Ford Orion
[[File:Ford Orion front 20071031|frameless|upright=1.25|alt=]]
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1983 — 1993
Assembly Saarlouis, Germany[1]
Almussafes, Valencia, Spain[2]
General Pacheco, Buenos Aires, Halewood, England
Valencia, Venezuela
Predecessor Ford Escort(1968-80)
Ford Cortina
Successor Ford Escort Saloon (1993)
Class Small family car
Body style(s) 4-door saloon
Engine(s) 1296cc OHV "Valencia/HCS" Straight-4
1296cc OHC "CVH" Straight-4
1596cc OHC "CVH" Straight-4
Transmission(s) Ford BC4 4-speed manual
Ford BC5 5-speed manual
Ford ATX 3-speed automatic
Related Ford Escort
Ford Verona

The Ford Orion (Greek: Ὠρίων or Ωαρίων, Latin: Orion, The Hunter) is a saloon car built by the carmaker Ford for the European market from 22 July 1983 until 19 September 1993. A total of 3,534,239 Orions were sold throughout the car's 10-year life.

The Orion is based on the Ford Escort, but at the back, instead of the Escort's hatchback, the Orion features a separate trunk / boot. Visually the Orion's notch-back rear end and greater rear overhang make it readily distinguishable from its better selling sibling.


Orion Mark IEdit

Ford Orion di Francia ca1983

Ford Orion GL 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.

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 and lower-specification models crept into the range along with equipment levels being brought together between the two cars.

Orion Mark IIEdit

Ford Orion front 20071227

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 including new suspension and gearbox mounts, updated interior and trim changes, improved soundproofing and revised steering and suspension settings..

Orion Mark IIIEdit

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 CVH 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 Mk3 was identified at the front by white directional indicators and by a chrome bar that ran through the radiator grill. 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.

Trim levels were:

  • L (1992–1993), 1.8 diesel
  • LX (1990–1993), 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 16v petrol, 1.8 diesel
  • GLX (1990–1991), 1.3, 1.4, 1.6 petrol (dropped after 1991)
  • Ghia (1990–1993), 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 16v petrol, 1.8 diesel
  • Ghia Si (1992), 1.8 16v petrol, only available 92J / 92K plate versions.

Saloon versions of later Escort seriesEdit

In September 1993, a decade after the cars launch Ford dropped the Orion badge (following Vauxhall dropping the Belmont badge from its Astra saloon in July 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.

For details of the changes made to these later models, see the Ford Escort (European) article, from the section on the Ford Escort Mark Vb (1992–1995), onwards.

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 variantsEdit

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 OrionsEdit

  • 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.


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