I have owned my XR4 for a little over a year now, and I have loved every moment. I bought it as my first car because I wanted something relatively cheap, reliable, and reasonably quick.
As a driver's car, not much comes close for the money. A decent XR4 can be picked up for around $6000 with low kays. The engine is an N/A 2.0-litre Duratec unit that produces 110kW and 190Nm. Tuneability of this engine is pretty good, with simple exhaust and intake mods generating solid gains in power.
The XR4 has a hilariously restrictive exhaust system and airbox, which was most likely due to Ford wishing to keep insurance costs down in the vehicle’s native Europe. You can get an XR4 to produce around 200 wheel horsepower by getting a full exhaust system (manifold, flexi pipe, high-flow cat, cat-back), cold-air intake or induction kit, more aggressive camshafts and an inlet manifold plus a tune.
Performance parts are easy to find off various websites such as Graeme Good Racing, Mountune, and Pumaspeed. The only thing to keep in mind if you are looking to modify this car is that the majority of parts come from the UK, where the XR4 was sold as the Fiesta ST150, and as such shipping becomes expensive.
Ford only produced this car for two model years (2007–2008) with a total of 1261 units produced, making the XR4 a very rare car – even rarer now that they are old enough for a fair few examples to have been written off.
In terms of performance, the XR4 is not really designed for straight-line speed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s decently quick, and the quoted 110kW (150hp) is at the wheels, meaning it probably produces around 160–170hp at the crank. However, the XR4 could have done with a bit more power and preferably a turbo from factory (not that there was any room in the engine bay, which is tightly packed).
The X-factor of the XR4 lies in the corners, where the steering feel and feedback are amazing – especially compared to modern cars with emotionless electric steering. The XR4 could happily keep up with its bigger brother, the Focus XR5 Turbo, on any twisty road or racetrack (provided the straights aren't too long), and given a bit more power it could leave the XR5 behind. The handling in this car rivals that of vehicles worth 10 times as much, or more.
In terms of comfort and convenience, the XR4 does not do so well. The suspension is lower and, more importantly, stiffer than the standard WQ Fiesta, and while this gives the car its amazing handling characteristics, it does not do too much for the ride. Most passengers who get into my XR4 comment (often noisily) on how uncomfortable the ride is. This stiff suspension becomes worth it as soon as you get the XR4 on a track or a decent bit of road.
The XR4 is now a 10–11-year-old car depending on the model year, and the technology really shows that. The standard stereo is certainly nothing to boast about, with only four speakers and limited inputs. I would strongly recommend upgrading it to a decent Android touchscreen system. The standard head unit has the usual FM/AM radio, a six-CD stacker and an auxiliary input for you to plug your phone into (if this is an issue for you, you can buy Bluetooth receivers that plug into the AUX port, and allow you to play music wirelessly, off eBay for less than $10).
In terms of economy, don’t expect anything less than 8L/100km, even when driving as economically as possible. The gearing in the XR4, which is a close-ratio IB5+ box, has short ratios for better acceleration, and as such this is not a car for long-distance cruises, and will sit at 3000rpm at 100km/h in fifth gear (yes, it’s only a five-speed).
I get a little over 400km per tank, and the XR4 only takes 95-octane (the engine is mapped specifically to take 95, so no, 91 is not an option), so it might be a bit expensive to run for P-platers with limited income.
If you look to buy one, make sure the gearbox and differential are both in immaculate condition. The XR4 is known for breaking gearboxes, mainly due to the differential giving up on life, and is very expensive to replace ($1500 plus install). I would recommend budgeting at least $1000 for a stronger limited-slip differential if you plan on modifying the car and/or using it on the track.
In saying this, my car still uses the stock diff and gearbox and has done 110,000km as of July 2018 with no problems, and many XR4s have done well over 200,000km with no gearbox issues. Be gentle with the car, don't do too many hard launches, and you should be fine.
I would not recommend this car for an inexperienced driver (learner) unless they have driven a manual before. Although the clutch is pretty light, the bite point is very high up the pedal movement, and can be very easy to stall due to the lightened flywheel if you are inexperienced. Also, the turning circle is wider than that of a Ford Falcon due to the bigger 17-inch alloys over the standard Fiesta.
As mentioned earlier, the 95-octane fuel can be a bit expensive if you are young and not earning much. Also, expect to pay a fair bit for XR4 body panels such as the front and rear bumpers, side skirts and spoilers, as the car was a limited run in Australia and parts are hard to find.
My car is Moondust Silver with the factory blue OTT racing stripes removed by the previous owner. If you want to replace these stripes it can be expensive, as I found out. The stripes alone only cost $125 shipped from the UK, but you will want to pay someone to install them professionally, which will set you back at least $200, although I was quoted $440 by numerous wrapping companies in Western Australia.
All in all, I would recommend the XR4 to people who enjoy driving and can put up with the lack of technology and ‘crashy’ ride. The XR4 is a fantastic little car, and is only getting rarer.