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First Drive: 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-liter EcoBoost

A mini mighty machine that only needs three cylinders to party

You might not realize it today, but down the road you’ll look back on this time and realize it’s a hell of a time to love automobiles. The horsepower wars are back and badder than ever thanks to the Ford GT500 and the Camaro ZL1. Supercars are being produced by the normal crew of mean machine creators while other nations are trying to get in on the outrageous fun. Luxury sports sedans are more powerful than the meanest muscle cars of the day. On top of all of that, automakers are giving us good small car options. Not just the danged furners either, as we’re seeing B and C segment vehicles roll into dealerships wearing American badges.

One in particular has my attention at the moment. It’s the 2014 Ford Fiesta, and it has a lot to offer. The standard version is a good entry in a segment that’s getting better by the second. Additionally, Ford has been showing off the all-new Fiesta ST, which is packed with a turbocharged four banger belting out nearly 200 horses. Sounds great right? The real star of the Fiesta fiesta, however, might just be the littlest entry: the 1.0-liter EcoBoost-powered version.

I spent a day with one… and we might just have a new slow-car/fast-fun hero in our midst.

Let’s get the tech stuff out of the way right off the bat. After all, this little engine is chock full of engine geekitude that will have even non engineers smiling from ear to ear. If you like motors, this tiny three cylinder manages to pack in a whole lot of interesting. It’s a 1.0-liter EcoBoost, which means it’s turbocharged and makes use of direct injection. Ford decided to throw in variable valve timing as well. That turbo, which is equally tiny, is of the low inertia and spins up to 248,000 rpm. The oil pump is a variable displacement unit, which alters the flow as necessary in order to meter out exactly what the engine needs at any given time. This improves fuel efficiency, eliminates excess oil flow, and reduces the energy consumed by the pump itself. Speaking of oil, the timing belt is immersed in the stuff, and that means it runs with less friction, is quieter, and never needs to be serviced.

We’re not done yet.

Ford stuck an offset crankshaft  in here so that there would be less friction on the side skirts of the pistons. Additionally, since a three cylinder is inherently imbalanced, Ford set about making sure it was externally balanced to counteract any unpleasantness. An engine damper and the flywheel itself handle the fore and aft shimmy, while passenger side mounts take care of the lateral wobbles. The result? Nary a balance shaft in sight. From there, the engineers decided to integrate exhaust manifold right into the engine itself. This speeds up warm-up time and allows the turbo to feed directly to the cylinder head. Oh yeah… and the block only weights 52 pounds.

So what does all that tech actually do in the practical world? It creates surprising amounts of power while also returning excellent fuel economy. The 1.0-liter EcoBoost is rated to produce 123 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. All of that power, both the pony kind and the twist kind, is available from around 1,400 rpm up through over 4,000 rpm. On top of that, Ford expects this Fiesta to return over 40 miles per gallon out on the highway. After I spent a day flogging it, I saw over 32 miles per gallon in the display screen… and I wasn’t on the highway.

Instead, Ford planned a route which started outside a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, ran over Mulholland Highway, and eventually arrived at Camarillo Airport. Then at the second airport, we were treated to an autocross course on an active runway. Seriously… see below:

That prop-driven fellow above me is coming in for a landing further down the runway. Before we get to the results of the autocross course though, allow me to tell you about my drive over Mulholland. This, if you haven’t experienced in person, is a tight, technical road that demands attention. You want something sporty here, and I didn’t think it would be the right car for the job when I first slid into the front bucket. As soon as I was out on the road, however, I believed I had found something special.

The noise from the three cylinder when it’s pushed is addicting. It’s as if a tubocharged boxer engine had sex with the engine from a Peterbilt, and the result was a precocious turbocharged short kid that happens to know kung fu. This thing growls, the turbo whistles, and the power pull is always available. Ford reps told us that the 1.0-liter EcoBoost just won the International Engine of the Year award while receiving the highest score in the awards history. We can see why. Any gear, any rpm, floor it and the Fiesta fights forward.

