The Ford Escort van was a small economy car sold between 1991 – 2002 and offered a perfect blend between economy, practicality and performance. The vehicle was based basically the van version of the subcompact Escort model, and thanks to its efficiency and versatility has managed to win a lot of fans.
The Ford Escort van never had the pretention to be considered anything else than a rugged work horse and it wasn’t as charming as some of its more upscale rivals. However, thanks to its strong build quality and the simple mechanics it represented the perfect choice for those seeking a hard working and reliable partner for light commercial duties.
The vehicle benefitted from noticeable changes in 1996 when it received a few exterior modifications and upgraded engines. The latest facelift left the car with a 1.3 liter petrol engine and a 1.8 liter diesel. The petrol unit however was dropped in the favor of the diesel engine that was now available in both standard and turbo versions.
For its time, the Ford Escort van had a pretty smart design with a slippery shape and rounded corners. The front was dominated by a thin oval radiator grille flanked by two big lights which coped well with the rest of the body.
The hood had a pretty clean design and was traversed by two vertical creases that pointed towards the grille. The bumper continued the style initiated by the grille and was neatly integrated into the overall design.
Compared to the standard version, the van had also a slightly raised ground clearance which helped it to deal better with difficult roads.
Viewed from the profile, the Ford Escort shows its bulky load body and a straight crease that runs along the sides.
There aren’t any sliding side doors on offer, but the wide opening rear side-hinged doors are more than enough to help you get easy access to the cargo bay.
The interior was pretty spartan with poor plastics and third class build quality. The material used for the dash and doors is hard, cheap-feeling textured plastic that sounds hollow when tapped with a finger, and wind noise enters the cabin like it owns the place.
Though, after the 1996 facelift things have been improved and the vehicle received a new Mondeo-inspired dash.
The new dashboard looked slightly better and was also more practical than the old one. The materials however had remained mostly unchanged and the build quality was still poor as well.
On the other hand, the new seats were a big improvement over the old ones, but they were still pretty cramped and had limited adjustments. The steering wheel was pretty rudimentary and wasn’t offered with any adjustments. It was also pretty thin but it offered a good driving position.
The road visibility was decent thanks to the big windscreen and the generous side windows. The door mirrors were also up to the task and kept you well informed of what was going on behind.
The features list was limited to a simple radio cassette player and power steering without any ABS or other goodies.
Engines and performance
The 1.8 petrol units offered a maximum output of 63 hp which wasn’t impressive but it managed to deal well with the needs of short urban transportation. As it was expected it didn’t liked to be hurried around but it managed to build a sufficient amount of power permitting you to deal well with city traffic.
On the other hand, the standard 1.8 diesel of the Ford Escort offered only 60 hp with 81 lb.ft. of torque , while the turbo version added 10 hp and 19 lbft of torque. Both diesel units were sluggish and also pretty unrefined, showing their raspy nature every time you’ve pushed them harder. For their time however were decent as these were the usual performance found in this segment. All engines were mated on a rubbery five-speed manual transmission.
Ride and handling
The older versions (1992-1996) of the Ford Escort had a very poor ride and handling as the car felt unbalanced and find it hard to protect its occupants from the bigger road bumps.
Aster the facelift however, everything was improved and thanks to the new suspension setup, the vehicle offered a decent ride, being able to move you from point A to B without hurting your back.
The handling was also improved and the body roll was drastically decreased, thus helping the vehicle to stay better plated on its wheels.
The new power steering offered a decent feel, and even if it can’t be compared with today’s standards, for its time was pretty good.
At the stopping power chapter however, The Fiat Escort was a half step behind its rivals as it came without anti lock brakes.
Compared with today’s vans, the Ford Escort offers a lower load volume, but this doesn’t make it less practical and at its time was at par with the competition. Despite the fact that the vehicle came without lateral sliding doors, the cargo could be slid easily in and out thanks to the wide opening rear doors.
The interior was pretty spacious, but it was rather rudimentary, than comfortable. The security department was pretty poor represented, but this was the usual package offered in this segment back in the 90s.
The biggest advantage offered by the Ford Escort van was its low cost of ownership backed up by the fuel efficient diesel engines and the cheap maintenance. The vehicle has also proved to be fairly reliable and its biggest treat is rust and not the mechanical problems.