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What I think: 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost

2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost

It’s hard to get excited about an economy car with a three-cylinder engine, especially if your last memory of such a vehicle was a 55-horsepower Pontiac Firefly. But nearly a decade and a half later, automakers figure North America is once again ready for such a tiny engine, even if it’s in a car not quite as tiny as that late ‘90s Pontiac.

Ford’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder “EcoBoost” turbocharged engine was a late addition to the 2014 Fiesta line, and carries on into the 2015 model year. As with its other EcoBoost engines, Ford charges a premium for this one, which replaces the standard 1.6-litre four-cylinder; in this case, the smaller engine adds $1,500 to the Fiesta SE’s base price of $16,000. Another kicker is that, at least when this was written, the turbo three-cylinder can only be ordered with a manual transmission.

2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost

The point of Ford’s EcoBoost program—not to mention the recent resurgence of turbocharging across the auto industry—is to use smaller-displacement engines to save fuel, and then add turbocharging to top up power output to match that of a larger engine. To that end, the 1.0-litre generates 123 hp to the 1.6-litre’s 120, but boasts a bigger bonus in torque, which is rated at 148 lb-ft to the four-cylinder’s 112.

Horsepower is the number that sells cars, but torque is the one that moves them; it’s a truer measure of an engine’s potency, a fact that becomes crystal clear when driving the 1.0-litre Fiesta. It’s a gutsy little motor that pulls the car around with authority. On acceleration, it makes a curious growl that takes some getting used to, and it’s quick, but that sensation is dampened by economy-minded gearing that keeps engine speeds low: at 100 km/h in fifth gear, the engine turns just 2,200 rpm, where the 1.6-litre would be spinning well above 2,500 rpm.

2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost dash

If that takes away from the car’s straight-line performance, it pays back in highway driving by reducing engine noise. That’s a good fit with the rest of the car, which drives with a grown-up feel not common in the subcompact class; an eight-hour day in the car during a road trip from Ottawa to PEI was nowhere near as tiring as I expected, based on my past experiences in small cars.

On that drive, the engine’s torque proved beneficial on the hilly highways through New Brunswick, where the car was able to accelerate (albeit slowly) uphill, in fifth gear, at highway speeds, loaded with two adults and plenty of cargo: not many subcompacts could make that claim. If I were in charge at Ford, however, I’d give this car a six-speed transmission to close up the gaps between gears (especially first and second) and improve straight-line performance.

2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost back seat

Our observed average fuel consumption was 5.5 L/100 km (42 US MPG) at cruising speeds close to 120 km/h; however, that averaged dropped below 5.0 L/100 km (47 US MPG) at more relaxed speeds, and our city-driving average was 7.4 (32 US MPG).

Beyond the powertrain, the rest of the Fiesta is standard issue: it’s underpinned by a capable chassis that handles admirably but provides a comfortable ride that once again belies this car’s small size. Steering feel is sharp, and the manual shifter and clutch are a cinch to drive smoothly.

2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost trunk

Interior space isn’t generous, but it’s useable: we had three people in the car for part of our two-day road trip, and our tall rear-seat passenger was snug, but not crammed. (My test car was the Fiesta hatchback, but the EcoBoost engine is also available in the sedan body style.)

As with any fuel-saving powertrain technology, the $1,500 cost for the EcoBoost engine in the Fiesta is a significant investment, at about 10 percent of the car’s base price. Ford did well to make this little car feel as grown-up as it does, as it helps offset the fact that for my tester’s $19,000 as-tested price, you could move up to a larger car that’s nearly as efficient.

However, as a showcase for unconventional engine technology – remember, it’s been 14 years since the last three-cylinder car disappeared – the EcoBoost Fiesta proves you don’t need a big engine to provide satisfying performance.

This review also appeared in the Montreal Gazette

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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Compact cars, Ford, What I Think

 

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Reviewed: 2013 Ford Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

There are a number of cars that can be classified, accurately enough, as transportation appliances, but it doesn’t get much more appliance-like than a family sedan that you plug in when parked. The Ford Fusion Energi is far from the first car to come with a power cord, but it is one of the first PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) based on an existing car, and expands the Fusion line, which also includes conventional gasoline powertrains and a regular hybrid model. Read my full review at Autofocus.ca.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2013 in Autofocus, Ford, Test Drives, What I Think

 

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What I think: 2013 Ford Escape

2013-ford-escape-se_cc_004

Ford’s redesigned Escape crossover is a good one, but the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine makes it great. Click here for my review at Autos.ca.

