Against all odds, the 1.0-liter three-cylinder version of the 2014 Ford Fiesta subcompact has enjoyed surprisingly strong sales numbers since going on sale in the U.S. in late 2013. Ford says that the SFE EcoBoost Fiesta, which is offered only with a manual transmission, has made up around the same percentage of all Fiesta sales as the sport-oriented Fiesta ST model, which hovers between four and eight percent of the model mix depending on the month.
Ford does not provide specific sales numbers of these separate Fiesta models, but a report from the Detroit News says that more than 1,000 three-cylinder Ford Fiesta models have been sold so far, with the majority of these purchased in California. Ford spokesman Chris Terry told us that this success could expand further in the next few months, as subcompact and compact car sales typically pick up during the summer months when the weather is warmer and gas prices begin to rise.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost’s 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder makes 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque, which outpaces the base model’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder by 3 hp and 13 lb-ft of torque. In combination with the six-speed manual — no automatic option is offered — the EcoBoost is rated at 32 mpg city, 37 mpg combined, and a lofty 45 mpg on the highway by the EPA. During our first drive of the three-cylinder Fiesta, we were surprised by this engine’s punchy nature. Terry confirmed that customer feedback for the three-cylinder has been strong: “Some people came in specifically looking for this car because they had heard about it, but other shoppers were surprised to see a Ford in the showroom that gets 45 mpg and costs less than $20,000.” According to Terry, this interest in the three-cylinder Fiesta is surprising considering the lack of marketing or advertising for this new engine choice.
Later this year, the refreshed version of the 2015 Ford Focus will also offer the three-cylinder EcoBoost powerplant as an option in the U.S. Like on the Fiesta, the EcoBoost will only be available with a six-speed manual, and will be part of an upgrade package that adds other fuel economy tweaks. The 1.0-liter engine currently costs $995 as part of the Ford Fiesta’s EcoBoost Fuel Economy package, and also adds special wheels and a regenerative braking system to further boost mpg.
Other companies including General Motors and Toyota have revealed new turbocharged three-cylinder powertrains recently, but these engines are currently slated only for the European and Japanese markets. If the relatively strong reception for Ford’s EcoBoost engine on our shores is any indication, perhaps bringing these new small engines to the U.S. wouldn’t be such a bad idea.