There's an analogy to diesel engines hiding in the new Ford Fiesta with the 1.0-liter EcoBoost powerplant. There's still a segment of the population that has bad memories of diesel engines, and that makes it harder for Audi or Volkswagen to sell their new clean diesels in the US today. Not impossible, but more of a challenge than it needs to be. In the same way, ask any car geek if they've had good experiences with three-cylinder engines, and the response is likely to be a flashback to a bad ride in a Geo Metro.
But, if no one were to tell you that the new Fiesta 1.0-liter EcoBoost is rocking three cylinders, you'd probably be hard pressed to notice. The engine has already found a home in the Ford Focus (read our Quick Spin) and, after driving about 100 miles around Los Angeles and the Malibu hills in a Euro-spec Fiesta equipped with one, we can safely say that this is a solid B-segment car - one that happens to get over 40 miles per gallon (city) without a hybrid powertrain. Here's what we learned about the car and Ford's plans to bring it to the US.
The Fiesta with a 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine is already on sale in Europe, and will come to the US in about a year, in late 2013. There will be a few little changes (the Econetic badges will be replaced with the EcoBoost wording that we have here) and what we think is a big one. Specifically, auto start-stop, which is available on the European model, will not be an option for Americans. The reason, we were told, is that B-segment customers are extremely price sensitive, and spending a few hundred extra bucks on this technology - which the EPA tests still don't quite understand - is something Ford doesn't expect them to do. There is still a chance this will change, though.
Still, at an estimated 40+ mpg, this flavor of the Fiesta will likely be the "most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid vehicle sold in North America." The current high-mileage Fiesta SFE model gets 40 on the highway (and 33 combined, 29 city). Ford is not talking about combined or city mpg estimates for the new Fiesta just yet.
It bears repeating that you do not feel that this is a shaky three-cylinder engine. The power - 123 horses - is there when you want it, with plenty of low-end torque. Some people on our drive were bothered by noise from the high-speed turbocharger that spins up to 248,000 rpm "almost instantaneously," but this is not enough to detract many points from the overall package.
Also, since a three-cylinder engine is inherently imbalanced, Ford optimized the engine mounts and made other adjustments to decouple engine shaking forces for "extreme smoothness." It worked.
For shorter people, the low placement of the side mirrors, especially on the passenger side, might be a problem. I'm about 5'9", and it was fine, but my co-pilot on this drive was a few inches shorter and she could not easily use the mirrors. They do sit awfully low, as you can see here.
Going around tight corners, the Fiesta 1.0-liter EcoBoost feels a heckuva lot better than the Honda Fit in the same situation, but we found it roughly the same as the new Chevrolet Spark, two vehicles it will compete against for frugal-minded city drivers.
Some of the other ways the new Fiesta will try to set itself apart is the big "40+ mpg!" sign that's sure to be emblazoned all over the dealership, the connectivity of Sync and MyFordTouch (with a new, 6.5-inch touch screen) and Sony HD radio.
Jim Farley, executive vice president of global marketing, sales, service and Lincoln, said the new Fiesta is part of Ford's new high-mpg line-up, making fuel economy a reason to buy a Ford. It used to be, he said, "when people thought fuel economy, they did not think of Ford. We have made a tremendous amount of progress in the last few years of changing that perception."
Put all this together and you've got a compelling "smaller is better" package that we need more details on to properly assess (price is a big one). For years, people have been asking for the Euro-spec Fiesta in the US. Well, we're going to get it, start-stop excluded.Continue reading 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-liter Ecoboost