Like the smaller Ford Laser, the Telstar was in fact, based on a model produced by Mazda in Japan. It shared its platform with the Mazda Capella/626, the differences being confined to some styling, engine sizes, and specification. The first model (also known as the AR) was launched in 1983, replacing the Ford Cortina. Unlike the Cortina, or its Sierra successor, the Telstar was usually only available as a sedan or hatchback (known as the TX5). However, after 1988, a Telstar version of the 626 wagon was sold in Japan and New Zealand.
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.