How do you convince people that your new tiny 3-cylinder engine is up to the job of hauling around a family car and still offering some driving thrills? This is the problem that Ford have tackled as the new 1.0-litre Ecoboost engines start to spread out across their range.
Ford’s PR and engineering departments deserve a hearty slap on the back for coming up with this latest idea. Take an open-cockpit Formula Ford race car and swap its 4-cylinder 1.6-litre engine for the new 3-cylinder Ecoboost. Then make it road-legal by adding lights, signals, wheel fairings, wing mirrors, a horn and registration plates. Finally, take it to the Nurburgring and see how quickly it can go around the Nordschleife.
A great idea but not without risks. The racer-turned-road car could have recorded a so-so lap time, rendering the whole experiment a waste of time. Even worse it could have recorded a bad time, turning it into an embarrassing PR disaster. But that’s not what happened.
It turns out that when the modified Formula Ford crossed the finishing line the digital timer flashed up a time of 7 minutes and 22 seconds. That’s quick, seriously quick, and makes the Formula Ford the 11th fastest car ever on the circuit ahead of exotica such as the mighty Ferrari Enzo and Pagani Zonda.
“This little engine has people rubbing their eyes in disbelief,” said racing driver and course specialist Nick Tandy, 28, who completed the drive. “It’s simply astonishing that a 3-cylinder, one-litre engine can deliver that kind of performance.”
Of course, there was slightly more to it than a straight engine swap. It took Ford’s engineers several months to fit and carefully tune the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine. The result was 200bhp, making it even more powerful than the 178bhp of the 1.6-litre EcoBoost fitted in the Formula Ford racers.
With a six-speed transmission and road-legal tyres the modified racer can reach 62mph in ‘under four seconds’ and reach 158mph flat out. The average speed for the 13-mile lap was 105mph. Not only is the Formula Ford quick but it is also easy on fuel, delivering 118 mpg at a sedate 35 mph and 57 mpg at 75 mph.
As it turns out Ford probably didn’t need to worry about convince buyers that their new engine was up to the job. So far about 30 percent of new Focus buyers have picked the 1.0-litre EcoBoost but that’s hardly surprising when the 100PS is rated at a diesel-rivalling 58.9mpg and the 125PS version only slightly lower at 56.5 mpg.
Expect to see a lot more of the new Ecoboost engine when it is added to the all-new Ford B-MAX, and C-MAX and facelifted Ford Fiesta due later this year.