Rare Rides: A 1991 Ford Fiesta RS Turbo - Slightly Better Than Our Festiva

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a 1991 ford fiesta rs turbo slightly better than our festiva

In 1991, customers had a couple of hatchback options from the Blue Oval in the United States, in either the compact or subcompact segments. At the bottom of the barrel (in all ways) was the Mazda-designed Festiva, and positioned above it was the Mazda-based Escort.

Across the pond, Europeans received a Ford which was actually a Ford — the Fiesta.

The Fiesta was in its third generation in global markets, its lifespan running from 1989 through 1997. Fiesta models included three- or five-door hatchbacks and a three-door panel van in two different heights. Our example today is the hottest of the hot, the RS Turbo three-door.

Not available immediately, the RS Turbo variant appeared at dealers between 1990 and 1992. The trim was a step up from the XR2i, and featured subtle styling differences to differentiate it as the most sporty.

Unique (killer) wheels sat inside larger tires, and green-colored trim and a color-keyed rear spoiler alerted passers-by to this vehicle’s specialness. The RS Turbo also received green-tinted glass and gills on the hood.

Recaro provided the seats for the RS Turbo, and the driver’s hands gripped a special three-spoke steering wheel (there were only two spokes in other trims). It all appears very clean (see below) [s]and in original condition[/s], if a bit spartan. Then again, it’s a lightweight hot hatch, so spartan should be the intent. Ford aficionado Sajeev Mehta wanted me to tell you about the cheesy aftermarket steering wheel and pedals, and how the white painted vents should be mocked mercilessly. The Fiesta RS would also be much cooler if it were a Ghia. You hear me? A Ghia!

Ten different engines powered various Fiesta models, and under hood here we find a 1.5-liter inline-four with a Garrett T2 turbocharger. Limited space prevented Ford from implementing a larger T3 turbo as on the (Euro market) Escort RS Turbo. Horsepower reached 131 in this configuration, tackling 0-60 runs in 7.9 seconds via a five-speed manual. Sounds promising, right?

Not really. The press panned this Fiesta for its poor handling, unaided by numb steering. Owners had a couple of additional worries: insurance and theft. European markets experienced a spike in insurance rates around the beginning of the ’90s, and it was especially bad for hot hatches, which often became targets for thieving youths.

Despite those things, an enterprising owner has imported this particular Fiesta from Italy. Now under the 25-year rule, Americans can experience the things that disappointed Europeans in the 1990s.

The RS Turbo is for sale in Virginia via eBay, and a prior listing of the vehicle reached over $12,000 without meeting the reserve. Has this Fiesta guy got the big eye?

[Images via seller]

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2 of 18 comments
  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Jan 29, 2018

    I like it, I bet its fun to drive. But, for this money? Nahh. I'd sooner try to find the engine used and put it in a 1st gen Escort 3 door. Paired with the 3.73 geared 5 speed from the GT, I bet it'd be 90% as fun for 30% of the money, if that.

  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Jan 30, 2018

    Sadly not a brown Ghia. But hats off to our intrepid reporter for finding this excellent Euro-Ford.

  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?
  • Inside Looking Out Toyota makes mass market cars. Their statement means that EVs are not mass market yet. But then Tesla managed to make mass market car - Mode; 3. Where I live in CA there are more Tesla Model 3s on streets than Corollas.
  • Ltcmgm78 A lot of dirt must turn before there's an EV in every driveway. There must be a national infrastructure plan written by other than politicians chasing votes. There must be reliable batteries that hopefully aren't sourced from strategic rivals. There must be a way to charge a lot of EVs. Toyota is wisely holding their water. There is a danger in urging unplanned and hasty moves away from ICE vehicles. Do we want to listen to unending speeches every election cycle that we are closer than we have ever been to 100% electrification and that voting for certain folks will make it happen faster? Picture every car in your town suddenly becoming all electric and a third of them need a charge or the driver will be late for work. This will take a lot of time and money.
  • Kendahl One thing I've learned is that cars I buy for local errands tend to be taken on 1,000 mile trips, too. We have a 5-speed Focus SE that has gone on longer trips than I ever expected. It has served us well although, if I had it to do over again, I would have bought an ST. At the time of purchase, we didn't plan to move from 1,000 feet elevation to 6,500. The SE is still adequate but the ST's turbo and extra power would have been welcome.