Words by Carl S. Cunanan Photos by Ardie O. Lopez
The key point, we decided, as we tested this car up and down tight winding mountain roads, long highways and steep inclines was this.
“We shouldn’t be doing this.”
More accurately, we shouldn’t be doing this with a 999cc engine in a road car.
The little engine that could has been getting attention for the last two years from all the right people. It took home several trophies from Stuttgart two years running from the UK-based International Engine of the Year Awards, as a ground-breaking and barrier-busting powerplant in categories including sub-1 liter, Green and Overall Engine of the Year. In the case of the sub-1 category, it took honors in an arena previously dominated by only two companies, both of which were Japanese. Even more surprisingly, these wins came for Ford and are their first ever from this global technical body. The company known for brute force had never, ever won before, and now they do it with something economical, something they have actually fit into a small suitcase for a plane trip. They shouldn’t be doing this either.
Trevor Worthington, Vice-President for Product Development of Ford Asia Pacific, used an interesting reference to explain why this engine, and also this car, worked so well. It is both entirely appropriate if you know what he means and dangerously misleading if you don’t. He mentioned the automotive equivalent of “the wall of sound.” This phrase is used to define a musical technique first developed by Phil Spector in which several different musicians and instruments of different types, both plugged and unplugged, perform the same piece and the same parts at the same time. It needs a massive amount of planning and precise execution to take what would be just a bunch of different things and create something more than the sum of its parts. Spector’s wall of sound also took into account not just the producers of the sounds but the environment in which they are created and listened to, which is also quite apropos for what has been done with the new Fiesta EcoBoost. The reference is spot on. It is also something any marketing head would pitch a fit over. Imagine the headlines. “New Ford produces wall of sound.”
The orchestration of all the different arts and crafts is what makes the engine and the car itself work, and work well past the boundaries of standard econobox expectations. The 999 cc’s that produce are arithmetically split three ways; the engine is a triple. Three-cylinder engines have always been a safe choice for small eco-aimed cars but one with inherent issues that keep it away from the general car buyer. They can be buzzy, either under-powered or peaky, produce way too much noise and vibrate like an out-of-synch sewing machine. All this and more have given the “small engine in a small car” a bad rep, and you had to choose to please either your pocketbook or your ears, spine and right foot. As Mr. Worthington said, “Ford is moving from an “or” company to and “and” company.” Just as in real life and about every organization of any success, this needs everything to work together and go towards one goal. The engine designers rethought the triple, and deliberately put the whole thing out of whack. Triples have uneven forces acting within them, and are usually brought back into a semblance of synch with balance shafts. Ford instead deliberately unbalanced the engine further by taking certain components and putting them in new places. The end result is that the various opposing forces counteract each other and produce a surprisingly smooth operation. I would have said “smooth for a sub-one liter triple” but that is no longer applicable. The little guy is smoother than some things even two classes up.
The engine is mated to a six-speed Powershift dual clutch transmission, which Ford points to as a key component in their formula for increased fuel efficiency. It acts quickly and smoothly, and in combination with systems like the high-speed turbo, allows you to run through the revs surprisingly fast. It operates automatically but can be controlled with an up/down gear selector located on the gearshift lever itself. When asked about the possibility of putting paddles on the wheel to make things easier for the driver, the response was according to their studies most people in this buying range rarely changed gears manually, and as such, the car is really meant to be driven in auto mode. Also, the addition of paddles would push the price further up. While we could have used the ability to hold gears longer on some long tight uphill turns, we have to say that we really weren’t wanting.
The drive we put the new 1-liter EcoBoost Fiesta through consisted of several different types of road and traffic. The earliest portion had us driving out of the central area of Chiang Mai, Thailand amidst traffic of the two and four-wheeled variety, though we were actually warned to be careful of everything from dogs and cows to elephants. Seriously. We spent this time getting to know the interior of the Fiesta, which is a place that Ford spent a good deal of attention on as they want it to feel like your “second home on wheels.” We were able to get our electronics hooked up relatively quickly, and everything came to hand in the ergonomically well thought out way that good cars should. The car was relatively smooth to drive in traffic with maximum torque coming in at 1,400rpm you have everything available very quickly. The transmission acts quickly, and it needs to as bringing the revs up from 1500 to 4000 rpm happens in a very quick few seconds before the gear changes and the process starts again.
On highway drives, the new setup started showing true potential as it was barely ticking over at highway cruising speeds between 100 and 140 kph. With such an easily reached maximum torque entry number, the power was available for any quick decisions to overtake. Do keep in mind that this is not a burner engine; it is still a 1-liter albeit one that punches far above its weight. Don’t accept miracles, but rather understand that the performance and comfort you are getting would normally be felt a few rungs up the ladder. Still, again we didn’t feel wanting for normal fast driving. It was here that we decided that this new Fiesta in this configuration may be a car that could actually pull people away from larger engines even though they are used to more comfort and quiet. It is a very relaxed drive, and the noise associated with small engine has been muted considerably such that it wasn’t really an issue at all. Ford has a metric they called the articulation index, which is how well the two front seat occupants can speak with each other. They seemed to achieve their goals, as I could hear Ardie Lopez quite well, whether he was behind me or stuck with one foot in the front and one in the back and I could hear his muffled whimpers of pain. We also hear the sound of cameras banging together as we reached the tight and twisty mountain roads that came up next, and we felt we could hear the sound of cashiers as we racked up camera repair bills. Didn’t slow down though, didn’t really need to.
