One in four of the new Ford Focus Hatchback and five door Estate models to be sold in the UK will be ordered by customers with the company’s new British designed 1.0-litre, three cylinder, Ecoboost petrol engine.
Two versions are available, 99bhp and 123bhp with CO2 emissions of 109 and 114g/km and combined cycle fuel economy of 58.9mpg and 56.5mpg respectively.
Sales are expected to be a 50/50 split between the two power outputs and the same ratio between fleet and retail customers.
The price premium for the new compact three cylinder engine, the block is only the same size as an A4 piece of paper, is only £250 more than the outgoing 1.6-litre, four cylinder engines with Focus Hatchback 1.0-litre models costing from £16,445 and Estate versions from £17,545.
The power outputs of the new units are the same as the equivalent old 1.6-litre engines but there is significant improvement in performance fuel economy and all with lower CO2 emissions which of course mean much lower VED road tax and Benefit-in-Kind company car tax.
There is the usual choice of trim and equipment levels, Edge, Zetec (the best seller), Zetec S, Titanium and Titanium X.
Ford said at the UK press launch this week that in the past UK customers traditionally bought a model of their choice based on engine capacity, size used to matter if you wanted to impress.
High taxes and fuel prices have changed all that and now more and more customers look at engine efficiency in terms of power output but with lower tax gathering emissions.
So selling the idea that a 1.0-litre engine is better than a 1.6-litre unit isn’t now as hard a job as in the past. Ford say they are finding that once a customer has actually tried a Focus with the new 1.0-litre Ecoboost unit they have no reservations and are sold on the idea of owning the latest fuel saving technology engine. It is claimed that 60 per cent of people trying the new engine are buying it, nearly double the sales conversion rate of other Ford models.
The new 1.0-litre three cylinder Ecoboost engine has already been voted ‘International Engine of the Year’ by 76 Journalists representing 35 countries. That is a huge sales boost towards public acceptance.
Three cylinder petrol engines are not new, the Japanese were using them more than 25 years ago for their city cars and even then some versions were turbocharged and had multi-valve cylinder heads but they were all multi-point, fixed timing fuel injection units. This new engine, which is the now benchmark for the industry, is even more compact and combines variable valve timing with direct multi phase fuel injection and the latest turbocharger which instead of supplying a rush of boost pressure high up the rev band, offers a more linear and progressive boost from very low engine speed, 1,400rpm in this case.
My brief 1.0-litre, triple cylinder Ecoboost first drive this week with the 123bhp version, the 99bhp engine arrives soon, was in the Focus five door Hatchback, Estate versions are on their way.
Having read a few of the early reviews, seen the awards and heard the comments of a few colleagues who had undertaken the first appraisals, I was not disappointed in any way. In fact I was even more impressed. Triple cylinder engines traditionally are not as smooth as ‘fours’, they have a throaty roar to them during acceleration and they are not that responsive. Fuel economy and lower emissions are generally achieved at the expense of realistic performance if we are honest.
The new Ford triple sets new standards. The engine is smooth with little vibration, there is a slight change in engine note during hard acceleration but it is not a sound of stress. It is responsive and offers good flexibility without too many gearchanges from low speeds right through the mid range thanks to the wide torque band provided by the electronic mapping, variable valve timing and linear boost of the turbocharger.
Let me not be seen to over-praise this new engine, it is no ball of fire but it is no slowcoach either and still better than many larger capacity non turbo four cylinder petrol engines. Top speed is 120mph, zero to 62 mph takes 11.3 seconds and it cruises effortlessly and quietly at maximum motorway speeds. With CO2 emissions of just 114g/km it is impressive so the zero cost First Year road tax rate will appeal as will the £30 a year cost for the second year onwards. With half of all Focus models going to fleet and business drivers the 13 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax penalty is actually kind on the pocket.
Where Ford might have a few battles to win in due course is with the fuel economy expectations. Officially in the 99bhp version will return up to 58.9mpg and the 123bhp version 56.5mpg. Rarely do we see owners/drivers getting close to the official laboratory obtained figures these days during real-life motoring conditions. So meeting expectations might be an issue which Ford has to deal with.
The 123bhp Focus Hatchback test car returned 42mpg during two test drive sessions. These included 70mph motorway sections, country A and B 50mph roads and a small amount of 30mph urban stop and start travel.
The 99bhp Ecoboost version is £1,350 less than the diesel so that unit probably makes more sense for low mileage drivers .
The advice from me is of course try the 1.0-litre Ecoboost before you buy, you will be impressed and it really does live up to all the ‘hype’, sorry positive reaction, it has already received.
But the latest 1.6-litre TDCi diesel Focus will work out to be even more fuel efficient for high mileage drivers and there is a new 83.1mpg/89g/km Econetic 1.6 TDCi diesel Focus on its way soon.
Ford Focus 1.0-litre 123bhp Ecoboost Zetec 5-Door Hatchback £17,945.
Engine/transmission: 1.0-litre, three cylinder, 12V DOHC, variable cam timing, high pressure direct injection and turbocharger petrol unit, 123bhp, 125lb ft of torque ( up to 147lb ft during overboost) from 1,400rpm, 6-speed manual
Performance:120mph, 0-62mph 11.3 seconds, 56.5mpg, (42.0mpg on test), CO2 114g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 13%. Insurance group: 14.
For: Highly praised, award winning new benchmark downsized petrol engine which combines all the latest fuel and CO2 saving technologies without too many compromises in performance, size no longer matters.
Against: Living up to the official fuel economy figures in real-life driving conditions might be a challenge.