Since being launched in the spring in the Ford Focus in Europe, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has quickly become a winner. In April it was voted International Engine of the Year by a jury of 76 journalists from 36 countries. In June it set 16 land speed records at a racetrack in France. In October the 1.0-litre EcoBoost was given a Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics magazine, and this month the engine won the prestigious DeWar Trophy in Great Britain.

In Europe, where the diesel engine is king, the 1.0-litre engine now accounts for about 30 percent of sales in the Focus. It is now available in the European C-Max and B-Max and will also be offered on the Mondeo.

2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

EcoBoost combines turbocharging with gasoline direct injection and variable valve timing to allow a smaller engine to replace a larger one with no loss of performance and at least a 20 percent gain in fuel economy. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost, for example, has about the same power as the 1.6-litre normally aspirated, four cylinder base engine, producing 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, but with about 25 percent fewer moving parts and a host of new technology, including an offset crankshaft, variable oil pump, split cooling system, a super-small, responsive turbocharger, and a timing belt immersed in engine oil.

In the past, small, odd-cylinder engines have not been popular due to unreasonable vibration and noise. Traditionally, engineers have employed a counter rotating balance shaft inside the motor to offset the vibrations, but this solution is heavy, expensive, and reduces fuel economy. Ford’s solution: external balancing. The pulley and flywheel are unbalanced with weights that are placed precisely to counteract the natural shaking forces of the engine, while the engine mounts are designed to decouple as well as absorb the engine’s shaking forces.

With the three-cylinder EcoBoost, the 2014 Fiesta sounds and feels like no other car. It is smooth. And it is largely vibration free, with a deep, throaty though muted growl rather than the more typical high pitch of a four-cylinder, even with the 1.0-litre’s 6,500 rpm redline. Acceleration is strong and extremely linear, but not what journalists like to call ‘free-revving’. This is a determined little engine that performs every bit as well as much larger fours without unwanted roughness or noise.

Inside the Fiesta, the low pitched hum under the hood is a distant reminder that this car is missing a cylinder, but it is neither bothersome nor intrusive, allowing a relatively quiet environment for conversation or listening to music.

All of the 2014 Fiestas available for testing were 5-door hatchbacks equipped with five-speed manual transmissions. When the Fiesta goes on sale in North America in the fourth quarter of next year, it will also come as a four-door sedan and a six-speed automatic transmission will be optionally available.

Dimensionally, the new Fiesta has the same wheelbase and practically the same length, width and height as the outgoing model, but front and rear valances are all new, while the interior has been updated with new trim and seating materials. Fit and finish is impressive for an entry level subcompact.

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