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Electric Car Guide
Ford Focus 1-litre 125 EcoBoost green car review
09 July 2012 by Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: Titanium 5 Door
Fuel economy combined: 56.5 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
The Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost is a 5-door hatchback powered by a 1-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, which sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the car actually has excellent performance and it’s almost as quiet as an electric car.
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Summary
• Downsized 1-litre petrol turbo sounds too small to work, but is brilliant
• Incredibly quiet, with good performance
• All the good points of a normal Focus
• Real-life mpg falls short of claimed mpg
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Background
All manufacturers are having to look at downsizing their engines in the interests of reducing CO2 emissions, but a 3-cylinder, 1-litre engine in a Ford Focus sounds a bit extreme, especially when people are used to 1.6 or 2.0-litre capacities in a Focus. Ford has gone down the route of turbocharging the smaller engine to achieve more power and torque, and the result is much better than anyone could have imagined.
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Design & Engineering
Taking the new 1-litre EcoBoost engine aside, the Focus is still a Focus. That means a practical five-door, five-seat family hatchback. This new model is more refined than the previous generation, however to achieve this it has traded some of its dynamic sharpness. The new model also has a lot more ‘tech’, such as in the area of driver assistance systems. What you can’t argue with is that the Focus has consistently been one of the UK’s best selling cars, usually vying for top honours with its smaller family member the Fiesta.
When you first sit in the car you wouldn’t know that this has a new 3-cylinder, 1-litre, turbocharged engine, as the interior is no different from the rest of the Focus range, although the detail does depend on what spec you choose.
Our Titanium test car had lots of equipment, including a better-looking central dashboard area than lower-spec cars, but this centre-console is rather busy, with lots of switches and controls in a small space. The car was also fitted with satnav, which generally worked fine, with useful features such as the display of current speed limits, but in terms of entering destination details, there are certainly more intuitive satnavs.
As soon as we got onto a motorway, the steering wheel started vibrating when crossing white lines. This is supposed to happen as a safety feature to warn you that you’re changing lanes - one of the many new driver assistance features – but this was actually ratherannoying, and it was somewhat of a challenge to go into the car’s menus and sub-menus to find a way to reduce this sensation. You also need to navigate through various menu items to reset the car’s fuel consumption figure.
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Driving Experience
When you start up the new 1-litre EcoBoost the first thing that strikes you is how amazingly quiet the engine is. It’s a struggle to even hear it at standstill. In fact the fan for the heating and ventilation system, even when it’s on its minimum setting, sounds really loud because the engine is so quiet. Switch the fan off completely and you’ll be amazed at how quiet the car is (until you switch on the indicators, which will deafen you).
When you accelerate, the engine still sounds refined, but it changes to a fantastic throaty noise, reminiscent of more sporty machinery such as a Porsche boxer powerplant. Once you’re at a constant speed then it settles down again, and it’s incredibly quiet when sitting on the motorway at 70mph. The incredible silence at these sorts of speeds means that it’s amazingly easy to speak to people on a Bluetoothed-phone.
People will understandably have concerns about the ability of a 1-litre engine to provide a family hatchback with sufficient performance, but Ford’s engineers seemed to have cracked this. The engine works well and is very responsive, not only around town, but even on the motorway.
It even woks well on the racetrack… yes, during our time with the car we had the opportunity to take the 1-litre EcoBoost around the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power circuit – watch the video. Apart from a slight delay with the throttle response – not something that you notice on the road - the car was fun to take around the circuit. The light weight of the 1-litre engine assists with the agile driving experience. The six-speed manual ‘box is also slick, which is a good match for the efficient-feeling engine. The Focus also has sharp steering, and it combines a comfortable ride with good handling, so it all adds up to a great package to drive, especially if corners are involved.
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Economy and Emissions
The new 1-litre EcoBoost unit is one of Ford’s engines that carries the ECOnetic Technology branding. It includes features that optimise its efficiency such as Smart Regenerative Charging, Auto-Start-Stop, Powershift, ECO Mode, Active Grille Shutter, Gearshift Indicator, EPAS Power Assisted Steering, Low Resistance Tyres and Improved Aerodynamics.
