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Tomorrow's world: Ford's downsized 1.0-litre Ecoboost

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 00:00:00 -0800

Direct injection petrol and diesel, hybridisation, downsizing, turbocharging, twin-charging the list of efficiency-boosting, fuel saving features being offered in new cars is becoming so long, buying a new one is like revising for exams.

Is there room for another? Apparently so, but since there’s no official name for it yet we’ll call it ‘super-downsizing’ or in other words, using a very small engine in a not so small car.

Extreme downsizing - and Ford's new 999cc triple

Ford’s new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, direct injection Ecoboost engine punches well above its weight with both 99bhp and 118bhp versions coming. It’s destined not just for the likes of the Ka and Fiesta as we might expect, but debuts in the Focus and it’s also destined the C-Max and forthcoming B-Max. Engineers are even contemplating fitting it to the next Mondeo/Fusion.

Is a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine really powerful enough for medium size cars? Well, technically, this one is pretty astonishing and while we see plenty of clever stuff coming from premium manufacturers for whom expensive tech is easier to justify, delivering technology this smart in lower cost, mainstream cars is not so easy.

Ford engineers have kept the cost down on the highly advanced little three pot in a number of ways. The block is tiny, so tiny that its footprint is about the size of a sheet of A4 paper and because of that, the weight saved making it from lightweight alloy would be insignificant, so it’s made of cheaper cast iron which transmits less noise. The cooling system is also split between head and block for faster warm-up.

No balancer shaft in the 1.0-litre Ecoboost

To save weight and more cost as well as reducing the package size, Ford has managed to do away with the balancer shaft (usually essential in three pot engine) by making the flywheel slightly out of balance. Engineers have also combined the exhaust manifold with the cylinder head casting, so the temperature of the exhaust gas inside it is reduced by around 100˚C thanks to the engine’s cooling system.

As a result, enrichment of the fuel-air mixture when the engine is working at its hardest becomes unnecessary and that reduces fuel consumption. The engine also makes do with a simple yet advanced design of turbocharger, has twin variable camshaft timing, uses low friction coatings on some internal components to save more energy and the crank is offset slightly to align more efficiently with the pistons’ connecting rods.

How economical is this extreme downsizing lark? Is the 1.0 Ecoboost frugal?

It’s efficient (in the Focus the engine will produce less than 120g/km CO2) and yet the 118bhp version develops 125lb ft torque over a wide range, between 1300rpm and 4500rpm. So does this mean the downsizing trend will continue until engines become minute? No, there’s a limit to the benefits and this is close to it. Ford research engineers believe the next stage is downsizing of the cars themselves, and that means weight reduction and less drag.

Small downsized engines are also compatible with mild hybrid systems, mainly to recover energy when the car decelerates. With all that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine how future Fords could start to look and feel like because as weight comes down, handling and steering can only improve too. Perhaps the current obsession with CO2 reduction may involve the odd smile after all.

By Jesse Crosse