Vital Stats

Turbo 1.0L I3
123 HP / 125 LB-FT
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
11 Seconds (est.)
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,800 LBS (est.)
23.8 CU-FT
A Sneak Peek At Our Three-Cylinder Future

Remember the good old days, when compact cars were powered by six-cylinder engines? Yeah, neither do we.

It's been a long time since a mainstream brand offered anything other than a four-banger in its econoboxes, and for good reason. While a half-dozen cylinders might have been necessary to adequately motivate Ford Falcon, Dodge Dart and later Chevrolet Cavalier models, any carmaker will tell you that modern four cylinders make more than enough power to propel even today's jumbo-sized compacts.

But wait just a minute. What did we say? More than enough power. That sounds like an opportunity.

Indeed, Ford has announced it will soon be selling a three-cylinder engine, in a car, in the United States. But not just any triple – a turbocharged, direct-injected three-cylinder with independent variable cam timing wearing the EcoBoost moniker on its plastic engine cover. Making 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, the 1.0-liter Ecoboost is already on sale in Europe, where it comes installed in mid-spec Focus models. By comparison, the direct-injected 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four in our domestic Focus makes 160 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque.
2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost side view2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost front view2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost rear view

Sometime next year this engine will appear in a vehicle sold here.

The three cylinder was designed by Ford's U.K. operation to be efficient, full stop. It's made of cast iron instead of aluminum to avoid using cylinder liners and allow for having Siamesed bores, which helped shrink the engine small enough that Ford says the block can fit on a sheet of A4 paper. (That's the European size that's just slightly larger than our standard, 8½- by 11-inch letter.) Fully dressed, the engine weighs just 214 pounds. Ford opted to avoid using balance shafts, instead relying on an unbalanced flywheel and crank pulley and tuned engine mounts to counteract the inherent vibrations of the design.

Now Ford hasn't said for certain it's going to be putting the three-cylinder under the hood of the Focus, merely that sometime next year the engine will appear in a vehicle sold here. It could well be the Fiesta – it probably should be the Fiesta. But Ford did let us sample a European Focus here in the States for a few days to get a taste of its smallest powerplant. While we'll get to the details of how it drives soon enough, note that we're now some 400 words in and we've yet to make a Geo Metro joke.

2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine

The 1.0-liter Ecoboost was paired with a six-speed manual transmission rather than the U.S. model's five-speed.

For starters, this Focus is a real car. Rather than some bargain-basement stripper model, it was well equipped, though differently than the Focus Titanium we drove for comparison. While Ford didn't provide a detailed spec sheet for the European car, it had a start-stop system, active park assist, a blind spot warning system and a lane-keeping system. Even better, the 1.0-liter Ecoboost engine was paired with a six-speed manual transmission rather than the U.S. model's five-speed.

The six-speed wasn't quite everything we've wished for, but it was certainly preferable to our domestic tranny. Where the five-speed in the U.S. Focus feels like a transmission from a base model car, albeit a good one, the European six-speed has a better shift action, with a more precise feeling and engagement. But the throws are rather long, and this is far from a close-ratio box, having not one, but two overdrive gears.

2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost interior2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost start button2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost phone display2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost shifter

It's quiet and comfortable, entirely free of the noise and vibration you might expect from a three-cylinder.

The clutch in the European car was nicely damped in both directions, but its friction point was occasionally hard to target, something that wasn't helped by the car's first gear ratio (3.73), which is numerically greater than the already steep U.S. car. But the deep first gear, the low 1,400-rpm torque peak of the turbo three and an overboost function that briefly allows the engine to make 148 lb-ft of torque helps the Euro Focus accelerate from a stop similarly to its larger-displacement sibling, at least initially.

After that, as long as you can keep the revs up, the 1.0-liter can hang with most traffic, though you will notice the 37-horsepower deficit compared to the 2.0-liter model. The three-cylinder forces you to be a better driver, and since you'll be constantly rowing through the gears, it's even quite a bit of fun. It's also quiet and comfortable, entirely free of the noise and vibration you might expect from a three-cylinder. Quick it is not, however, with Ford quoting an 11.3-second 0-62 mph time. But before you start to scoff, understand that even though that's slow, the car just doesn't feel that slow – at least not until you forget to downshift.

2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost front fender2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost side mirror2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost wheel detail2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost taillight

Where the European Focus really shows its mettle is its quicker turn-in and being more resistant to understeer.

Most of the enjoyment, of course, comes from how well the Euro Focus handles, which we found even better than the domestic-spec Focus Titanium. Steering in the Focus is universally excellent, quick and well weighted, with the sort of good feedback that we'd like to see in all electric power steering systems. While both cars allow some body motion during cornering and lane-changing maneuvers, it's more of a gentle reminder to keep you from doing something stupid than the wallowing you get in many compact cars. Where the European Focus really shows its mettle, however, is in effecting a quicker turn-in and being more resistant to understeer. While we're unsure of the comparative curb weights of the Euro Focus and the Platinum, we'd guess that the former was lighter by a passenger's worth.

For all the fun we had driving the three-cylinder Focus, however, our trips to the gas station were notable for their lack of post-fill-up excitement. The 1.0-liter EcoBoost Focus is good for 56.5 miles per Imperial gallon in European fuel economy testing, a number that means just as little as its £17,945 starting price. Just as you can't effectively plug the MSRP in British Pounds Sterling into a currency converter because U.K. car prices include various taxes and duties, the European fuel economy cycle cannot be cleanly converted to that of the U.S. EPA cycle.

2012 Ford Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost rear 3/4 view

In around-town driving we saw between 25-32 miles per gallon, while we managed only 35 mpg on the freeway.

