Thursday 2nd August 2012


DRIVEN: SUPERCHIPS TUNED FORD FOCUS ECOBOOST

With a little help from Superchips the already fascinating Focus Ecoboost now has more power than an Escort RS Turbo


Remember how we quivered over the Escort RS Turbo back in the day? All bonnet vents, whistling wastegates and Recaro-seated excitement? Boy, was it potent. Er, hold on, here's a reality check: it produced 132hp. 0-60mph was but reasonably exciting at 8.3 seconds. How a quarter-century has tamed the best.

145hp from a 1.0-litre engine is astonishing
145hp from a 1.0-litre engine is astonishing
Goodness, there's even now a cooking Ford Focus that can almost match it - with one cylinder and almost half the capacity less. The miraculous Ecoboost 1.0-litre turbo triple is, we know, a joy. And now, thanks to the company that was made famous by cars such as the Escort RS Turbo, it's even more of a peach.

Chipping master Superchips has created an RS Turbo-beating 145hp Focus Ecoboost, courtesy of some good old fashioned engine remapping. This apparently tempers some of Ford's "obvious" measures to improve official cycle fuel economy, to the benefit of real-world usability. The aim, we're told, is not to chase headline power boosts (they used to get 40hp out of a chipped RS Turbo...) but to make it more driveable. These days, torque is priority, not power.

And it's as easy as that...
And it's as easy as that...
Plug and play
It's an easy mod to make. Because it's a Ford, it can be reprogrammed via Superchips' Bluefin device, which plugs into the dealer diagnostic port. You can, literally, order it by 3pm online and, for £455, get your extra 20hp delivered the next day.

It's a hard mod to feel at first, mind. Save for some fluttery, uneven response around 4,000rpm (better than standard but still there), it performs little different to the stock motor. Despite the Superchips power enhancements being particularly obvious over 4,500rpm, it still prefers mid-range to high revs, deploys the characteristic three-cylinder bark only above 3,000rpm, is as beautifully smooth and amazingly distant - oh, and punishes you severely if you forget to wind on a few revs when pulling away.

Superchips is an old hand at this game
Superchips is an old hand at this game
Not even a remap can alter this - it really is wholly reliant on the turbo. Expect the engine to pull you lazily along and you'll go nowhere. Or, stall it. You need throttle movement, to get the gasses flowing, to get the Focus moving. Do not forget this.

Keep your foot in
Still, despite this, and the 'huge' boost it reportedly runs at (22-23psi!) and the 'chipped monster' preconceptions, it's free from significant turbo lag. You're invariably in a lower gear than you realise anyway, due to the audible illusion of a three-pot, while the small gasflow paths and lack of inertia also adds to its vibrancy.

So, what's the benefit? True to Superchips' word, it's torque. Back to that RS Turbo. It produced 133lb ft at 2,750rpm. This produces a mighty 167lb ft - at 2,650rpm. That's 500rpm lower than the standard engine, as Superchips has swelled the lower-end torque curve. It's this that makes it feel like someone's installed a soft-tune 2.5-litre V6 in there. A much more subtle gain than you may expect, but one that's likely to be more satisfying in the long run.

Lack of weight makes for a nimble steer
Lack of weight makes for a nimble steer
The bantam weight engine enhances handling, too. Losing mass from the front end helps it turn in with more eager precision and delicacy than a heavy turbodiesel. There's more reward for using fingertips and Ford utilises the normal-section tyres to deliver decent purity of feel. It's no Elise, but it's very good by modern hatch standards.

The next step
Thanks to that extra dose of power and pull, it makes it an unexpectedly satisfying car to master on twisting country roads. A surfeit of grip over power, yes, but just enough power to have fun and just enough chassis feel to fully maximise it. Cooking versions of the latest Ford Focus aren't as interesting to drive as they should be, Ecoboost excepted. This one enhances that and makes the engine feel even more implausible.

My how things have come on since then
My how things have come on since then
Today is also not about how much power you have, but how little produces it and how little CO2 you thus leave in your wake. This is why the Superchips Ecoboost tune is so alluring. Drive it like your gran and it should return similar 56mpg to the standard car. None of us will see that, but we also won't see much less than the regular one, either. When Autocar tested the RS Turbo in 1986, its overall average was 30.1mpg - of highly toxic pre-Euro emissions too, remember...

Just one more thing. The Escort RS Turbo weighed 1,080kg .The latest Ford Fiesta weighs from 1,040kg - and will be facelifted later this year, when it gains this engine too. Fiesta Zetec S 1.0 Ecoboost 145, anyone? The Focus is impressive, yes, but it isn't the headline car we may have on our hands...


FORD FOCUS 1.0 ECOBOOST SUPERCHIPS
Engine:
999cc 3-cyl turbocharged
Power: 145hp
Torque: 167lb ft
0-62mph: 10.0sec (est)
Top speed: 125mph (est)
Weight: 1,200kg
MPG: 56.5mpg (est)
CO2: N/A
Price: N/A

 

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