Ford Focus Fitted With Award Winning 999cc 3 Cylinder EcoBoost Engine
We’ve tested Fords remarkable Focus in the past, in all kinds of flavours and we’ve never come across one we would not be happy to drive regularly ourselves, so imagine our dilemma when the man from Ford contacted us and asked us to test another Focus, but this time, one with a 3 cylinder 1.0litre petrol engine. After our laughter died down, Mr Ford told us that not only was this for real, and that the same 1.0 engine was going to be finding its way into the even bigger Ford Mondeo in the not too distant future. So in the true spirit of testing things and relishing the opportunity to pull something apart we agreed.
Mr. Ford did promise us we would like all 3 cylinders and said that far smarter people than us, have just given this new engine a whole raft of awards, including “International Engine of the Year”, “Best New Engine” and “Best Engine under 1000cc, so we had better like it!
The appointed day arrived and our baby engined Focus was delivered to us for a week of persecution and it looked just great and like a regular Focus, it didn’t have tiny wheels and none of its steel panels were replaced with cardboard to save weight and in fact it was a high spec Titanium X with all the toys and it came in Candy Yellow and jolly nice it looked.
OK, so the Focus is through the first part of the test, which basically consisted of it being a proper Focus, and that all my mates wouldn’t know I was driving a car fitted with an engine that would seem to be more at home in a motorcycle than a car.
Many of us have driven a Ford Focus and indeed, many of us have owned one, and it’s been a mega popular car, way back from when it was first was released way back in 1998. Usually, when we test cars, we never get that carried away with what’s under the hood, unless of course it’s some fire breathing V8 or perhaps a high revving bi-turbo multi-cam beast, because for the main part, we look at the car as an all round package and judge it that way. Performance, ride, handling, economy, comfort and I’m sad to say simply having fun driving the vehicle, all form part of how we arrive at what we think about a car.
More increasingly, how economy or what people wearing sandals refer to as “green credentials” are becoming more important and as petrol heads, its sometimes really difficult to get the enthusiasm to lift the hood to take a look at some gutless 1.2 eco lump made out of newspaper and recycled driftwood and held together with dung from a Tibetan Yak and that will, if you are lucky, power you from 0-60 by Friday.
This new engine from Ford, I am told is nothing like that and in fact, its pretty important and it’s a major statement of intent and symobilses where as an industry, motor manufacturing is heading. We’ve tested Focus before, so are not going to go into loads of details about the car, preferring to stick to what happens to the Focus when it gets its 3 cylinder transplant. We need to know if the 999cc engine is powerful enough and we are going to find that out by testing it over different road conditions and with different passenger loads. We are also going to ask some other people who don’t know its “secret” to drive it and give us their opinions.
To give you an idea how small this engine is, complete with all of its ancillaries, it weighs just 97KG and its size is so small that the engine block is no wider than a sheet of A4 paper. Clearly, less weight should affect the cars handling and braking and logic would say if the car weighs less, it should deliver better MPG?
Way way back, petrol engines used to be the only show in town, with diesels being slow clunky smelly old things that were awful to drive, although they generally delivered a higher mpg. The fleet industry, always keen to save money, took the diesel engine to its heart and very soon most reps on the road were powered by diesel and a good part of this was because the new cars were ordered by the decision makers who were never going to have to drive the damn awful thing themselves. Manufacturers realised the opportunity and diesel engines developed like never before, to become the superb things they are these days and to highlight that figures show that in the year up to May 2012, diesel sales accounted for 51% of the market, putting it on course to be the first year ever to see diesels outsell petrol’s.
So Mr Ford’s little 3 cylinder is an extremely important engine, as it’s the start of a fight back for petrol powered cars and the first thing it’s got to overcome is our historic belief that certain sized cars need certain sized engines. Drivers tend to consider that say a 1200/1400cc goes in a Fiesta sized car, a 1600/1800cc goes in a Focus sized car, whilst a Mondeo sized vehicle gets a 2000/2500cc motor, because that’s what they’ve got used to over the last 30 years or so. There is a kind of belief that these are minimum numbers to deliver any kind of performance and believe it or not, even now, we still have huge problems convincing customers that a 1.6 engine is fine in a Mondeo.
