Escort, Ford's bread-and-butter economy subcompact was launched in spring 1990 as a completely redesigned model on a new platform shared with the Mazda 323/Protege and offered as a 2-door hatchback (GT, LX and Pony), an LX 4-door hatchback, and an LX 5-door station wagon.
The Escort received a mild facelift for 1993 mainly consisting of a wider split-oval air vent around the grille on non-GT models, along with the bumpers and side moldings being painted body color rather than contrasting metallic gray. LX hatchbacks also got an amber reflex panel on the lower edge of the hatch visually connecting the rear turn signal lenses. The new model was first unveiled on February 11, 1992, with pricing announced on March 12, 1992, and went on sale on May 21, 1992. A four-door sedan, previously offered exclusively as a Mercury Tracer, joined the line in fall 1992 and could briefly had as an "LX-E" with the GT's 127hp 1.8L 16v engine.
Three trim levels complement the lineup: Standard (3-door only), LX (all body styles) and the sporty GT (3-door only). Built on the same fwd platform as the Mazda Protegé, Escort squares off against a horde of competitors that includes Honda Civic, Mercury Tracer, Chevy Cavalier, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla and Tercel.
No major changes are made on the '95 Escorts. The biggest news is the addition of a passenger-side airbag. The bad news is that US-model Escort continues to have those pesky motorized shoulder belts and separate lap belts (Canadian cars had never had them). Wagon models with the automatic transaxle get a numerically higher final gearing (4.06:1) for brisker acceleration. Sound deadening has been upgraded across the board and engine vibration, particularly at idle, has been reduced. Mechanical nuances include quieter brake linings, smoother ventilation controls, a beefed-up wiper motor and redesigned instrument panel. Basic trim differences include a standard AM/FM stereo, better upholstery and 14-in. wheels on LX models. GTs come with the hotter 127-hp twin-cam engine, wider 15-in. wheels, disc brakes all around and a tachometer. The GT sports a new optional Ultra Violet Decor Group that comes with an Ultra Violet exterior, color-keyed wheels, special bucket seats and leather-wrapped wheel. Later in the year, Escort will offer an optional integrated child seat.
Redesigned for the 1997 model year with a new, much rounder sedan body and a softened nose on the carried-over wagon, the new Escort was unveiled on January 6, 1996 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The 2-door hatchbacks were discontinued. Along with the Mercury Tracer, pricing was announced on April 15, 1996, and both cars went on sale on May 23, 1996.
Following the Aspire's discontinuation, the 1998 Escort retained the title of Ford's new entry-level car through 2002. After the 1999 model year, the wagon would be discontinued and the sedan offered to fleet buyers only to clear the decks for the Ford Focus introduced in spring 1999 as a 2000 model. Retail sales of the ZX2 continued into the 2004 model year and it even got a new grille for 2003.
As of mid-1994:
- $9,580 (1995 2DR Hatchback)
- $10,435 (1995 LX 2DR Hatchback)
- $10,870 (1995 LX 4DR Hatchback)
- $11,040 (1995 LX 4DR Sedan)
- $11,425 (1995 LX 4DR Wagon)
- $12,720 (1995 GT 2DR Hatchback)
As of June 15, 1995:
- $10,065 (1996 2DR Hatchback)
- $10,910 (1996 LX 2DR Hatchback)
- $11,345 (1996 LX 4DR Hatchback)
- $11,515 (1996 LX 4DR Sedan)
- $11,900 (1996 LX 4DR Wagon)
- $13,205 (1996 GT 2DR Hatchback)
As of April 22, 1996:
- $11,015 (1997 Ford Escort 4DR Sedan)
As of May 19, 1997:
- $11,795 (1997 Ford Escort LX 4DR Sedan)
- $12,505 (1997 Ford Escort LX 4DR Wagon)
- $375 (1994 and early 1995 models)
- $390 (1995 and early 1996 models)
- $415 (1997 models)