 
 

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What I think: 2012 Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta makes a lot of promises to the driver looking for European performance in a subcompact car, but doesn’t deliver on all of them. Read my Autos.ca Test Drive here.

 

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What I think: Buying a used Ford Fusion

It’s a shame that this second-generation Ford Fusion hasn’t proven as durable as its predecessor. Read my Autos.ca used car review to learn what to watch out for.

 

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What I think: Driving a sports car in the snow

It was a snowy, slippery January day, and I had to make a trip to the grocery store. Here’s a photo of the two test cars I have right now; guess which one I took.

Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the red one.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

What I think: 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost

By Chris Chase

Torque is a work truck’s best friend. This measurement, which indicates the amount of twisting force an engine generates, tells the truest tale of how much power the motor possesses. It’s also the number you need to concern yourself with if you plan to regularly tow or haul heavy things with your truck. Big horsepower numbers ensure quick acceleration and high top speeds, but torque does the grunt work.

Typically, torque has been the domain of the V8, with six-cylinders being the base engine in most full-size trucks for many years. Ford is taking a new tack with the 2011 F-150, offering a turbocharged V6 as an alternative to (though not at the exclusion of) V8 power.

It’s part of the company’s EcoBoost engine program, which will see smaller-displacement turbocharged powerplants offered alongside more traditional engine options in a variety of vehicle types. Among the first Fords to get EcoBoost action were the Taurus SHO and Flex, and the Lincoln MKT, all of which use the same turbocharged, 3.5-litre V6 found in the F-150 pickup I tested a few weeks ago.

In the F-150, the EcoBoost motor makes 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, more of both than the 5.0-litre V8 (360 hp/380 lb-ft) that’s also available produces. For drivers after as much power as they can get, but happy to gloat that their more-potent motor is also more efficient, maybe this motor should be called EgoBoost. Whatever the name, it’s presumably a boost to Ford’s bottom line, as the company’s strategy is to market its turbocharged engines as an upgrade from a similarly-potent non-turbo engine. Hence, this turbo six is a $1,000 option compared to the 5.0-litre.

On paper, $1,000 for five horsepower and 40 lb-ft of torque sounds like a raw deal, but in practice, at least from a performance perspective, it seems like money well-spent. The EcoBoost’s higher torque output comes at a lower engine speed – 2,500 rpm, versus 4,250 for the 5.0-litre’s 380 lb-ft – and the result is a truck that is very responsive from a stop. The available low-end grunt is such that, when using the transmission’s manual shift mode, the engine pulls strongly even without shifting down from top gear at near-highway speeds.

That transmission is a six-speed automatic, the only one offered in any F-150. It works well in normal driving, but the first-to-second upshift gets harsh when creeping along at gridlock speeds. My suspicion is that this transmission was designed for heavy hauling, not the 9-5 commute, and so silky-smooth performance in such conditions wasn’t a priority.

With power and torque figures not far off those of the 5.0-litre V8, Ford says the EcoBoost’s main benefit is in fuel consumption; the idea is that a smaller engine with a power-adder like a turbocharger should use less fuel than a V8 with similar power numbers. The F-150 EcoBoost’s government fuel consumption ratings are 13.9/9.4 L/100 km with four-wheel drive; by comparison, the less-powerful 5.0-litre 4×4 is rated 15.0/10.5.

My EcoBoost tester averaged 15.5 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving. I think that’s a good result for a truck like my massive SuperCrew tester, and while you could expect that the 5.0-litre would have been thirstier in the same circumstances, don’t get your hopes up that the EcoBoost mill will turn this truck into a Prius at the pumps.

The last F-150 I tested was a 2009 with the old 5.4-litre V8, a truck that averaged 21 L/100 km in winter driving. A 2011 F-350 Super Duty with the latest Powerstroke diesel V8 managed an average in the high 16s last summer.

The only flaw in this engine’s performance is a pretty superficial one: it lacks the auditory attitude of a V8, or even the snarkier-sounding 3.7-litre base V6. Aside from some turbo whistle at wider throttle openings, the turbocharged F-150 sounds more like a Taurus than a truck.

The F-150’s four-wheel drive system is an electronic setup controlled by a rotary dashboard knob; options are two-wheel drive, and low and high ranges in 4WD mode.

