The torque of the town
F ORD'S new 1.0 litre petrol engine has been attracting a great deal of press coverage since it was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show a month ago and seasoned journalists – many of them whose opinions I trust – who have driven it have raved about it.
But you can read about it until the cows come home – the only way to really find out if it is as good as everyone says is to get behind the wheel and drive it.
Which is what I did earlier this week when I picked up the demo from Bristol Street Ford at Trentham Lakes and took it for a spin.
Frankly, the car left me stunned – all my experience said that this car simply should not do what it was doing but the evidence could not be denied.
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The Focus is neither a small nor a light car and yet this little three cylinder 1.0 litre engine pulled it along with ease. From such a small capacity I half expected a revvy little unit delivering its power high up the rev band, but in fact it was nothing of the sort. It's torquey and has phenomenal mid-range punch too.
Ford's figures show that it is better than the 1.6 it replaces (an engine I have a high regard for) and subjectively it seemed to pull better than the 2.0 litre VW diesel engine in my personal car. It has so much torque that you are a gear higher than you might expect and yet it responds without hesitation.
On my test I tried it on a few hills – the drag up from Talke roundabout to the lights by the Skoda dealership, for example, which it climbed easily in fifth at 60 mph or the climb up to Keele University which was another fifth gear climb. I had to keep on reminding myself that I had just 1,000 cc under my right foot. For a 1.6 it would have been impressive – for a 1.0 litre it is little short of unbelievable.
On the motorway and dual carriageways it lopes along in sixth and still has instant throttle response when you want to accelerate. This is possibly the easiest Focus to drive in the range.
OK, so it is impressive on the road, but does it deliver any real world savings? Well it gives 20 per cent better fuel economy than the 1.6 and, depending on whether you go for the 100 or 125 PS version then the CO2 drops to just 109 g/km. Company car drivers will surely be taking note of that!
Ray Clift, general sales manager at Bristol Street Ford, says: "We have had one customer who swapped from a 1.2 Fiesta after we used a fuel calculator to work out that the 1.0 Focus would save him £53 a month in fuel costs. We had another customer who swapped a 1.8 Astra SRi after we pointed out he could save £110 a month on fuel. Of course, it helped when they test drove the car as well.''
This engine is a game changer, one that will force every other volume car maker to renew their efforts in the race to downsize. This is a trend that has been developing over the past few years but one problem has been the perception – especially among corporate drivers – that a smaller engine represents a downgrade. For many business drivers size matters.
It does – it's just that now small is beautiful. Take a test drive in this car and I guarantee that you will never question the appeal or capability of a small engine again. This engine is just unbelievable. I can't imagine how good it will be when Ford drops it into the Fiesta and little B-MAX people carrier.
Car kindly supplied by Bristol Street Motors, Trentham Lakes.