The Ford Laser was initially a subcompact car (1981-1994), which was redesigned to a compact car (1994-2007) and sold in several countries, including Australia. It was available as a hatchback or sedan, but you'd find convertible, pick-up, and wagon versions sold in some markets. In Australia, the station wagon and sedan were available between 1981 and 1987, rebadged as Ford Meteor.
First Generation (1981-1985)
Ford introduced the Australian version, KA, in 1981, and it was meant to replace the rear-wheel-drive Ford Escort. You'd get it as either a three-door or five-door hatchback or the four-door sedan badged as Ford Meteor. It came with either a Mazda E3 1.3-litre carburettor 8-valve SOHC engine that reached peak power of 49 kW or a 1.5 L Mazda E5 8-valve SOHC engine that reached peak power of 54 kW. The 1.5L engine was available for the L, GL, and Ghia variants, while the smaller engine was an option for the L and GL trim levels.
Ford assigned the sedan version of the Laser the nameplate of Meteor, which had a three-box configuration and a spacious interior. In Australia, the Meteor came equipped with a 1.5L engine coupled with either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission.
Some of the distinguishing features of the Meteor were its egg-crate grille pattern and larger, flush headlamps that were not as “sunken” as the Laser’s were. It also came with a fully independent suspension with coil springs. The trim levels were the GL (the entry-level trim) and the Ghia (the upmarket trim). You'd get either of the two trims with an additional "S" package where Ford added full instrumentation and used better tires.
Second Generation (1985-1989)
For the Australian market, Ford dubbed the second generation range as the KC Laser and GC Meteor. There were no changes made to the body styles, but there was the introduction of a five-door station wagon. Ford Australia introduced a three-door TX variant and discontinued the three-door hatchback for the L and GL range.
The B6 1.6L inline-four SOHC engine (for the GL, Ghia, and TX3 models) replaced the 1.5L SOHC carburettor engine, which was optional for the first generation GL and standard on the Ghia. You could choose to get the Ghia trim with electronic fuel injection, but this was standard in the TX3 models. The hatchback model’s L trim came with the 1.3L B3 I4 SOHC engine. You’d get a Laser with a three or four-speed automatic transmission. Alternatively, you could opt for the four or five-speed manual transmission.
The KE premiered in 1987. This time the Meteor name was dropped, and now the sedan and wagon models were badged as Laser. Ford released the now rare TX3 turbocharged all-wheel-drive. You would distinguish the KE model from the KC by its redesigned features such as grilles, head and taillights, bonnet, front guards, and wheels for specific models. The dash also underwent some significant change, and after the introduction of the Australian Design Rule in 1990, all models came with a high-mount rear stop lamp.
The L model, which is quite rare, had some highly-distinguishable features. It featured silver-painted 13-inch steel wheels without centre cap and analog watch mounted on the instrument cluster. It had no passenger-side rearview mirror and rear windscreen wiper. You'd only get it with a four-speed manual transmission and the 1.3L B3 I4 SOHC engine. However, the L wagon had the B6 1.6L inline-four SOHC enginebut still maintained the same four-speed manual transmission.
The GL model features silver-plated 13-inch steel wheels, grey body side mouldings, cloth interior trim, and a rear windscreen wiper, among others.
You could get it with the B6 1.6L inline-four SOHC engine with a standard four-speed manual transmission. There was an option for a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission.
The luxury trim Ghia came with 14-inch steel wheels. Other additional features on the models were: velour interior trim, power steering, vanity mirror in passenger sun visor, rear headrest, central locking, air conditioning, and optional power windows, among others. For this trim, the B6 1.6L inline-four SOHC engine was standard with either a three-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. If you bought one with the EFI option, you'd have to make do with a four-speed automatic transmission.
The TX3 model came with 14-inch satin alloy chrome wheels with a sport cloth interior trim, auto fade interior lamps, with EFI and AC as standard features. Ford would introduce two limited editions: the Livewire (based on the hatch and GL sedan) and Redline (based on the GL hatch). The Redline featured the same alloy wheels used in the TX3, a tachometer, and air conditioning. The Livewire featured a body-coloured grille, a tachometer, and air conditioning. Both came with the five-speed manual transmission as standard, but you'd also get one with a three-speed transmission if you wanted.
Third Generation (1989-1994)
In Australia, the third generation (KF) was unveiled in 1990 and would receive a facelift (KH) after one year, in 1991. The cars came in the following engine variants:
- The Mazda B3 1.3L 16-valve SOHC engine, which attains peak power of 47kW for the XL model
- The Mazda B6-2E 1.6L 16-valve carburettor SOHC engine, which reaches peak power of 64kW for the XL, GL, L, and Livewire models
- The Mazda B8 1.8L 16-valve fuel-injected SOHC engine, which achieves peak power of 76kW for the GLi, Ghia and S models
- The Mazda BP 1.8L fuel-injected 16-valve DOHC engine, which reaches peak power of 92kW for the non-turbo TX3 models
- The Mazda BPT 1.8L fuel-injected 16-valve DOHC engine, which achieves peak power of 117kW for the turbo TX3 turbocharged models
You’d have the option of choosing between the 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic, or 4-speed automatic transmission.
Fourth Generation (1994-1998)
The fourth-generation model (KJ) was introduced in 1994, and they featured several notable designs and name changes. The three-door and five-door hatchbacks were rebranded to Laser Lynx and Laser Liata, respectively. There were two facelifts; one in 1996(KL) and the other in 1997 (KM). The LXi models came with the Mazda B6 1.6L 16-valve DOHC engine (80kW), while the GLXi models had the Mazda BP 1.8L 16-valve DOHC engine (92kW). You'd get one with either the 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic or 4-speed automatic transmission.
Fifth Generation (1998-2007) KN / KQ LASER
The KN was the last redesign the Laser ever underwent. It went on to receive a minor facelift in 2001(KQ). The KQ was the first sports-oriented Laser model, and it came with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that attained peak power at 97kW and peak torque of 183 Nm. However, the Laser's sales continued to disappoint.
In 2002, Ford upgraded the KQ to the SR2 and added some features, including additional three exterior colours. There was also the addition of three engines: the 1.8L FD-DE engine (91 kW power and 122 Nm torque) for the GLXI and SR, the 1.6L ZM-DE engine (72 kW power and 145 Nm torque) for the LXi, and a 2.0L engine exclusively for the SR2. The Laser was discontinued in Australia in September 2002.