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Don't fear Ford's 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine

Wed, 15 Aug 2012

One liter, three cylinders—that's the genetic makeup of Ford's smallest EcoBoost engine yet. And it's coming to the United States. A unit of measurement more suitable for water, olive oil or beer will be powering a Ford on U.S. roads.

If you can wrap your head around that, brace yourself for something else: This car drives fine.

We sampled the engine in a German-spec Focus on a road course in Michigan, and it is more than adequate. This is a good-size car, and it's drawing power from an engine that is about as long as an average laptop.

The unit comes in two states of tune, a 99-hp engine and the 123-hp one coming stateside. By comparison, the 2013 Fiesta has a 1.6-liter I4 rated at 120 hp, and the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic has a 1.8-liter I4 producing 138 hp. Even the 2013 Focus only puts out a modest 160 hp from a 2.0-liter I4.

In that context, a three-cylinder seems efficient, rather than strangled. The Focus drove adeptly, with decent power off the line. The engine sounded a bit whiny and growly when stretched, but it's a three-banger. Working the six-speed manual aggressively allows the user to wring a little extra out of this car, and the reasonably tight underpinnings of the Focus hatch made for a somewhat spirited drive.

Ford confirmed that the engine will be sold next year in the States, likely around May. The Focus and the Fiesta are strong candidates for this type of propulsion. Three cylinders are nothing to be afraid of, and they work fine in a small car.

2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost

ON SALE: Now in Europe


DRIVETRAIN: 1.0-liter, 123-hp, 125 lb-ft turbo-charged I3; FWD; six-speed manual

CURB WEIGHT: 2,820 lb

0-60 MPH: 11.3 sec

FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 56.5 mpg (Europe)

By Greg Migliore