PH Blog


Thursday 5th July 2012


Why a 1.0-litre Ford Focus restores Riggers' faith in the future of fun motoring

Normally, eco-friendly progress in the world of motoring tends to come at the expense of those things that make cars fun for the likes of your average PHer. Decent handling, a characterful powertrain, in general the sort of stuff that makes a car more than mere transport.

Doesn't look like the most exciting car...
Doesn't look like the most exciting car...
Think Prius, Honda Insight, or any number of hair-shirt diesels on rock-hard tyres and with power deliveries full of holes and you'll see what I mean. Even the engineer's wet dream that is the Chevrolet volt/Vauxhall Ampera range-extender isn't going to tug at the heart strings of the driving enthusiast.

But I have just driven the car that might well be the saviour of interesting cars. It is, of all things, a Ford Focus with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine.

Yes, I know it sounds weird, maybe even a bit wrong. But we who tap away at keyboards and talk about cars for a living have been banging on for ages now about how downsized turbocharged motors are the future of mainstream internal combustion-engined cars for years now, and yet the products have never quite lived up to our expectations of them. They've always over-promised and under-delivered, with too much in the way of fuel consumption and not enough in the way of actual grunt.

...but the tech behind it is a big deal
...but the tech behind it is a big deal
Until now.

I don't know what kind of voodoo the Ford folks at Dunton and Dagenham (and the various other Brit technology partners involved in the project) have invoked to create this machine, but it's clearly strong stuff. Because this really, genuinely, honestly, is a car with the economy of 1.0-litre engine (because it is one), and the power of a naturally aspirated 1.6.

Except it's better than that. I only had the opportunity to test the 100hp version - there's a 125hp version too - but even in its most lowly guise it feels a world away from the 1.6-litre Focuses I remember driving in the past. Mid-spec petrol-engined C segment cars that have become asthmatic, their bodies too bloated for their powerplants to cope. The 1.0-litre Ecoboost triple wipes that away in a stroke.

Tiny block fits on a sheet of A4 paper
Tiny block fits on a sheet of A4 paper
It feels strong all the way through the rev range, it's impressively quiet (you can hear the three-cylinder thrum and the whoosh-swish of the turbo with the window open, but window-up it's near-inaudible) and it returns genuinely decent economy - 58.9mpg on the combined cycle.

Buyers seem to be falling for it, too; it accounted for 17 per cent of total Focus sales in April, and Ford people are quietly whispering that it could take up to 25 per cent of the family car's sales.

Most important, though, is that it makes the Focus fun again - the trick that made the first-generation car such a charmer. I'd love to try the 125hp version in a Fiesta. It would most likely be a proper hoot.


Author: Riggers