Smallest engine is biggest star of Ford’s new-product show

DETROIT -- When Ford showed off its latest models to journalists and analysts at its annual ride-and-drive here Tuesday, the smallest engine was the biggest star of the day. That would be the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost now sold only in Europe but coming next year to North America in a small car. Ford brought two European-spec Focuses with the three-cylinder engine to its test track in Dearborn.

The test loop was short, but journalists and analysts came away wowed by the little engine that could.

“I was floored with how refined it was, how quiet, the lack of vibration, the amount of torque,” said David Sullivan, analyst for AutoPacific Inc. “I had heard people say it was the best engine in Ford’s lineup. I think that engine has awards coming down the pipeline.”

Customers in Europe have been impressed, too. Joe Bakaj, Ford’s chief powertrain engineer, said, “During its first month on sale in Europe, it accounted for 25 percent of all Focus sales.”

Bakaj isn’t saying on what vehicle the 1.0-liter EcoBoost will first appear in the United States.

Car and Driver magazine has reported it will appear in the 2014 Fiesta. The magazine estimated the Focus would hit 32 mpg city and 41 highway. The 1.0 is a peppy little engine with plenty of torque: 123 hp and 148 pounds-feet of torque at 1,400 rpm.

The Fiesta has hit a sales trough while U.S. sales of the larger Focus have soared. A sophisticated new powerplant would be just what the Fiesta needs to lift it out of the doldrums.

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