Small is new big: 1.0 Fiesta driven
In the old days, you could more-or-less judge how powerful an engine would be simply by knowing its cubic capacity.
There ain't no replacement for displacement, went the old saying. But these words will never pass the lips of Ford's EcoBoost powertrain engineers.
Old habits do die hard and if you still judge engines by their size then now might be a good time for a rethink.
Ford has just given its Fiesta a big makeover and besides a new front end, which almost needs a thought bubble that says "if I keep smiling I might turn into an Aston Martin", the Ford hatch gains some geeky new cabin gadgetry and a flagship engine that's not a lot less powerful than Ford's 3-litre Essex V6 motor of the eighties.
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The freaky part is that this new EcoBoost engine is less than half the size, with just three cylinders and a displacement of 999cc. You're in for 92kW and 170Nm - from a 1-litre engine!
Ford has packed a lot of technology into this little gem, which also won the most recent World Engine of the Year competition. It has a low-inertia turbocharger, which reduces lag, as well as a direct fuel injection system.
Although its size does bring a cost saving, all the aforementioned technology conspires to make it more expensive to produce than the 1.6-litre engine it replaces, according to Ford's manager of gasoline powertrain development, Andrew Fraser.
As a result, the car doesn't come cheap, with both 1.0 models selling for well over R200 000.
It should save you at the pumps, with Ford claiming an average consumption figure of 4.3 l/100km. Although this NECD figure doesn't represent real-world conditions, consider that in the same test cycle the VW Polo 1.6 consumed 6.4 l/100km.
Its real-world performance is nothing to be sniffed at. It's no hot hatch, but it certainly feels stronger than its 1.6-litre normally aspirated rivals. Although it is suitably fast, the long-ratio five-speed gearbox does stifle its sprinting ability a bit. The flipside to this is that at highway speeds it cruises along, silently and at low revs, like it's a diesel.
Low end punch is relatively impressive, but this engine really packs a big punch in the upper reaches of the rev range. Ford claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.4 seconds.
This motor might be a little brat but it doesn't like to scream and shout - in fact the off-beat three-cylinder soundtrack is hardly audible most of the time. Interestingly, Ford has eliminated the need for a balancer shaft by building what you might call a 'counter-imbalance' into the front pulley and rear flywheel.
The new Fiesta also sports an upgraded chassis to improve the ride quality, which is rather good. What's more, it's still enjoys being tossed through the bends and the steering system loves talking to the driver. This, and the slick, short-throw gearbox make the Fiesta great fun to chuck around.
Mechanically, the Fiesta is at the very sharp end of the segment, yet Ford hasn't neglected the electronic age.
In fact, this one comes with some high-tech gadgets like Ford's Sync infotainment system that syncs with most smartphones and portable music players. It can recognise voice commands and will even read your text messages out to you, but it'll stop short of making your coffee.
The Fiesta also gains Ford's MyKey system that allows parents to control aspects like the music volume, speed warning and even the maximum speed before handing the keys over to a youngster.
As before, the Fiesta is offered with Ambiente, Trend and Titanium trim levels. The bottom model doesn't come with air conditioning or an audio system (although these are optional) but the Trend model makes up for this, while also offering Sync, MyKey, rear electric windows, 15-inch alloys wheels and more.
The Titanium adds 16-inch alloys, side, curtain and driver's knee airbags, ESP stability control, keyless entry with start button, leather steering wheel and cruise control.
While the previous 1.6 petrol engine makes way for the new 1.0T, the familiar normally aspirated 71kW/128Nm 1.4 petrol and 70kW/200Nm 1.6 TDCi turbodiesel continue as before.
The new 1-litre engine will have to prove its durability over time, yet first impressions on its performance and driveability leave little to be sniffed at. The only point of contention with buyers will be the prices and, perhaps, that Aston Martin-like snout. This little car sure makes a very big statement.
1.4 Ambiente - R164 400
1.6 TDCi Ambiente - R178 400
1.4 Trend - R187 600
1.6 TDCi Trend - R201 400
1.0 Ecoboost Trend - R211 200
1.0 Ecoboost Titanium - R231 500