Ford Motor Co.'s new three-cylinder gasoline engine is proving a hit with European buyers of the Focus compact car.
Ford says a quarter of all Focus sales across Europe are for the model with the downsized engine.
No other automaker offers a 1.0-liter gasoline unit in a compact car in Europe – the nearest rival is the VW Golf's 1.2-liter unit – so it seems that compact car customers aren't put off by the small a displacement engine.
That's partly because the turbocharged engine is very good. I drove the 125hp version and discovered it was refined, strong and very able.
Ford says the powerplant offers the diesel characteristics of high torque from low revs with the gasoline benefits of smoothness and power at high revs. After my drive, I'd say that was true.
The engine is economical on fuel too. The 125-hp unit uses 5 liters per 100km (47 U.S. mpg; 56 UK mpg) and has CO2 emissions of 114g/km of CO2, falling to 4.8 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of 109g/km for the 100hp version.
That's a 25 percent improvement on the naturally aspirated 1.6-liter gasoline it replaces.
A diesel with equivalent power has better fuel economy at 4.20L/100km but costs 800 pounds ($1,240) more in the UK.
Ford says the gasoline engine has lower running costs than the diesel for people who drive fewer than 13,000kms a year.
Currently half of European new-car buyers choose a diesel. Ford thinks that will change, but only slowly. "It's taken customers 20 years to move into diesel, so the move back to petrol will take some time," Ford UK product manager Andrew Paton said. "Once the rationale comes through you will see a significant shift out of diesel."
One thing may prevent a mass shift is real world economy. I drove sensibly over 17 km (10 miles) of fast four-lane highway, as well as along suburban roads, but I could only achieve 7.61 l/100km according to the trip computer.
This is a problem for all cars, but small gasoline turbocharged engines seem particularly badly affected.
For taxation, that won't matter. With many countries in Europe adopting CO2 based registration and ownership tax, the 1.0-liter will be cost effective.
The engine will also be offered in Europe with the B-Max and C-Max minivans, as well as the Fiesta subcompact hatchback. By 2015, Ford of Europe forecasts annual sales of 300,000 for vehicles with the one-liter Ecoboost.