Here’s some food for thought: the last company that willingly advertised its three-cylinder engine was Geo, with its tadpole-shaped Metro, a car that singlehandedly gave Jay Leno’s writers a decade of burgeoning career opportunities. But Ford is jamming a three-cylinder Ecoboost into its Focus—not its Fiesta, which is even smaller—and here’s the curious part: the company is actually kind of proud of itself. With four-cylinder stigma just eroding, are Americans willing to downsize?
Turbocharged power always helps, of course. The beleagured Metro didn’t have the benefit of a turbo to help it gets out of its own way, though it did reach 41 miles per gallon. Ford is aiming for similarly lofty fuel targets. In Europe, the three-cylinder gets 56.6 miles per gallon, which blows the aforementioned Metro out of the water merely on the basis that it’s a real car and not an ogre’s roller skate.
What else does that engine net you? It’s a 1.0-liter engine that churns out 123 horsepower and a not-insignificant 148 lb-ft of torque. Automobile Magazine drove the Focus around Ford’s test track and found the engine “lively, peppy, and willing to rev.” But, prepare to swap between second and third gears often, because that torque figure still doesn’t do much. A highway drive would have really shown how buzzy the three-cylinder really is, or whether it can actually achieve those high-flauting figures, but alas there wasn’t any time for that.
Ford will have plenty of time gearing up the engine; it will come to America next year in the Focus, and presumably the Fiesta. Cars have come a long way since the Metro of yore. Ecoboost is selling well in even the most incongruous of vehicles. Consumers place far less emphasis on cylinder counts for anything south of a Dodge Challenger, so as long as the Focus/Fiesta three-banger drives smoothly enough, there’s no reason why that magical fuel figure won’t be enticing.