2014 Ford Fiesta SFE comes with a 1-liter engine that's so
compact, a Ford engineer packed the engine block in a carry-on
suitcase and took it through TSA security.
getting a lot of mileage out of its Fiesta. For the past year, the
Detroit automaker has been rolling out the 2014 update of its
popular subcompact in dribs and drabs: starting with its 38 mpg S
last summer, followed by its street-legal rallycrosser — the 35
mpg ST, last fall — and, most recently, a 45 mpg 1-liter SFE that’s
been on sale since December but was only made available to the media
To put the
1-liter in context, it is so compact that a Ford engineer packed the
engine block in a carry-on suitcase and took it through TSA security
without a hitch.
One liter is a
displacement more commonly found in motorcycles. And, as motorcycle
engines go these days, it’s actually fairly small. Harley-Davidson’s
stock motor is a 1.6-liter. Triumph makes a bike with a gargantuan
But the Fiesta
1-liter is the mule for an entire car — one that not only carries
two more wheels and an entire steel cage, but five passengers, plus
groceries, while remaining the most fuel-efficient, nonhybrid
vehicle on the road.
sure what to expect when I showed up at Ford’s West Coast
headquarters in Irvine, Calif., on a recent Wednesday for a morning’s
spin in the automaker’s smallest car powered with its smallest
engine. At best, I anticipated the driving equivalent of lukewarm
coffee — at worst, something as limp and underpowered as the
Nissan Versa Note.
So I was
pretty surprised when I strapped in, threw the car in gear and it
took off with verve. The thing has spunk, but there’s a caveat.
Part of that spunk is attributable to the 1 liter’s manual
transmission, which improves its acceleration and overall fun
factor. The 1-liter Fiesta is not available as an automatic in the
The manual on
the Fiesta is a tall-geared five-speed, the shift quality of which
is quite smooth. The clutch pedal is pliable, and the stick shift
easily slides into gear.
Reports reported last month that manual transmissions can improve
gas mileage by 2 to 5 mpg. The magazine also reported that manual
transmissions often cut a car’s sticker price by $800 to $1,200
— a situation that does not apply to the 1-liter Fiesta. It
actually comes with a price premium, adding $995 to the $14,100
offered only with a manual transmission that many American’s don’t
even know how to operate, the 1-liter, since quietly going on sale
in December, now accounts for one-third of all Fiesta sales in
California, the No. 1 market for small cars in the country.
being the largest market segment in the auto industry overall, Ford
is pursuing it with a laserlike focus. Its growth rate in small cars
is double that of its competitors, due in part to an ultralow
starting price for its base-model Fiesta. The price can remain low
because the engine doesn’t add cost-inflating technologies such as
electric motors and lithium-ion batteries to help improve fuel
economy, which is the most important factor in consumers’ small
car purchase decisions.
Ford offers a
plug-in hybrid (C-Max), as well as an all-electric (Focus), but that’s
dabbling. Almost all of the automaker’s energy is channeled into
eking as much efficiency out of gas-powered engines as possible. And
it’s doing that with EcoBoost powertrains like the 1 liter —
small-displacement engines that are both turbocharged and
direct-injected for improved mpgs.
Ford uses its
more powerful 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the peppy,
197-horsepower Fiesta ST. It will use 2.7- and 3.5-liter EcoBoost
engines in its highly anticipated aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup truck
this fall. Before the year is out, Ford says 80 percent of all
vehicles it sells globally will be available with EcoBoost engines.
has yet another Ford first up its sleeve. It’s a three-cylinder.
Once again, three-cylinder engines are more commonly found in
motorcycles. Modern-day Triumphs have had a huge amount of success
fusing the twist-and-take-off torque of a two-cylinder with the
higher revs and horsepower of a four-banger.
three-cylinder offers the best of both worlds, and Ford is wise to
capitalize on it with the 1-liter. A baby ST, as one Ford employee
called it, the 1-liter is enhanced with an overboost feature that,
under hard acceleration, employs the turbocharger to unbridle the
engine’s reins, boosting its stock 123 horsepower to 145 —
albeit for a mere 15 seconds. And it sounds pretty great, too.
both a hatchback and a sedan, the 1-liter is otherwise exactly like
the rest of the Fiesta lineup. It’s offered in a rainbow of eye-poppingly
bright exterior colors and an Aston Martin knockoff grille, with
more standard technology than many cars in its class, including Sync
with MyFord Touch. A 6.5-inch touch screen is standard and can also
be operated with voice controls; the screen serves as the go-between
for the car’s AppLink feature that leverages the driver’s phone
to access more than 60 Ford-approved apps, including Pandora,
iHeartRadio and NPR.
But the real
star with the 1-liter Fiesta is exactly that: its engine.
FIESTA 1-LITER ECOBOOST:
Turbocharged, direct-injected, 1-liter, three-cylinder, 4 valves per
cylinder, DOHC, variable valve timing, 5-speed manual transmission
123 at 6,000 rpm
at 2,500 rpm
length: 159.7 inches
weight: 2,552 pounds
fuel economy: 32 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined
fuel economy (based on 32 miles of driving at 53 mph average speed):