Ford Orion

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Ford Orion
Ford Orion
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
Production1983 — 1993
Predecessor Ford Escort(1975-80)
Ford Cortina
SuccessorFord Escort Saloon (1993)
ClassSmall family car
Body style(s)4-door saloon
Engine(s)1.3 L I4
1.4 L I4
1.6 L I4
1.8 L I4
1.6 L diesel I4
1.8 L diesel I4
RelatedFord Escort
ManualsService Manual

The Ford Orion was a saloon car built by the automaker Ford for the European market from 22 July 1983 until 19 September 1993. A total of 534,239 Orions were sold throughout the car's 10-year life.


Orion Mark I

In the early 1980s, Ford's model line-up and image was changing. The company's older saloon line-up was replaced mainly by hatchbacks, from the Escort to the Granada and the new Sierra (which replaced the Cortina). The Orion was designed to fill the market demand for a traditional four-door saloon, left by the demise of the Cortina. The Orion looked similar to a contemporary Escort at the front, but the rear of the body was totally different; the Orion had a long flat boot (making the car a three-box saloon design) rather than a hatchback or estate body like the Escort. Although the Orion's length was similar to that of the contemporary Ford Sierra,[clarification needed] the latter had more rear legroom with the Orion having a larger boot.

Ford initially offered the Orion in only GL and Ghia trim levels, missing out on the very lowest specification levels available on the Escort. Only 1300 cc and 1600 cc CVH engine options were available (though with both carburettor and fuel injection options on the 1.6 Ghia). A lower specification L model was introduced in 1984 as was the option of a 1.6 diesel engine on L and GL models.

The Orion Ghia 1.6i standard features included central locking, sunroof, front sport seats, electric windows, rear head restraints, tachometer and an information binnacle informing the driver when the vehicle needed maintenance. All of these features were rare equipment on a small family car in the 1980s, giving the Orion upmarket pretensions. Other cars in the small executive saloon class competing with the Orion included the Volkswagen Jetta, Mercedes-Benz 190, Rover 213/216, Vauxhall Belmont, Daihatsu Charmant, BMW E30 and the Volvo 360.

The Orion 1.6i shared the same engine as the Escort XR3i and offered similar performance and handling without the insurance unfriendly tag that the XR badge started to command in the late 1980s. The 1.6i was topped by a luxury limited edition called the 1600E in 1989, the 1600E name harking back to the Mark II Ford Cortina 1600E as both were considered as decent performance and well-equipped saloon cars for the working person. The Orion 1600E was available in black, white and metallic grey and had RS alloys, wood cappings on the dashboard and doors, and grey leather seats. Only 1,600 were made, and only 1,000 of these had leather trim.

Eventually though, as the years went by, Ford brought the styling and engineering of the Orion closer to the Escort's. Lower-specification models crept into the range.

Orion Mark II

Ford Orion Mark II

In 1986, the Orion received the same facelift as the rest of the Escort range. The Mark II brought the option of anti-lock-brakes (ABS) and a heated front windscreen to the range. The CVH engines were upgraded and were now 'lean burn units' and various models in the range could run on unleaded fuel without modifications to the cylinder head or to the fuel system. Improved locks were fitted across the range, and a number of other improvements were carried out.

Orion Mark III

The third generation Orion had its début in September 1990, but received the similar media criticism that the Escort endured for its lack of design flair as well as the disappointing refinement of some of its engines — particularly the low powered 1.3 OHV and 1.4 OHC petrol units. As with the Escort, the arrival of the Zetec 16 Valve engines and suspension changes in 1992 improved the Orion's dynamic qualities. The range topping Orion Ghia Si (sports injection) had 130 bhp (97 kW) out of its 1.8L DOHC Zetec unit, making this the fastest production model Orion that Ford produced through the cars 10 year life.

Saloon versions of later Escort series

In September 1993, a decade after the cars launch Ford dropped the Orion badge (following Vauxhall's drop of the Belmont in 1991) in most markets (excepting Argentina) and simply used the Escort trademark for all body styles; amongst other things this kept the Escort in its traditionally commanding position high in sales charts. The Escort saloon was discontinued in 1998, when production was pruned back on the launch of the Focus.

Sales of the Escort-badged saloon were not as strong as those achieved by the Orion, as saloons of this size continued to fall in popularity throughout the 1990s.

International variants

The Brazilian Ford Verona was similar to the Orion (the 1993 model was identical, except for the bootlid badge), but it used the Ford CHT engine power unit in place of the CVH and Zetec installed in the Orion.

Other Ford Orions

  • The 2008 model of the large rear-wheel drive Ford Falcon FG in Australia, the FG, was code-named 'Orion'.
  • The Orion name was used in New Zealand for the second generation Ford Telstar, when sold alongside the replacement third generation Telstar range.