The Ford Escort is a very popular compact car that was produced by Ford from 1981 to 2002. During the 1980s, more Escorts were sold than any other passenger car in the United States. The Escort features a front-wheel drive transmission. In the early part of the 2000s, the Escort was phased out, and the Ford Focus served as its replacement in the compact car field for Ford. There are three distinct generations" of the Escort built during its production run.
The Ford Escort seats five passengers: the driver and the front passenger in bucket seats and a bench-style seat in the back for three more passengers. First generation models of the Escort were made in America and had engines that produced anywhere from 52 to 120 horsepower. Second generation models produced 52 to 110 horsepower, and the third generation Escorts, which were built in Mexico, dropped the lower-powered models. Their horsepower ranged from 110 to 143, depending on the type of engine.
The first generation of Escorts was built from 1981 to 1990, and it relied heavily on its European counterpart for design. Ultimately, however, the American and European versions of the car were completely different under the hood. In 1990, the model received a major overhaul, including the addition of an independent rear suspension, which was not seen very often in compact cars at the time. With the third generation design, the Escort became Ford's entry in the sport compact field. In 1998, the Escort ZX2 was released, and this model would later prove to be the last of the Escort line to be produced; the final ZX2 came off the assembly line in 2002.
With a lifespan of over twenty years, the Escort was on the front lines of the evolution of the automobile as interior design began to focus on passenger comforts. The earliest models featured little more than the standard AM/FM radio, while the last ZX2 models had packages that included six-disc CD changers and high-end sound systems. Marketed primarily as an everyday car for budget-conscious families, moderately-powered engines and neutral colors were how most Escorts were sold.
Although the American Ford Escort did not win many major awards, the European model won the European Car of the Year award for 1981. The Escort's success as a car is proven by the longevity of the line, spanning over two decades of production. With ten body styles produced over the three generations of its development, from sport coupes to hatchback station wagons, enough variety was included in the line to make the Escort Ford's automobile for the masses.
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