The official economy and emissions figures for the Focus with the new 1-litre EcoBoost engine are 56.5mpg and 114g/km CO2. These are certainly impressive figures for a turbocharged petrol-engined family hatchback, and if you did achieve these figures, you’d be looking at a driving range of over 600 miles. We’ve already seen that there’s no compromise in the area of performance, so what’s the catch? Well, in our experience there’s always one catch with downsized petrol engines – the real-life economy tends to fall well short of the official mpg figure.
Car engines, helped by features such as auto stop-start, are designed to do well in the official NEDC mpg test, which is conducted with relatively low loads. If you drive in a similar way to the test cycle then you may get reasonable levels of economy. However in reality most people will accelerate more vigorously and drive at higher speeds, and the laws of physics mean that when trying to propel an object weighing 1.25 tonnes and taking the engine out of its optimum efficiency range, the fuel economy will start to drop.
During our test of the car we achieved a best of 55mpg when driving very carefully, which is very close to the official figure. However our overall figure, which included much motorway driving at around 70mph, was 38mpg. This is well short of the 56.5mpg target, and as explained above, this doesn’t really surprise us.
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Price, Equipment and Model Range
There are two versions of this 1.0 EcoBoost engine available in the Focus – the 125PS version as tested, with emissions of 114g/km CO2, and a 100PS version, with even lower emissions of 109g/km CO2. There’s also the 1.6 TDCi diesel engine, with power outputs varying from 95, 105 or 115PS, and emissions ranging from 109 to 99 to just 89g/km CO2. All these engines, petrol and diesel, as well as a 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, come under Ford’s ECOnetic technology branding.
You can specify different levels of Focus trim, the Titanium spec of our test car being more expensive than the Zetec option.
Our base test car cost £19,195, and on top of this it had options including Driver Assistance Pack, comprising of Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert, Auto High Beam, Blind Spot Info (all these features cost £850), Sony DAB Navigation System (£750), Pearlescent Paint (£745), City Pack - Rear Park Assist and powerfold mirrors (£350), 17" Alloy Wheels (£300) and Door Edge Protectors (£50), taking the price to £22,240. This is quite a lot for a 1-litre petrol hatchback.
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost Conclusion
The Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost is a highly impressive car and it shows that petrol engines are now a viable alternative to diesels. The car is incredibly quiet, refined and smooth. It has good performance, it’s good to drive, and it’s comfortable. It’s also a practical five-door, five-seat family hatchback. It has excellent official economy and emissions figures of 56.5 mpg and 114g/km CO2.
Because of all this, the Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost gets a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.
Apart from the fact that in this spec, £22,240 is quite a lot for a 1-litre petrol hatchback, the only area where it falls down is its real-life economy. If you drive the Focus very carefully then it will be possible to achieve over 50mpg. However the reality is that most people don’t have the time or the inclination to perform eco-driving all the time, and therefore the car is likely to be driven out of its zone of optimum efficiency, and fuel economy is likely to fall, possibly to around 40mpg. This is still good for a turbocharged petrol-engined family hatchback, and for use in urban areas, it’s a great car, and one that you should consider over a diesel. It even has a super-low BIK charge of just 10%, making it very appealing for company car drivers.
However if you’re looking to buy a car that will spend much of its life completing longer journeys, then a diesel Focus will be cheaper to run. Just don’t drive the Focus 1-litre EcoBoost first, because after this, all diesel cars will sound noisy and unrefined. This would be even more the case if Ford finds a way to make the car’s ventilation fan quieter, when this Focus would genuinely rival the silence of electric cars.
Car Facts and Figures
Ford Focus 1-litre EcoBoost data
Fuel economy extra urban: 67.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 44.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
Green rating: VED band C - £0 first year
Weight: 1270 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 10%
Insurance group: 14
Power: 125 PS
Max speed: 120 mph
0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
Other Ford Reviews >>
Reviews of rivals >>
- Paul Clarke