Still, there have been great engines wrapped in horrible cars (Read: Camaro (minus the ZL1, but more on that later). It’s simply not the case here. The chassis is perfectly suited to the task at hand, be it running comfortably to the grocery store or being ham-fistedly hammered over the tight twists of Mulholland’s Snake. Suspension, brakes, and steering are all in sync here, and this car loves to be driven hard. Yet it’s not an overly firm performance machine… this is the fuel-efficient Fiesta for crying out loud!

While all of the exterior components are doing their thing, it’s inside the cabin where I’m the one working with the steering wheel, pedals, and gear lever. You’ll be happy to know that the 1.0-liter EcoBoost will only be offered with a five-speed manual gearbox. That’s almost shocking since this isn’t the performance Fiesta ST. It’s a slick transmission that slots confidently into each gear, and it’s a pleasure to work with. Steering is equally fine, which is actually a bit of a surprise despite being further proof that Ford understands how to tune electronic power steering systems. The feedback is there, and the weight is appropriate for the car.

Finally, I arrived at the autocross course. Here, Ford had lined up a Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Chevrolet Sonic so we could see how the competition felt on the course alongside the Fiesta. This was a Mike Tyson in his prime, proper beat down. I took the Fit out first, and it was a solid competitor but doesn’t make any power unless you’re revving it hard. Next up, the Yaris… it’s a car. Finally, the Sonic was nearly as good as the Fit, but nothing to get excited about. Eventually, I got to the Fiesta, and it’s three-cylinder wiped the airfield with the remaining cylinders found in the rest of the group. One of my favorite features of the car is that Ford goes easy on the traction control tuning, and allows the driver a little bit of room to continue to give the car throttle instead of turning it into a limp fish until you’re back on line. It makes for a much more enjoyable driving experience, and helped show that the Fiesta is the clear winner in this field.

On the ride back to Santa Monica, I was sitting in the shotgun seat. This gave me time to ponder other aspects of the car beyond the excellent driving experience. On the outside, Ford has given the Fiesta the familial face lift. It works nicely here, and I think it’s almost time we start referring to that front end as having a Ford grille rather than an Aston Martin one. It’s going to be on every product, and looks far less Bond-like when parked next to an actual vehicle from Gaydon, England. Inside, the Fiesta is fitted with tons of features that, just five years ago, would never be found in a sub-compact. You can now get the Sync system with MyFord Touch in the Fiesta, and it arrives with a more responsive LCD screen. Also, if you’re truly terrible at parking, you can equip the 2014 Fiesta with a rearview camera and reverse parking sensors. If you need those, however, you actually shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

Knowing how much the Fiesta has to offer, it makes me wonder how much Ford is going to charge for it. Currently, the 2013 Fiesta can be had for under $15,000. At the high end, a Fiesta will run you under $20,000. I imagine the three-cylinder will align itself more towards the bottom end, and that just makes it even sweeter. Let the Fiesta ST break the $20k mark, and I’ll happily motor on with $14,000 machine that makes me smile from ear to ear.

Ladies and Gentleman, meet the new king of the slow-car fast-fun driving experience: the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-liter EcoBoost.

Currently there are "53 comments" on this Article:

  1. dukeisduke says:

    Very cool. I just hope these don't run into the same problem currently plaguing vehicles with the 1.6l EcoBoost – overheating and catching fire.

  2. seat safety switch says:

    This sounds like a hoot. I wonder how the driving experience will compare with the Fiesta ST when that arrives.

  3. danleym says:

    Meh, still a generic jellybean. If you have to have a new car cheap, I'm sure it's great, but I can't get excited about anything that shape, no matter what's under the hood.

    • Scandinavian Flick says:

      I have thought a bit about the rise in number of these things, and I have come to the realization that it's inevitable. The form factor is just too damn practical. It has enough space for almost all purposes, including hauling a few people, groceries, aerodynamic design efficiency, etc, all while fitting in the smallest area possible. It's the definitive all-purpose vehicle.

      • danleym says:

        I fully understand the practicality, and I get why things are going that way. And I don't really care that they're being made, I'm not all up in arms against them- they serve a purpose, and for a lot of people they meet their automotive needs. I'm just not remotely interested. Maybe I just enjoy a little bit of impractical.

