The 15 best Ford road cars

29th March 2022
Ethan Jupp

Whether you care about cars or not, you know what Ford is and that it’s made some of the very best cars on the road in its history, spanning all corners of the industry. From bargain basement peoples’ cars, to world-beating supercars, the Blue Oval is one of the great dominant forces in motoring. Let’s count down 15 of their very best from the last several decades.


Ford-Lotus Cortina

Yes, we’re some 60 years into Ford’s history at the time the Ford-Lotus Cortina enters but frankly, it’s only in the ‘60s that cars became ‘good’ in the way we understand cars to be good now. And that’s what the Cortina was, albeit with the help of Lotus. It was fun, it was mid-ish fast, it was mid-ish affordable and it was well-engineered – all qualities we have enjoyed in some of the very best Fords since, not all of them performance-orientated either.


Ford Escort Mexico

Because you can have fun when power is at a deficit, if the chassis and driving experience are top notch. That’s what the Escort Mexico was. To be honest, this era of Escort and the one that followed, from standard cars to rally-prepped RSs, could be worthy of a mention. But we love the Mexico for its small muscles, big attitude approach. A great chassis, nice controls and an engine that’s at least willing, is another precedent set for the very best peoples’ Fords.


Ford Sierra

The last of the rear-driven repmobiles, the highly aerodynamic Sierra actually put a lot of people off on its debut in 1982. With that sloped nose and swooping hatchback, it was an affront to the conservative saloon establishment of the day. But it drove reasonably well and thanks to that slippery profile, delivered decent efficiency, making it popular with the fleet buyers at which it was targeted. It also made a mighty fine performance platform from which the Sierra XR4i and Cosworths could be built. They weren’t the finest fast Fords of the late 1980s and early 1990s, mind…


Ford Escort RS Cosworth

That honour belongs to the simply outrageous Ford Escort RS Cosworth. Whoever thought the Escort had been tamed by front-wheel-drive, clearly didn’t see this all-wheel-drive turbocharged stilt-winged monster coming. This proper homologation special had an enormous-for-the-time 227PS (167kW) from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Of course, it was first and foremost a rally car. How couldn’t it be. The Cossy was praised at the time for its enjoyable tractable handling and characterful turbo motor, with the original homologation run of cars suffering from more lag thanks to the bigger turbo they were sold with.


Ford Transit

It’s difficult to pick a generation of Ford Transit that’s the most iconic, per se, but the VE6 from the late 1980s and early 1990s seemed to hang around for a good few decades on our roads. Commercial vehicle though it is, there aren’t many more famous Fords on the road that are so consistent in leading the segment in which they operate. The Transit is an institution, bordering on becoming simply another synonym for van, like Hoover is for vacuum cleaner. As it approaches its 60th year on sale, the Transit’s standing is showing no signs of diminishing.


Ford Mondeo Mk1

While the 1990s started with a bang with the Escort RS Cosworth, this was in fact a decade where the very best Fords were the normal ones. Out went the rear-drive Sierra, in came the front-drive Mondeo. Horror of horrors, surely? No. The Mondeo was a fantastic car; great to drive and shot through with innovation. With sophisticated suspension and an emphasis on improved quality and safety, the Mondeo arguably saved the European manufacturing division of Ford.


Ford Focus Mk1

With a new name taking over in the repmobile stakes, by the mid-1990s, it was high time Ford’s family car was entirely refreshed too. Out went the Escort, in came the Focus, and it was an utter game-changer. It still looks great and modern, almost 25 years on. It still drives great, even by modern standards. The original Focus remains an excellent car in 2022. In 1998, it was a revolution. The ‘Control Blade’ multi-link rear setup was night-and-day better than rivals, complementing a well-engineered platform that was lightweight and rigid. The Focus was a real return to form, to Fords for the people that were genuinely enjoyable to drive. 