The Fiesta is more than able climbing up the mountain passes, and while you could always use more power, in reality what you felt was that you shouldn’t have slowed down so much so you could bring in more velocity at the exit. Visions of Ford rally cars came to mind, swinging their tails out as they scrambled and bit up a mountainside. In reality, the Fiesta is rather well balanced, and doesn’t easily put a foot wrong or chirp a tire in protest. It will be a car that rewards you if you drive smoothly. It rewards the driver, but the passenger may get a little green if they’re not used to it. The articulation index proved itself again here, as Ardie very clearly heard my apologies, my proffering of a plastic bag and my promise to repair his camera. It was here that we decided we remembered that we were judging this car as a 1.3 to 1.6 liter and not as something with 999cc. It was here we decided that this was a course of play not normally meant for this set of clubs.
Some people have said that you need to whip the engine to get the best out of it, but those words bring up an image of hardship which is really not the case here. The engine is free-revving, the boost almost always on, the transmission quick to react. We didn’t hear the whirring or wheezing or other noises that come from running a small street-destined engine hard. The drive back from the mountains brought us to speeds closer to the next ton than the first, but it was again a relaxed drive. Getting back into rush hour traffic showed us a similar weakness we see in many small engines, though to be honest it was far less intrusive. In full stop and go traffic, you will have the tachometer resting at around 1000rpm but you can quickly go to full torque. Smoothness here will reward you, but to be honest we were kind of nitpicking at this point. Ford knows this is where you will spend a lot of time and they planned accordingly. The Electronic Power-Assisted Steering System adjusts as needed, and gives you tight turning circles when you need them, helps compensate for outside forces pushing you off track, and gives you tight when you want it most.
It is actually hard to pigeonhole this car. You have things like a focus on quiet and calm on one hand with systems to isolate the driver from noise, vibration and harshness and an adaptive steering support system, on the other hand you have a new suspension that almost begs to be driven hard. If you look at many of the relative “upstart” successes of the recent automotive world, you can see that many wins come not from making a particular niche car or type of car better but from making a whole car be a better car. Not a better sporty car or better off-roader or better luxury-sedan, but a better car holistically. From the ground up, engine outwards; that seems to be what Ford has tried to do here. It is moving from “or” to “and”.
The proof is in the pedal, and this car with this engine is being sold alongside a larger more traditional powerplant in many countries including the Philippines. The EcoBoost is an upgrade, and it feels it. Pricing comes so close between the two that many people think Ford is not aiming to just sell cars, it is aiming to start conversations and change minds. You cannot avoid the question; Ford is forcing it upon you. New technology or old, new world or not?
For those that spend their time in cars alone as they drive to work but don’t want to lose the pleasantness of their larger vehicle drives, the EcoBoost is the best reason yet to take a step into a hopefully clearer day.
WHAT THEY DID DIFFERENT
What makes the new Ford Fiesta EcoBOOST stand out amongst the rest in the band wagon?
•The three- cylinder is by nature unbalanced. Components like the pulley and flywheel w ere deliberately unbalanced in order to direct any out -of-balance forces to wards different areas that are less sensitive or could be countered.
•Engine mounts w ere designed to decouple to help absorb any shaking forces.
•The turbocharger used is very small and very fast. It spins at 248,000 rpm, making boost come in very quickly and helps produce a torque curve that
jumps fast and stay high and flat.
•The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head rather than being bolted on, reducing complication and w eight and keeps the turbo close and more easily able to react. It also lowers w eight by almost a kilo .
•A variable oil pump allows more precise lubrication depending on need, increasing efficiency by reducing wast ed energy.
•An offset crankshaft. Friction is reduced because of the efficiencies coming from positioning pistons within cylinders. The engine revs quicker and more
freely and responds better.
•Engine coolant takes different directions, with one path that leads to the cylinder block and another that goes to the cylinder head. This allows more accurately controlled temperature management, which helps warm- up time and therefore helping decrease emissions and increase fuel efficiency .
•The timing belt is inside the engine and not exposed, and is immersed in oil. This helps in reducing friction and lowering noise. The belt itself is meant to last the life of the engine, which should help lower long- term ownership costs.
ENGINE: Inline-3, 999cc, dohc, 12v, turbocharged, 6-Speed PowerShift AT
MAZ POWER: 125 bhp @6000 rpm
MAX TORQUE: 125 lb ft @ 1400 – 4500 rpm
0-100 KM/H (0-62 MPH): 9.4 sec.
TOP SPEED (MPH): 196 km.h (122 mph)
FUEL MILeAGE: 18.87 km/L City / 27.03 km/L Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: PhP 899,000.00
+ : A breakthrough engine that will chamge minds, a great reason and price to try a smaller urban vehicle for a daily driver
– : Paddle shifting would be nice, though addmittedly more expensive. Watch your foot in full stop and go traffic, the high flat power curve takes getting used to
C! EDITOR’S RATING: 9.5/10