        That said, I'm sure one with a scrappy little turbo'd engine could still be fun to drive, just maybe not to look at.

        • Scandinavian Flick says:

          I completely get what you're saying, and I'm not particularly fond of their styling either. That is why I've thought about it though. The moment that really sparked my "why is this happening to automotive design???" line of thought was when the Honda Prius Insight came out…

  4. Scandinavian Flick says:

    Fascinating… Excellent overview, Mr Chief Blooger. I'm actually really interested in this and might have to check one out at a dealership when I can. I've been seriously thinking about eventually getting a more efficient and reliable commuter car, and this might dethrone the Prius C (I know, I know….) at the top of my "need to go for a feeler spin in that" list.

    …and this is coming from "not really a Ford guy" and definitely "not an economy car guy".

    • pj134 says:

      Too late, sinner.

      pj134
      President
      National Association of Slow Car Fast Society of America (Maybe Global?)

    • Devin says:

      The Prius C is the most fun you'll have in a Prius. That is also a meaningless statement, but it's actually not bad. At the end of the day, I'm not going to buy one, but I wouldn't be grumpy if I had to drive one.

  5. POLAЯ says:

    "…a precocious turbocharged short kid that happens to know kung fu."

    Perhaps the best line I've read ever, anywhere.

    And it describes me to a "T"!

    …except maybe the precocious part.

    …and I don't really know kung fu.

    …and I was never considered short growing up.

    …turbocharging… now there's something I could use!

    Great article Jeff, I Edward James Olmost wanna buy one!

  6. CABEZAGRANDE says:

    No video?!? I want to hear it!

    I keed, I keed.

    Sounds like a fun little thing, and a very good review, hit all they high points I was actually interested in (besides weight, but that isn't released yet, so I understand). I'm very curious to see how this engine responds to light mods. The 2.0L EB apparently responds insanely well to extremely basic mods (like +50 torque from nothing more than a tune), so I'm curious to see if the 1.0 follows suit.

    • Jeff_Glucker says:

      I initially was invited to review the car for Autobytel, but figured this deserved to be on Hooniverse as well. Sadly, our (Autobytel) video guy couldn't make it to this one.

      I found this on YouTube though… [youtube sroDxB7MLEo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sroDxB7MLEo youtube]
      it gives you a good idea of the turbo noise, but in person the engine has FAR more grunt that this video shows.

      • danleym says:

        That's good that is has a bit more grunt than comes through, because, and I'm not just pointlessly poking fun at the small engine- in that video it sounds like a gas powered edger.

        It sounds a little better from the back.

      • CABEZAGRANDE says:

        Thanks for the video Jeff! That thing sounds pretty dang mean. I like it :)

        These need to hurry up and get sold so I can pick up one of these engines and put it in the back of a Festiva. Shogun V2, coming soon.

  7. Rust-MyEnemy says:

    Brilliant car and a great report.

    Three-pot is one of my favourite configurations these days, every car thus equipped somehow gets an injection of extra charisma. I recently had a chance to play with an old Suzuki Swift (née Geo Metro) with the G10 engine and wrote about it over on Roadwork; the car was mostly garbage but the engine; while not making it even remotely exciting, sure gave it charm.

    I hanker after a go in an old Daihatsu Charade GTti with its 100hp turbo triple. Those who have driven them report of Second Comings and revelations.

  8. Alcology says:

    So… anyone else thinking locost variant? Even some sort of buggy!

    • Jeff_Glucker says:

      How how some random-ass LeMons configuration where you mimic Formula Ford. Shove it in a Pinto, strip out as much weight as possible, cut off the roof, etc

    • Mad_Science says:

      If I found myself trading my 5 mile, 10 minute commute for something longer, such a Chimera would be exactly what I'd need.