On the road, we were impressed by the little 1.0litre engine. First thing you notice is the way it sounds and to be fair, at tick over, that’s pretty silent, but push the revs up and its got a really kind of rewarding satisfying sound that’s more akin to a V6, rather than a “straight 3” and that continues across the rev range and we liked that, we liked that a lot as it allowed us to forget we were in a sub 1000cc 3 cylinder car and that there was actually something substantial lurking under the hood.
In normal driving, you really wouldn’t be conscious of driving something so small, however we found an irresistible temptation to keep driving the thing hard (possibly because of the nice sound) and for us, that impacted on Ford’s claimed 56.5mpg, because we were getting nothing like that, though, to be absolutely fair, we “never ever” achieve what the car makers tell us their cars can achieve, because of the way we test them, so we are always way off, unless of course, we are auditioning for “Driving Miss Daisy”. It is right however for us to point out that if you want to get the maximum mpg out of this car, you really do need a light right foot.
So normal use, fine, but we did find that the little motor lacked torque when we were carrying passengers of perhaps going up steep hills and we found ourselves dropping down a cog or two to overtake, but the engine was fine with that and on a number of occasions we even pushed our 3 cylinders to the red-line at 6,500 rpm. The gearbox fit is all new as well and we cant speak highly enough of this as its superb to use and the gear ratio’s seem to fit the power band of the little 3 cylinder perfectly.
The 1.0litre focus saves around 30kg in weight at the nose end of the car and for us we found it noticeably precise with much lighter and better handling than the 1.6 versions of the car and in fact we enjoyed throwing it into corners, it just felt more fun. Braking was also better, I guess because it’s got less to stop, but it seemed as you braked it hard into the corners, that the nose dived far less than on other focus, really making controlling the car an enjoyable experience.
All in all, we found the car a pleasure to drive. Yes we know it’s got compromises, but its quiet, refined and nice to live with and for almost all of us, the 1.0litre engine is going to be enough for anything we are going to need to do and don’t forget, it does deliver a healthy 125ps of power and it wasn’t many years ago that a big Transit van was supposed to do its job with just 76ps and even today, you can still buy a 100ps, or 115ps Transit. So 125ps in a Focus, it’s a breeze.
Price wise, to look at how it stacks, we are probably best to stick with a Zetec 5dr as it’s a pretty popular car. Go for the oldest and smallest of the conventional 4 cylinder engines and that’s going to deliver you 105ps in terms of power and 136g/km of Co2 and the car will cost you £17,000. You can opt to have the same car with the lower power and lower polluting 100ps 109g/km version of the 1.0litre engine at just £365 more, or go for the engine we tested here which produces 125ps, has a Co2 of just 114g/km and costs £17,865. Want to compare with diesel; well the 115ps diesel will set you back a lot more at £18,715, but deliver 109g/km emissions.
As a final test and just to see if others agreed with us, we adopted a more scientific approach, and figured we would ask some other people to drive the car, without telling them knowing the truth about what it actually was. This should give us some viable blind tasting results and if there was an elephant in the room, surely they should spot it.
We asked each driver a number of questions about different things on the car and hidden amongst them were specific questions about the power the car produced and the way it performed. Every driver said they thought the car was a 1.6 or a 1.8, and that for them it passed the performance test 100%. The really weird bit came only after we told the testers that our Focus was powered by a 1000cc 3 cylinder engine which then saw drivers begin to come up with little reasons at to how they could tell it wasn’t a 1.6 or 1.8. Fact is, before they knew what they were driving, they were 100% happy and this I feel, might just be Ford’s problem.
So in summary, clearly, straight out of the box, this is a stonking little engine which is still in the early days of its development and rumors abound that ford have already managed to get around 170bhp out of a 1.0litre 3 cylinder motor. As yet, you and we don’t know how the engine will be performing when its got 90,000 on the clock, but one thing for sure is that Ford absolutely need this motor to succeed and they will be taking care of every one of these they supply so warranty support (if it were needed) would be excellent, so you’re dead safe to go and place your order.
On paper, we can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t buy a car powered by this new 1.0litre 3 cylinder engine. In terms of performance, price and reliability, well again, there is no reason why you wouldn’t choose the 1.0litre engine. It’s not on paper however where Ford has a problem here, it’s in our heads. We’ve grown up believing that in most things, bigger is better and for those of us who have owned cars chances are they’ve been bigger than 1000cc, so this is all a little alien to us and for those of us who like our position, engine size has always been a kind of status symbol.
For a quotation on the Ford Focus 1.0litre or on any other Ford, please contact us.