In the spring of 1990, Ford made world news. One of the world's largest car manufacturers had been quite hasty with the successor to the Escort Mk 4. That was in fact a further development of the Escort that was presented in 1980. The Escort for the nineties would mainly be brought in line with the spirit of the times. Ford was ready. "Sophisticated," said a leading magazine when publishing the first reports. That was a mistake. A shame, because the Escort Mk5 was a very nice car to see.
The wildly popular C-segment at the time was very much in motion. In Germany, France and Japan, the designers worked hard on new models. The Golf II, the Kadett-E, the Escort Mk 4, the Nissan Sunny and the Toyota Corolla E90 (already available with 12V and 16V engines) performed excellently, but competition forced sharpness and active action. In addition, Fiat did well with the Tipo (in terms of sales numbers, not qualitative) and was known to Citroën also worked on a new shoot on the model line. That would be the ZX. Renault impressed with the R19, and Mazda had the BG generation of the 1989 in 323 (including the F with folding lights, remember?). And Honda? That also did nice things with, for example, the Civic and the Concerto.
High expectations, disappointing car
So expectations were high. Because Ford would now come up with something beautiful, they hoped for a revolution. It seemed that the moment was well chosen to present the Escort Mk5. But that newcomer in the then important segment of Europe came too early. Ford had managed to shape the Escort nicely (that's subjective, of course) before the 5s, but engineering credentials tainted that image. He was prototypical and used old technology, which was adopted one-on-one and was also simpler. In fact, the rear suspension was no longer even independent, Ford had also taken a step back from a cost point of view there. And that was not enough to let the Escort MkXNUMX take the lead in the C-segment.
It soon became apparent that the Escort had moderate handling, heavy steering and moderately functioning rear wishbones. Whoever drove it can hardly deny it. Wagtailed Escorts Mk5 types were undoubtedly fun with the designation RS2000 or XR3i on the back. And they also had a significantly different character. But especially the vast majority that the civilian versions picked up cannot possibly have become convinced of the handling. And that majority was decisive for making or breaking success. What also did not plead for the Escorts was that they were susceptible to rust. And not just in innocent places. The bulkhead was also susceptible to it.
Ford overestimated itself, thinking that the Escort name would always be a guarantee of success. Ford honored the trick of old (and often good) wine in new bottles with the new Escort. As they did with the Escort Mk2. Under the skin it was a Mk1, including the technique used. That could count on criticism in 1975, but the Mk2 did have the right Ford charisma, partly due to the body design that fell well into the picture at the time. The station and the delivery variant were also just facelifted Mk1 versions. Ford had also assumed trusted values with the predecessor of the 4s Escort - the MkXNUMX. However, you couldn't quite get away with that anymore with the increasingly demanding car buyer.
Ford realized in time that the solution to come up with a new bestseller had been too easy and too cheap. The press - especially the one in Great Britain - was merciless. In 1992 a facelifted version followed, in fact the car that should have debuted as Mk 5. A different front, a different rear and new engines (ZETEC) did the image well, although the ZETECs were also not of impeccable behavior. Ford had to stay focused, because VW now had the Golf 3 and Toyota the extensive Corolla E100 version. Citroën had launched the ZX and the Opel Kadett was called Astra from the end of 1991. Nissan had already brought the new Sunny in 1990, while Mazda still did good business with the 323.
Loyal to Escort until the Focus came
Ford remained loyal to the now increasingly better Escort Mk5, even after 1994. In the meantime, the Escort was the first in its class to be equipped with airbags, the front was up to date and the engines were increasingly modern. In the field of safety, the Escort scored excellent, but the handling continued to make do for the civilian versions. In 1998, however, Ford made everything right by introducing the Focus 1, one of the best driving cars in the history of the c-segment. It was precisely the Focus that showed that Ford also realized that it had been wrong with the Escort Mk5 of the first years. And that it was now able to face up to the renewed competition. It had become wise through harm and shame. Although it remains a shame that the Escort Mk5 had such a false start. And it is unimaginable that the large Ford put its position in the then so important market within Europe at risk.