When optioned with the SuperCrew cab as my tester was, the cabin is huge, with the extra space going toward rear seat accommodations, which are as spacious as a full-size luxury sedan’s; think along the lines of a BMW 7 Series in terms of leg- and headroom. In Platinum trim, the interior is indeed luxurious, too, with brown leather on the seats, heated and cooled front seats and two-temp heaters for the rears. The brushed metal and black woodgrain trim on the dash and doors looks pretty slick, too. The cabin is wide, and so are the seats, making for easy comfort in the supportive front buckets. The rear seat should easily fit three average-sized adults.

When you have more cargo than couples to bring along, the bottom cushions of the rear seats fold up, creating a terrific amount of space for bulky cargo that needs keeping dry. In my tester, the only impracticality back here was the (700 watt!) sound system amplifier, under the right-side rear seat. At least the stereo sounded great.

This brings me to an opinion I share with friend and fellow automotive journalist Jil McIntosh. In her recent review of a 2011 Ram pickup she tested, her observation was that trucks have undergone a significant amount of bracket creep in the last 10 or 15 years. My F-150 tester is as large as a previous-generation F-350 Super Duty (I know this from parking beside one), while the current Super Duty is an order of magnitude larger than this one.

Bracket creep in the auto industry is normal, but trucks have grown in height to the point that my tester’s electric, retracting running boards are practically a necessity for getting in and out of the vehicle, unless you want to cart a stepladder around everywhere you go. Categorically, I’ve nothing against convenience features like this, but what I don’t see is a direct correlation between tallboy trucks and payload/towing capacity. The full-size truck segment is beginning to look too much like a game of mine’s-bigger-than-yours. EgoBoost, indeed.

For the record, those power running boards (standard only in Platinum trim) can be deactivated to prevent them from deploying when they might get damaged – when parked over rough terrain, for example.

With the EcoBoost engine, the F-150’s max payload is 943 kg (2,080 lbs), and towing capacity maxes out at 5,125 kg (11,300 lbs). Those figures are for the lighter, regular cab model; the extra weight of extended cabs and bigger boxes eats into those capacities, so my tester’s figures were closer to the minimums of 3,628 kg (8,000 lbs) for towing and 798 kg (1,760 lbs) of payload. My buddy Mark, who always has a home improvement project on the go, needed a bunch of concrete mix, so we took the truck to the hardware store and lugged a dozen bags (800 pounds/360 kg worth!) of the stuff into the bed, where it made a noticeable, but not dramatic, difference in straight-line performance, and a marked improvement over the empty truck’s ride quality.

The SuperCrew cab can be ordered with either a 5.5- or 6.5-foot box; my tester had the shorter of the two, plus a bed extender that stretched the box to seven feet when in place. Ford’s foldout tailgate step and its attendant grab handle eased access to the bed. Even with what I think is a pretty small box for a big truck, the SuperCrew cab’s long wheelbase makes it a handful in tight situations.

Mark noted a couple of things he’d change about this truck: he wanted kick-out steps at the side of the box, for easier access to the contents without having to climb into it. And he made a good point about Ford’s tailgate step: when it’s deployed, it gets in the way of someone on the ground passing heavy stuff up to a partner in the truck bed. His suggestion was to offset it to one side of the tailgate so that it doesn’t have to be stowed again before loading stuff into the bed.

The steering is light, but road feel is negligible and it gets vague on-centre, which leads to some lane wandering at highway speeds. Strong brakes are as important in a big, heavy truck as in a sports car capable of high speeds; the F-150’s binders haul things down to a stop with confidence, minimal fuss, and great pedal feel.

F-150 SuperCrew pricing starts $35,199, which includes the base, 3.7-litre V6 engine. My tester was a well-loaded Platinum model, at an MSRP of $60,499, plus $1,000 for the EcoBoost engine, $350 for the bed extender and $900 for a trailer tow package that adds a class IV hitch, seven-pin wiring harness, SelectShift (automatic with manual shift function) transmission and upgraded engine and transmission cooling; as tested, my truck was worth $64,399, including $1,450 for freight.

Outside of diesel and high-performance models, turbocharging is a rare tactic in the truck market. In this case, the EcoBoost six has big power to match the F-150’s imposing stance; all that’s missing is the gutsy V8 soundtrack that I think provides the biggest boost to many a truck owner’s ego.

This review was previously published at Autos.ca.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Ford, Trucks, What I Think