Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost
SECTOR Lower medium PRICE £16,245 – £21,845 FUEL 56.5 – 58.9mpg CO2 109 – 114g/km
Despite the tendency for glittering concept cars to steal the limelight, it’s the mass-market cars which often have the biggest role to play in changing customer perceptions of new technology. Cars such as the Focus, a mainstay on roads the world over, and the first mass-market C-segment car to get a battery electric drivetrain next year, are vital for exposing the masses to new ways of thinking.
But an electric Focus is still a niche player, and what’s less reported is that the current model is going to introduce massive downsizing to the biggest sector in the European market in the form of a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine. It’s cubic capacity which, until now, has been a total unknown in a car of this size.
This isn’t an attempt to introduce a low price point to the Focus range though. Instead, the newest and smallest member of Ford’s EcoBoost family is a very convincing alternative to some of the car’s core engine choices. It almost matches the 1.6 non-turbo petrol for power, but with more torque and up to a 20% improvement in CO2. So low are its emissions that the 123bhp version is only 5g/km worse off than the less powerful, and £850 more expensive, 1.6 TDCi.
That’s not to say Ford won’t have some difficulties getting customers’ heads around the idea of a 1.0-litre Focus, but it does present an interesting case for itself. Diesel engines are still a recent addiction for the British motorist, particulate filters can be a real headache in inner-city use and complying with the forthcoming Euro6 emissions standards will widen the price gap between the petrol and diesel motors. With a 10p per litre difference at the pumps, it adds up to make this a very well-timed addition to the Focus range.
It’s an impressive piece of engineering, too. The block is small enough to fit onto a sheet of A4 paper, and the engine weighs 97kg without ancillaries, which is 40kg less than a 1.6-litre diesel engine. Refinement has been boosted by an unbalanced flywheel, which cancels out some of the usual three-cylinder rumble.
Most drivers won’t notice its tiny capacity on the road. The engine managed to pull almost from idle speeds without labouring too heavily, and tackled steeply rising mountain roads without feeling like a Shetland pony pulling a Sherman tank. This isn’t a unit that’ll set finger tips tingling, but even in the estate it doesn’t feel like a downgrade.
It’s certainly preferable to the old 1.6-litre engine, which took a heavy right foot to find its sweet spot. By comparison, this serves up a respectable shove of mid-range torque with a slight growl from under the bonnet as the only giveaway that it is missing a cylinder.
Unfortunately, by proving its ability on mountain roads, Ford didn’t give much of an opportunity to show off its fuel economy. But for short stretches of relaxed driving, the trip computer very easily shot into the low 50s suggesting it wouldn’t be impossible to wring out respectable efficiency in real-world use.
Ford is actually so confident about the engine that it’s considering fitting it to the Fiesta and, more notably, the Mondeo, as well as the B-MAX and C-MAX compact MPVs. It’s a combination that’ll take some real explaining to fleet drivers, but any fears will quickly be put aside after a test drive.
The 1.0 EcoBoost has the potential to spearhead a petrol revival by offering diesel-like running costs without the additional cost of fuel and the car itself. Ford is predicting 30% of UK sales will be fitted with this engine, which is ambitious but achievable if it can get drivers behind the wheel.