In Australia, the Telstar filled the gap in Ford Australia's product line-up, left by the Cortina in 1981. The original incarnation of the Telstar (the AR) was released in 1983 and was based on the first front-wheel drive Mazda 626 vehicle.
There was only one engine on offer – a 70kW (94hp) 2.0 L carburetor. The car boasted many distinctive features, such as push-button adjustable suspension (which it shared with its 626 sister car), and a digital instrument cluster (which it did not), and was Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year for 1983.
A facelifted model (the AS) arrived in late 1985, before the first all new model (the AT) appeared in 1987 with fuel-injection now standard.
Local assembly of the Telstar was short-lived, and for a while the model was almost replaced by the Ford Corsair, which was simply a facelifted version of the Nissan Pintara, as the two companies were sharing models under the Button Plan.
The two were sold side-by-side in the Ford range for a few years, with the Telstar only available as the high-performance TX5 hatchback. Later when Nissan ended manufacturing in Australia, the Corsair was dropped and the Telstar, fully imported from Japan, once again became Ford's offering in the medium size segment of the market, voted as Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for a second time in 1992 with the AX model (which boasted four-wheel-steering in top spec). It was replaced by the Mondeo in 1995.
Trim levels were LX, GLX, Ghia and GT. The GT model was also available as a special edition 1991-1992.
In New Zealand, the Telstar, like the Laser, was assembled locally from 1983 (replacing the highly successful Cortina range) to 1997 (replaced by the Mondeo range), initially at Ford's original Seaview plant near Lower Hutt and later at the Ford/Mazda joint venture plant in Auckland, called Vehicle Assemblers of New Zealand (VANZ). The mechanically identical European specification Mazda 626 and Mazda 323 were initially assembled separately by Motor Holdings in Otahuhu but later joined the Telstar and Laser at VANZ.