Ford Fiesta EcoBoost First Drive

Ford started work on the 1-litre EcoBoost engine as far back as 2006 - long before downsizing became the vogue – and its recent installation in the larger B-Max and Focus (an electric version of which is due this summer) models made it clear that bolting one inside the little Fiesta would be a match made in heaven.  

The marriage doesn't disappoint. Available in two states of tune - 100bhp or 125bhp - this ‘Frozen White’ example is fitted with the more powerful of the two. That kind of power from a tiny three-cylinder engine is impressive, as is the low emissions figure of 99g/km carbon dioxide, but the question that begs is 'what is this engine ultimately capable of?'

Quite a lot’ is the answer. Last September an EcoBoost-kitted Formula Ford lapped the Nordschleife in just 7min22sec, which is comfortably faster than a four-wheel-drive, 530bhp Porsche Turbo S can manage even before you consider that Formula Ford cars rely almost entirely on mechanical, rather than aerodynamic, grip. The powerplant was tuned to 202bhp, but it’s an astonishing achievement from the EcoBoost engine nevertheless, and it doesn’t stop there.

Andrew Fraser, the man in charge of Ford’s powertrain development, revealed that the Ecoboost is capable of developing 156bhp whilst emitting just 93g/km carbon dioxide. Nothing you can buy currently comes close to these figures, but by fitting the standard unit with a large turbocharger and an electric supercharger, to compensate for the torque shortfall at low revs, they’re achievable, even passing sign off tests. What won’t pass the 180-hour sign off test is the 220bhp variant Ford have developed, but it does give us an idea of just how supple the core 1-litre EcoBoost unit is.

Back in the real world and the Fiesta is still a lot of fun, and the turbo whine that becomes more evident the closer you get to the 6500rpm red line serves to remind you that this is a car of character disproportionate to its modest size. With help of a stop-start system, sensible drivers will get closer to the 65.7mpg combined economy figure that Ford are quoting for this model, although a more conscientious style is certainly required for economy gains – a common attribute of small capacity engines. It won’t happen by accident, in other words.

The 125bhp 1-litre EcoBoost may well be the most exciting engine in the Fiesta lineup, but it’s only one of six that emit less that 100g/km CO2. The cleanest is the 1.6-litre TDCi, which puts out just 87g/km CO2 and is rated at 85.6mpg. Fraser believes that the industry currently sees emissions of 80g/km CO2 as a realistic target, and this engine demonstrates that Ford are getting very close.

If the engine harks back to 2006, then the striking new face-lifted design has its roots in the Verve concept from the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. It incorporates the hallmarks of Ford’s new global ‘Kinetic’ design language, in particular the bonnet’s subtle ‘powerdome’, a not-so-subtle five-bar grille and new LED headlights. Overall it’s an attractive package, but equally it’s quite fussy – a sign that Ford are perhaps trying too hard. It’s the antithesis of one of the Fiesta’s key rivals the Volkswagen Polo – a car who’s minimalistic but strong lines Walter De Silva is particularly proud of.

The Fiesta is akin to the latest Golf VII in that the drivetrain is of more significance than the design, but popular aesthetic 'upgrades' refresh this four year-old design well.

Downsizing is a new and encouraging trend, and it's going to be interesting to see just how far makers can develop low-capacity engines. There's a definite ceiling; one of the reasons Ford shunned a two-cylinder setup is because the gearing required for such a small engine is detrimental to fuel economy. Fiat's TwinAir engines, despite their strengths, suffer from this problem. With the Fiesta, Ford have monopolised the section of the market looking for an enjoyable, engaging, stylish and brisk experience but with very low emissions. Nothing else comes close, not yet anyway.

The Fiesta has been the UK’s best selling car since 2008, and judging by the strength of this latest iteration we’re all going to be glimpsing quite a few more Aston Martins in our rear view mirrors.

Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost

Engine: 1-litre 3-cyl petrol Power: 125PS Torque: 125lb ft Top Speed: 122mph 0-60mph: 9.4s Economy: 65.7mpg combined Emissions: 99g/km CO2 Price: £15,445 OTR

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