    • CABEZAGRANDE says:

      Oh yeah, that's exactly where my mind went when I saw how tiny this engine was. I've been brainstorming ideas of tiny and efficient but potent engines to make a commuter Locost out of, something that won't put me to sleep but will still get 60+ mpg in a sub 1500 lb car, and this is very near the top of my list, along side the VW 1.9 TDi and the Mazda Sky-D 2.2.

  9. kingcrowing says:

    How's the engine while cruising ~65MPH? My 1.6L Miata turns almost 4k RPM at highway speeds and it can be a little annoying and loud – is this any better?

    I love the NA Miata because it is such fun to drive hard so this little 1,0l is quite appealing.

  10. Preludacris says:

    Durability concerns me. I know, I know, alarmist, won't buy a new car anyways, blah blah…. it just seems like a lot of strain on the engine. Much like Mazda's sky-high compression ratios. How will hold up in the real world where oil changes are forgotten and people think they're saving gas by lugging the engine? Obviously these things are taken into account when a new car is designed… but I'm still skeptical.

    I'd like to be proven wrong, though, so I can buy one for $2000 in 2029.

  11. MVEilenstein says:

    I'm pretty happy with the Focus, and will probably replace my 2004 with a 2010 (in about ten years), but this is a nice little car. Might have to give it a look if I ever need a rental.

  12. Vavon says:

    2014??? It's not even 2013 yet…

  13. Van_Sarockin says:

    Sounds pretty sweet. Better than the Yugo of the new Millenium, anyways.

    VW just introduced it's Eco Up!, which has a three cylinder engine, that runs on compressed natural gas. Euros only.

  14. pj134 says:

    The National Association of Slow Car Fast Society of America (Maybe Global?) is intrigued by this automobile and will study it closely.

  15. mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

    Nice write-up, it made me about as much in love as I can get with a new car, and those patterns on the seats are neat too! I like how the trac control was described as well. This or Mazda2? By '14 the Mazda should have a DI engine as well. I wish the Ford was Made in USA though. Dang I sound like car forum guy.

  16. ptschett says:

    A few random observations…
    -Is that window at the A-pillar base actually useful? Or is it there just to make it look cool & finish off the DLO arc? (Not like I have much room to talk about cars having features that just look cool, but I'm curious.)
    -I'm a little shocked at how swept-back the front corners of the car actually are. In the top, hood-open view the headlights stretch practically all the way to the hood hinges. This isn't unique to the Fiesta – I've noted the same aspect on the Dart. Naturally the IIHS has already come up with a new crash test (small offset) that'll probably deny that aerodynamic opportunity.

  17. skitter says:

    I am a philistine who knows nothing of photography, but a lot of those shots are absolutely excellent.

  18. Feds_II says:

    I'm the current owner of 3 male offspring under the age of 5. As such, I have been spending a lot of time wondering what kind of hoopty ass cars are going to be available in 11-16 years.

    Thus, I am very pleased that this thing is on the market. Probably a more appropriate first car than an ecoboost flex.

  19. Felis_Concolor says:

    Woo, fun city cars for the win!

    As I'm still hoping Mulally's statement of a B-Max in the US's future comes to pass, I'll hold out for that mini people mover chassis. And since I already start at ~6,000ft altitude, my next new car is going to have some sort of forced induction system; the tri-pot will be one of the engine options considered. Having been part of Chrysler's turbocar wave in the 80s, I have no fear of purchasing a daily driver with a power adder, and it sounds like lightly aged Fiestas w/the turbomotor may well become a future used car classic.

  20. TDI_FTW says:

    My first car was a turbo charged 1.0 liter 3 cylinder (1987 Daihatsu Charade GTti) and that was the most fun car I've owned in my life. I bet the Fiesta is a little hampered by weight compared to the Daihatsu, but it still sounds like a great little car. Great review!

  21. mseoul says:

    Was the tested car to Euro spec? It seems to be by the lack of sidemarkers and the rear bumper looks a little shallow too for a US market Ford. If this is the case I would want to see (bumpers) and test a US market car before getting all excited about road dynamics. Not to mention even small things like seat quality, firmness, etc.

  22. BobWellington says:

    How long did it take that plane to write "Hooniverse" in the sky?

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