First came a face-lift for the subcompact Escort for 1985 1/2. To start`86, Ford comes up with a new Escort GT two-door hatchback complete with ahigher output, fuel-injected 1.9 liter four, special handling suspension, 15- inch wheels, new rear and heavier front stabilizer bars, rear-deck spoiler,low-ground effects plastic-rocker panels and wheel-well spats, and wraparound front-air dam.

What you have is an economy car that looks sporty--and performs like it.The Chevrolet Cavalier Z-24 (Autos, Oct. 6) is quicker with its 2.8 liter,fuel-injected V-6. But the GT is a far better looking car that has much morepep than the economy Escort model.

We drove the GT with the standard five-speed, a smooth shifting unit notburdened with the same balkiness as the arthritic Z-24`s manual. On a Detroit-to-Chicago run, the GT averaged 30 m.p.g. yet had the guts to merge onto theinterstate and into the flow of traffic without missing a beat.

Base price is $8,112 and standard equipment includes bucket seats, powerbrakes and steering, dual mirrors, electric clock, 15-inch wire wheels, andheavy-duty battery among others.

The only complaint is the placement of the mandatory third rear-brakelight within the rear hatchback lid. The positioning makes it difficult fortrailing cars to see and exposes the light to possibly more damage thanconventional placement inside the car.

If you want economy and performance give the GT a look. Its cousin, theMercury Lynx sports version, is called the XR3 and has all the same featuresplus a two-tone charcoal lower bodyside.

Here is a brief rundown of what`s new at Ford-Lincoln-Mercury for `86:

Mustang-Capri, T-Bird-Cougar, Crown Victoria-Grand Marquis, Lincoln-Continental-Lincoln Mark VII-Lincoln Town Car add a higher output version ofFord`s 5-liter V-8 engine with sequential multiport fuel injection for better performance, faster starts, improved mileage; Tempo and Topaz add new frontrear-end styling; Continental and Mark VII add antilock brakes as standard,and Continental has a new 12-speaker JBL sound system; Merkur XR4Ti addsautomatic; Ranger truck adds 125-inch wheelbase SuperCab (with extra seat incab), 2.9 liter, 130 h.p. V-6, and ``touch drive`` two- or four-wheel-driveshift changing option; F-150 trucks add all-season tires as standard; Aerostarvan moves spare tire underneath outside, and, at midyear, adds dual swing-out rear doors and optional 3-liter V-6.

In January comes a restyled, flashier, two-seater EXP to compete with the Pontiac Fiero. Ford will build 50,000. If Ford can breathe the same life into the EXP as it did into the GT, that car is eagerly awaited. No Mercury two-seater is planned.