Model Page

Ford Orion

Production Run:


Production Date:

1983 - 1993


1.3 In-Line 4

1.4 In-Line 4

1.6 In-Line 4

1.6 EFi 16v In-Line 4

1.8 EFi 16v Zetec

1.6 Diesel

1.8 Diesel


Various (Europe)


1.6i Ghia - 9.4 Secs

1.8SI - 9.2 Secs

Max Speed:

1.6i Ghia 118 Mph

1.8 SI - 126 Mph

The Ford Orion was a saloon car based upon the ever popular Ford Escort, launched in 1983 the car was aimed to fill the market for a four door family sized saloon vehicle left by the discontinued Cortina. Fitted with a range of engines from 1.3 up to 1.8 litres the car proved very popular before the model was dropped in favour of the Escort saloon four door.

In 1982 Ford had replaced the Cortina with the new Sierra Hatchback, this left Ford without a traditional four door saloon in its model line up, this compounded with the initial unpopularity of the Sierra due to the radical jelly mould styling left Ford with a major problem. To plug the gap Ford introduced the Orion to the line up on 22nd July 1983.

The Orion is essentially a front wheel drive Escort with a saloon body style easily distinguished from its brother by the rear boot with long overhang. The styling revisions necessitated the revision of a number of body panels in fact over 34% of the body panels were unique to the model. The car maintained the same width as the Escort upon which it was based but did grow by around 20 centimetres in length. Similar in length to the Sierra, the Orion compromised leg room for the rear occupants Ford opting to increase the boot space.

Aimed at the niche market for a well specified, compact saloon car the Orion was put head to head against the BMW 3 Series, Vauxhall Cavalier, VW Jetta and Renault 9. As such the car was pitched between the Escort and Sierra and was given an equipment specification well above those present in the Escort upon which it was based.

The Orion received Ford CVH (Compound Value Angle, Hemispherical Chamber) range of engines produced at Ford’s engine factory in South Wales. An in line four engine, the block was cast iron and the cylinder head manufactured from an Aluminium Alloy, the Orion was released with a choice of two engines namely the 1.3 or 1.6 units. This range was increased in 1984 as a 1.6 Diesel engine was made available this unit was not available in Ghia trim. At launch the car was only available with GL or Ghia trim levels as Ford attempted to take the model upmarket, 1984 brought about the introduction of the cheaper L edition on all engine choices.

The 1.6i Ghia was the performance model for the range and came fully loaded. Equipped as standard with a tilt and slide sunroof, sports seats in the front, electric windows, central locking and alloy wheels the car was well fitted out in its market sector. The car was fitted with the 1.6i engine taken from the Escort XR3i thus providing the car with performance near enough identical performance to that provided by the XR3i but with the added bonus of not having the inflated insurance premiums often accompanying the XR range. The XR3i had the Bosch K Jetronic fuel injection installed to the CVH engine; to provide adequate fuel to the system a high pressure feed pump was installed. Maintaining pressure in the system was taken care of by the addition of an accumulator pump, stronger pipe-work was installed to withstand the higher internal pressures inherent within a fuel injected application. A return pipe was fitted to take the excess fuel back to the new, larger petrol tank. Further revisions to the engine included a new cast aluminium inlet manifold and revised cast iron exhaust manifold with larger diameter tracts. The engine developed 105 bhp @ 6,000 rpm and 102 lb/ft @ 4,000 rpm. This gave the car a 0-60 Mph of 9.4 seconds and a top speed of 118 Mph.

Head to head against the larger engine Cavalier 1.8 SRI the Orion was not only faster but offered reduced running costs and came with a higher specification despite the Orion being over £300 less. In a road test by What Car in 1985 the Orion was chosen over the Rover 216i and BMW 316i – a glowing recommendation.

The Orion received a minor facelift in 1986 at the same time as the Escort, the car was now available with optional anti lock braking system and a heated front windscreen. The engines within the model range were upgraded to Lean burn units and had hardened valve seats allowing for the engines to run on unleaded petrol.

The Orion 1600E was a limited edition model released in 1989 with only 1600 vehicles being manufactured, available in black, white or metallic mercury grey the car came complete with wood door and dashboard cappings, grey leather seats and RS alloy wheels.

September 1990 brought about the introduction of the third generation Orion, the car was not well received and faced criticisms for the mundane styling and underpowered engines (1.3 and 1.4 Petrol engines). Visually identified by white indicator lenses and a chrome strip running through the front grille the Mark three received a major boost when the Zetec 16 valve engine was introduced into the range in 1992. At the same time the suspension received an overhaul giving both better ride quality and road holding characteristics.

The performance derivative in the Mk3 Orion was the Orion Ghia SI (Sports Injection). Fitted with the 1,796cc Zetec 16 valve double overhead camshaft engine complete with electronic fuel injection the car produced 130 bhp and lb/ft @ 4,500 rpm giving the car a 0-60 of 9.2 seconds with a maximum speed of 126 Mph – the fastest Orion ever produced.

The Orion model was dropped in September 1993, production ended after 10 years and 534,239 vehicles being produced. The Orion model was dropped in favour of the Escort brand with a four door body style.