Ford Crown Victoria (1998)

If the Focus was revolutionary in its segment, the Crown Victoria was at best contemporary. Running on the Panther chassis developed in the 1970s, you have to wonder why it’s even here? Well, like the Transit, the Crown Vic is an institution in its American home. For a time, taxi cabs and police cars US-wide were almost all Crown Vics. These cars with their bombproof V8s and doughy platforms were dependable workhorses, with serving machines regularly reaching beyond 250,000 miles on the odometer. Was it great by performance measures? Not especially. But the Crown Vic was a staple of the American landscape for a good few years there.


Ford SportKa

Like the Escort Mexico we opened with, the SportKa was a people’s champion, with muscular looks twinned with an almost ordinary engine to create a delightfully chuckable and chunkily stylish little warm hatch. The original Ka was a clever little thing utilising an old Fiesta platform, but the SportKa took the jamminess to a new level. Want sportier headlights? Developing them is too expensive. Just cover a bit of the standard items up with the bodywork to give them some angles. The result was an affordable and desirable little car, coming to market at a time when fun and genuinely cheap cars were beginning to die out. 


Ford GT

From the cheapest ‘performance car’ Ford made at the time, to the most expensive. Such is the versatility of the Blue Oval. The Ford GT was a supercar that took the fight to hypercars. It could out-drag an Enzo and went toe to toe with the McLaren-Mercedes SLR, Porsche Carrera GT and Pagani Zonda C12 S, for pretty much a third of the price. It’s not like any corners were cut either. It had proper bespoke switchgear, a beautifully-developed chassis, a peach of a six-speed transmission and… well, a truck engine. No hate, a proper supercharged blue-collar V8 is very on-brand for the Ford GT. A better self-given 100th  birthday present, we’re not aware of.


Ford Mustang GT350

Possibly a controversial one not to have a Mustang yet but by objective measure, the current car is by far the best. The original is iconic, the Foxbody is a cult car but the current car is the one to bring genuine capability to the Mustang camp. Then they put it on steroids for the GT350. This maniac of an American 911 GT3 had a screaming flat-plane crank V8 and chassis tuning to humble the very best from BMW M. This, among a number of other cars, helped define a brave new era of fabulous fast Fords under Ford Performance. The best-driving Mustang of all time, one of the best-sounding cars of all time.


Ford Fiesta ST

Why no Focus RS? Because usually it’s a great base car platform that RSs build from that is essential to how good they are. Plus they’re expensive, to buy, insure and run. This is not the case with the Fiesta ST. While the standard Fiesta is good, the Fiesta ST has, in the last ten years, established itself as an institution. Nothing really came close in the segment, for a number of years. Sure, Peugeot and Hyundai got stuck in there, but the Fez remains the benchmark. The latest car, with fresh styling, a contemporary interior and a thrummy three-cylinder engine, is an absolute boon, which team GRR will back all day long given we ran one for a long time. Fast, fun, affordable – Ford’s magic concoction, manifest.


Ford Puma

And of course, the Fiesta underpinned the Puma. If anyone was going to make an entry into the insufferable crossover segment desirable, it was Ford. GT supercar styling influences sit surprisingly well on this blobby family hack. The looks as good as they are, aren’t the magic of the Puma, though. It’s again, the way it drives. A crossover has no right to be this fun, to the point of being worthy of the Puma name. The ST is harder, which in some ways is worse than the more compliant standard car. A great car we’d recommend to anyone.


Ford Bronco

Modern retro is no new thing in the car market. Indeed, Ford did it themselves with the S197 Mustang in 2005, with countless others following suit in the years afterward. Yet it managed to set new standards with the Bronco. Take a fairly mundane truck platform, make it better, stick some 11/10 retro-modern styling on it, inside and out. Add an iconic name. Boom. You have a genuine foil to the Jeep Wrangler, an off-roading stalwart. When Ford pull out all the stops, whatever class they’re aiming for tends to get shaken up. The new Bronco is the latest example of that. All it needs now is a V8…

Ford Crown Victoria image courtesy of Andre Gustavo Stumpf under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

  • Ford

  • Cortina

  • Escort Mexico

  • Sierra

  • Escort RS Cosworth

  • Transit

  • Mondeo

  • Focus

  • Crown Victoria

  • SportKa

  • GT

  • Mustang

  • Fiesta ST

  • Puma

  • Bronco

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