Quick Drive: Three-Cylinder Ford Focus 1.0L EcoBoost

Downsizing is on the up in today’s fuel-economy-conscious world, and Ford has rolled out an all-new 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder to help score better mpg without zapping all the fun. For 2013, Ford has added the 1.0-liter EcoBoost to the European-market Focus, B-Max, and C-Max; better yet, we’ll be getting the engine here in “a small car” next year.

My seat time with the new three-banger was limited to a couple laps around one of the automaker’s vehicle dynamics test tracks, but I was quite impressed with the level of power provided by the small engine. Ford offered seat time in a set of Focus hatchbacks equipped with the 1.0-liter engine and six-speed manual transmissions. In the European-spec Focus I drove, the I-3 is good for 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque; for comparison, our North American-market Focus uses a 160-hp, 147-lb-ft 2.0-liter I-4. On the European cycle, the 123-hp 1.0-liter achieves the equivalent of 56.6 mpg. Ford also sells a less-powerful, 98-hp version that’s rated at an impressive 58.9 mpg on the European cycle.

The 24-hp deficiency was barely noticeable but the extra torque would have been welcome, as I spent the better part of the undulating track swapping second and third gears. That the Focus I was driving was down one cylinder and 1000 cubic centimeters never crossed my mind; instead, the engine felt lively, peppy, and willing to rev. There was no highway driving, so I can’t speak to how buzzy the rev-happy engine might be on the highway, but if it is quite and refined enough, nobody would miss the 2.0-liter I-4, especially given the I-3’s impressive fuel economy numbers.

Ford promised that U.S. consumers would be able to choose the 1.0-liter in one of its small cars next year, but didn’t elaborate on which model it might be. Our best guess is either the Focus or Fiesta, since Ford is no longer bringing a gas-engine C-Max to our shores (that car will come in Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid versions only.), while the B-Max – which rides on the Fiesta’s platform – isn’t likely to be sold in our market. Stay tuned.

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2012 Ford Focus

2012 Ford Focus

MSRP $39,200 Electric Hatchback

0-60 MPH:

7.6 SECS


26 City / 36 Hwy

Safety (IIHS):

Best Pick