hard to see why the Mk3 Ford Focus RS is on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches. Launched in January 2016, this powerhouse remains the epitome of a modern-day hot hatch. It offers exhilarating performance and unmatched driving dynamics.

Under the bonnet, the Focus RS boasts a turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, delivering an impressive 345bhp. A state-of-the-art electronic all-wheel-drive system ensures exceptional traction. Meanwhile, massive Brembo brakes provide impressive stopping power. The RS’s computer-controlled suspension and multiple driving modes allow for a tailored experience, whether you’re seeking precise handling or full-on thrills.

One of the most notable features of the Mk3 Focus RS is its Drift Mode, allowing drivers to indulge in controlled slides and spine-tingling sideways action. Combined with its ability to hit 60mph in under five seconds and achieve a top speed of 165mph, the Focus RS proves itself as an outstanding performer in every regard.

Whether you’re a collector, track enthusiast, or daily driver seeker, the Mk3 Ford Focus RS is an exceptional choice. Its phenomenal performance, unrivalled handling, and accessible pricing make it a standout hot hatch that captures the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide. Now is undoubtedly an opportune time to secure a Focus RS Mk3 for an unforgettable driving experience.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Mk3 Focus RS buyer’s guide!


Escort Cosworth race car at a car show

Escort RS Cosworth

The Escort RS Cosworth’s place on our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches is assured. It has legendary status as a classic performance car and rally hero. Introduced in May 1992, the Escort RS Cosworth replaced the Sapphire Cosworth 4×4 as Ford’s formidable motorsport machine.

Built by Karmann in Germany, the Escort RS Cosworth featured a heavily reworked Mk5 Escort bodyshell. Its power came from the mighty Cosworth YB engine. Only the smaller T3 turbo was replaced with a T3/T04B turbocharger, generating an impressive 227bhp in road-going form.

What truly sets the Escort RS Cosworth apart is its jaw-dropping aesthetics. The monstrous rear wing and adjustable splitter not only made it an icon of its generation. Not only that, these made it the first mass-production car to generate aerodynamic downforce at both the front and rear. The inclusion of sexy 8×16-inch alloys, prominent wide arches, and bonnet vents further enhanced its aggressive appearance.

Over time, the Escort RS Cosworth underwent revisions and limited editions such as the Monte Carlo edition. An updated version followed with a YBP powerplant and Ford EEC-IV engine management, providing better drivability but slightly reduced power output.

While the Cossie faced challenges such as theft and ridiculous insurance premiums, it remains a favourite to this day. With its tunability reaching astonishing power figures, and the desirability of a much-loved Nineties icon, it continues to dazzle at shows while stunning onlookers with its performance capabilities.

The Escort RS Cosworth truly is a perfect ten in the world of Fast Fords, forever turning heads and capturing the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide.

Looking to buy one? Check out our Escort Cosworth buyer’s guide!


Ford Focus ST Mk4 at a car show

Mk4 Focus ST

Despite its inconspicuous styling and five-door bodyshell, the Mk4 Ford Focus ST deserves its place on our list. Since its introduction in 1998, the Focus has evolved and improved with each generation. And it culminates in the latest Focus ST(280), representing the pinnacle of the breed.

While it may lack the overt sportiness of its predecessors, the Mk4 Focus ST makes up for it with advanced technology, an exceptional driving experience, and impressive build quality. Many owners appreciate its understated nature, allowing them to enjoy a car that doesn’t draw unnecessary attention in everyday situations, while still packing a punch under the bonnet.

Underneath its refined exterior lies the same 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine found in the previous-generation Focus RS. However, unlike the RS, the ST benefits from improved reliability. Combined with an inspirational chassis, the Mk4 ST is more than capable of rivalling most hot hatches on the market.

Furthermore, being a Ford, the Focus ST enjoys extensive support from the tuning scene. With options for upgrading and personalizing their ST, owners can stand out from the crowd.

It may very well be the very last Ford hot hatch ever built. But while we transition into an era of electric vehicles, the Mk4 ST represents a culmination of years of development. Its subtle appearance belies its fierce capabilities and engaging driving dynamics. It’s a worthy addition to our list of Greatest Ford Hot Hatches.

Others Great Ford Hot Hatches…

Ford has produced some of the greatest hot hatches throughout the Eighties, Nineties and Noughties. We’ve listed 10 of our favourites, but there’s loads more you could choose from. Including:

  • Escort RS1600i
  • Focus ST170
  • Mk8 Fiesta ST
  • Mk2 Fiesta XR2
  • Fiesta RS Turbo
  • S2 Escort RS Turbo
  • Mk5/6 Escort RS2000
  • Mk3 Focus ST(250)
  • Fiesta RS1800
  • Fiesta XR2i
  • Fiesta Supersport

See these cars and more at Ford Fair and Ford Fest!

If you love fast Fords, then make sure you visit Ford Fair at Silverstone on August 11! Ford Fair is the biggest Blue Oval gathering of the year! Check out what’s on at Ford Fair 2024 and book your tickets today!

And don’t forget Ford Fest is back for 2024! The end-of-season festival for all Fords moves to its new home at Mallory Park on September 22nd. Be a part of the action and book your tickets today!