Fru­gal Fi­esta

Ford’s three-cylin­der uses less fuel than most hy­brids

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

A THREE-CYLIN­DER Ford Fi­esta sounds like a new starter car to me. I’m think­ing a $15,000 price-fighter, econ­omy ahead of com­fort, and a new drive to the bot­tom of the baby car class.

The re­al­ity is quite dif­fer­ent, from the al­loy wheels and Sports badge to an en­gine that’s loaded with 21st-cen­tury tech­nol­ogy. Not to men­tion quiet­ness and com­fort.

So the Fi­esta Sport goes down as the first big sur­prise of 2014. It’s a fair bit bet­ter than I ex­pect and a cou­ple of guest driv­ers have no idea that the Cars­guide test car is one cylin­der short of the reg­u­lar roll call.

My own time with triples goes back to the very early 1980s, and the first Dai­hatsu Cha­rade to hit Aus­tralia. It was a raw lit­tle beastie, fun for sure and cost­ing less than $10,000, but also fully loaded with noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness.

I re­call clearly a romp around Can­berra with Hans Thol­strup — a Dan­ish-born ad­ven­turer then at the height of his pow­ers — that in­cluded blast­ing across a bridge to­wards Par­lia­ment House with the cabin filled by the sound of alarm bells. “Noth­ing to worry about,” says Hans, con­ve­niently fail­ing to men­tion that the bells sig­nal ex­ceed­ing Ja­pan’s 100km/h speed limit, while we’re in an Aussie 60 zone.

Any­way, this new Fi­esta is noth­ing like that Cha­rade. For a start, it rat­tles the scoreboard at $22,525 with a six-speed Pow­er­Shift au­to­matic.

It’s also com­fort­able and re­fined, chock-full of fea­tures and fine for the sort of longdis­tance trip that Hans and the orig­i­nal Cha­rade would have turned into a tor­ture test.

It’s just landed as the flag­ship of the facelifted and im­proved Fi­esta range, which now wears a frontal treat­ment sim­i­lar to an As­ton Martin and pric­ing from $15,825 for — iron­i­cally — a car with a larger 1.5-litre en­gine un­der the bon­net.

We’ll get to that. First, a quick look at how the power of three is bring­ing new­gen­er­a­tion su­per-fru­gal engines to the world of motoring.

There’s even a triple twist to For­mula One in 2014, al­though it’s a dou­ble deal that means tiny 1.6-litre V6s — tweaked by tur­bocharg­ing and twinned with hy­brid tech­nol­ogy — will be used for grand prix rac­ing.

The new gen­er­a­tion of three-cylin­der road car engines is small, light and, thanks to mod­ern tur­bocharg­ing, ca­pa­ble of mak­ing good power and torque without sac­ri­fic­ing econ­omy on a light throt­tle.

In the case of the EcoBoost en­gine in the Fi­esta, we’re talk­ing 92kW/170Nm with econ­omy as fru­gal as 4.9L/100km.

It’s a sim­i­lar ap­proach to other EcoBoost fam­ily engines, which with re­duced dis­place­ment and tur­bocharg­ing power the Fo­cus, EcoS­port, Mon­deo and Fal­con in Aus­tralia, as well as the F-Se­ries truck in the US.

The cylin­der block of the Fi­esta mo­tor is so small it will sit on a sin­gle sheet of A4 pa­per and it weighs less than 100kg. The 1.0-litre has 25 per cent fewer mov­ing parts and far less in­ter­nal fric­tion than a four­cylin­der.

The new-age triple in the Renault Cap­tur SUV, the sub­ject of a solid Cars­guide pre­view drive in Europe, is also fit­ted to the com­pact Clio. BMW and Mercedes-Benz are among the wide range of com­pa­nies de­vel­op­ing sim­i­lar engines.

Renault has taken the usual econ­omy track with its 900cc triple, at­tach­ing it only to a fivespeed man­ual gear­box and driv­ing the base price of the Clio down to $16,990. It’s not con­firmed yet for the Cap­tur in Aus­tralia but that’s just a ques­tion of time and the de­mands of the cash-strapped Gen-Ys who are the tar­get buy­ers for the city run­about.

As for the Fi­esta, the Sport with triple re­places the pre­vi­ous Zetec model. That means it gets ev­ery­thing from seven airbags to Ford Sync with hands-free, voice-ac­ti­vated con­nec­tiv­ity in­clud­ing Blue­tooth.

The price is up by $35 over the old Zetec car but, says Ford spokesman Neil McDon­ald, there is ex­tra equip­ment and the EcoBoost en­gine is not cheap.

The car is built in cost­ef­fec­tive Thai­land, al­though the pow­er­train pack­age,

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