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Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost review (2012 onwards)
We like - Low CO2 cuts tax bills, accomplished ride, a pleasing drive
We don't like - Economy claims seem unrealistic, new engine commands a price premium
It has taken Ford five years to develop this new petrol engine, so it's impossible to overlook the significance. It's the ultimate piece of downsizing - a small capacity turbocharged three-cylinder unit to replace bigger old-school fours.
The fine detail of the engine is simply amazing. It's so compact that the main component, the block, sits on a piece of A4 paper. The turbocharger is tiny to minimise power losses, and it spins to almost a quarter of a million revs per minute.
Yet the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is as powerful as the 1.6 it replaces, with better torque so that it accelerates more rapidly. All this and more is aimed at the goal of making the petrol Focus, and soon the B-Max and C-Max, as good to drive and as economical as a diesel.
There's no hiding that there's something rather unusual going on under the bonnet. Three-cylinder engines produce a unique, throbbing sound that is harder for designers to quieten.
It's fine in the Focus though, doing no more than adding a characterful hum to the proceedings, to remind you that this is a very unusual engine indeed.
...there's something rather unusual going on under the bonnet
Its several decades since Ford fitted one of its family cars with engine this small, but turbocharging adds a new dimension, helping the EcoBoost unit deliver performance that is entirely acceptable.
No, it's not exciting or even stimulating, but the 1.0 Focus does buzz along at a respectable rate and if it wasn't for the unique sound of the engine most drivers wouldn't know they weren't in the old non-turbo 1.6.
In fact the 1.0 EcoBoost Focus is even better than that bigger engine, for it pulls well at low revs meaning that less gear changing is needed. It's your flexible friend.
Ride and handling
A lighter engine should give any car a better balance in the corners, but the latest Focus was already strong in that area. Yet it seems slightly odd that the test car should be fitted with such wide tyres.
VW's BlueMotion models get narrow tyres that cut down on rolling resistance with great benefit to the economy, but there you are. Seems like Ford can't resist the bling quotient offered by fat tyres.
What the current Focus fails to do is to provide as involving driving experience as the one it replaced, thanks largely to the new electrically assisted steering. It's the price we pay today for greater efficiency - which makes the tyre situation even odder.
You can also get the Focus to park itself as long as you specify the £525 Convenience Pack. OK, not quite by itself, but the steering is automatic leaving the driver just to control the accelerator and brake. It's clever and it works.
Where the latest Focus has stepped up a gear is with the interior. While not matching the Golf for tactile quality, it features plenty of high-quality plastics and metallic effects.
Standard equipment across the range includes a Thatcham Category-1 alarm, Bluetooth and USB support, a rear spoiler and Isofix anchors. DAB radio also comes as standard.
Seat comfort is particularly good in the front, and the Focus rides with an assured firmness that feels solid without being hard and unyielding. Room in the rear seats is only average and the same goes for luggage space. Both are less than the previous Focus.
Economy and safety
The whole point of this new engine is that it promises better economy than you'd ever dreamed of from a petrol-engined family car. The numbers, in fact, look close to what you might expect from a diesel.
...it promises better economy than you'd ever dreamed of
With the more powerful 125hp version the combined figure is 56.5mpg while the lower powered 100hp model does a little better at 58.8mpg. Unfortunately the trip computer on the test car variously showed between 33 and 40mpg, some way short of the claim.
The tests that produce the statutory combined fuel economy figures are not far short of laughable, so we've learned to anticipate a shortfall when we come to drive a car on real roads. And yet Ford's Focus falls some way short of what we'd expect even then.
That's not to say the 1.0 EcoBoost Focus won't still be one of the most economical petrol-engined family cars you can buy today. Just don't bank on diesel-beating figures quite yet.
The Ford Focus received the full five stars in the EuroNCAP crash safety tests.
The MSN Cars verdict
Ford has to be admired for what it has achieved with this highly developed small engine in the Focus. There's little sense that, as a driver, you are paying a penalty in terms of refinement or performance with the downsizing.
And yet the whole point - a step change in economy and CO2 - has yet to be convincingly translated into figures on the road. Perhaps with longer experience it will do. We take one on as a long-term car in a few months, so watch this space.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.0 3-cylinder|
|Torque, lb ft||125 - 148|
|0-62mph, secs||12.5 - 11.3|
|Top speed, mph||115 - 120|
|Mpg combined||58.8 - 56.5|
|CO2, g/km||109 - 114|
|Ratings||Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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