Ford wouldn't speculate on potential fuel economy numbers were it to subject the 1.0-liter Focus to EPA scrutiny, and even as we hoped to calculate hybrid-like fuel economy in our own testing, we instead found the Focus rather, well, Focus-like. In around-town driving we saw between 25-32 miles per gallon, while we managed only 35 mpg from the 1.0-liter Ecoboost cruising between 70-75 mph on the freeway. While the city numbers were better than we'd experienced in the Focus Titanium, we wish we knew how much of that we could credit to the engine and how much came as a result of the start-stop system. On the highway, we just wish we had seen better fuel economy, period.

With an EPA rating of 30 mpg combined, a number that has proven fairly realistic, the five-speed Titanium's mileage isn't that different than what we saw from this European car. But the European Focus requires premium gasoline, leaving us unconvinced that its math could work well here in the U.S. We're similarly unsure how well the three-banger would fare when mated to Ford's notorious Powershift dual-clutch automatic, which we imagine would have to be offered to an American public that doesn't like shifting for themselves, certainly not in the volume required by the three-cylinder. All of which leaves us thinking that when we next see Ford's three-cylinder on American soil, it will be residing under the hood of the Fiesta.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      For the science minded: The horsepower necessary to move a particular car at speed is affected by rolling resistance, aero drag, mechanical drag, and any other friction involved. That this little-engine-that-could only delivers a 35MPG figure in the Focus is less an indictment of the engine and more the shortcomings of the Focus' aerodynamics and frictional concerns. Put this engine in a teardrop shape running on low rolling resistance tires and you could see far more impressive figures. I think we can reasonably expect better results from this engine, but it will be up to the stylists to make an attractive aero shape and the engineers to reduce frictional losses throughout the car.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Then again, maybe this engine puts out critical power for cruising at an inefficient part of it's range.
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        john, I dont care how aero a car is, if you put this engine in anything that weighs, lets just say 4000lb it wont do diddly, CURWEIGHT is a far more important parameter than aero, whos gains are seen at speed, NOT around town or stop and go.............
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Actually you both are correct. Aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires are very important for highway driving and curb weight is critical for city driving. Once a car is moving at a constant speed it only needs to overcome drag from wind, tires and drive train to maintain that speed. More weight on the tires will increase the drag from the tires but not drastically. (assuming inflation is proper). As we all know the key to a turbocharged car getting great gas mileage is to not have the turbo working. I would assume that at 70-75mph there is too much drag in this car for the engine to stay out of boost and maintain that speed… a 2.0L out of boost may get better MPG than a 1.0L using boost.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          I started typing and then read MANARC100's reply and he took the words out of my mouth. For sustained speed driving, weight is not a big part of the equation. Remember basic Physics (Newton's 1st Law of Motion)? An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Once a car is moving, it take less power to keep it moving. It's overcoming the vehicle at rest that's the labor-intensive part. It's a large part of why the highway rating for a given vehicle are better than the city ratings.
      Dean Hammond
      • 2 Years Ago
      just an idea on its size....its about the size of a sheet of a4 paper...crazy....
      • 2 Years Ago
      "While we're unsure of the comparative curb weights of the Euro Focus and the Platinum, we'd guess that the former was lighter by a passenger's worth." There's a Platinum Focus now?
      Charles Adrian Happy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I remember when economy cars came with 6 cylinder engines. I had one a 1968 dodge dart and it had factory A/C a big deal back then when most luxury cars had that as an option. But then again gas 25cents a gallon
        EXP Jawa
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Charles Adrian Happy
        My '66 Ranchero had Ford's small I-6, paired with a column shift 3-speed. I don't recall the mpg numbers, but when I was 17, was still cheap and I drove it like the throttle was an on/off switch...
        A P
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Charles Adrian Happy
        The Slant Six was one of the very finest engines ever the mid 70s Plymouth came out with a "Feather Duster" model that could get 30 on the hwy......AND run forever.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Don't knock the MPG numbers until the epa tests it because only then it is standardized. 70 to 75 is a bit fast, and we are getting these numbers from one source.
      • 2 Years Ago
      A 3 cycl engine makes sense in this class. A Prius has even less horsepower but they are extremely popular, and so are other lower power fuel efficient vehicles. I bet this car will be popular with people who need a fuel efficient car to commute to work. Personally If I needed such a vehicle I would rather buy the Focus over a Prius. The Focus looks better, has better handling, has more power and gets excellent gas mileage. In this era with high gas prices many people are looking for affordable efficient vehicles and the trend is only going to grow in the future.
      • 2 Years Ago
      As another person said, probably a better fit for the Fiesta. If that is realistic mileage, it is not very compelling to get stuck with a 11.2 second to 60 run and mileage worse than a regular Focus. That engine is going to be taxed with A/C and/or a full-load of passengers. We'll take the 6M here in the States though.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm sure that the highway MPG would be stellar at 55-60 MPH. Drivers who buy this car are most likely looking to save money on fuel, and be driving at the above listed speed anyway. I must say I am curious to see how this will be rated.
      • 1 Year Ago
      "...while we managed only 35 mpg on the freeway." That clearly shows the engine is overtaxed by the curb weight of the Focus.
      Top Stig
      • 2 Years Ago
      Drop it in the Fiesta with the 6 speed manual. It would yield much better fuel economy and would be better to drive than the focus. It would be perfect for the city, and could do fairly decently on the highway
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Remember the good old days, when compact cars were powered by six-cylinder engines? Yeah, neither do we." You mean like the AMC Pacer or AMC Gremlin or Ford Pinto?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not sure about the Focus, but in the Fiesta, it'd be pretty sweet since its (slightly) more powerful than the current motor and will most likely get better MPG as well. Either, its an interesting engine
    • Load More Comments