What is Ford EcoBoost? Is it worth it?

Ford’s range of EcoBoost engines are award winning. The smallest 1.0-litre was voted engine of the year for third year running in 2014, thanks to its combination of performance and fuel efficiency which, on paper, many other manufacturers’ units struggle to compete with.

Ford sees its EcoBoost technology as a viable alternative to the likes of hybrid and diesel power. But what is it exactly, and how does it work?

The necessity for EcoBoost

Every year, new legislation is brought in to force car companies to produce engines that burn more cleanly and use less fuel. As a result, car manufacturers have been forced to stop building regular petrol engines and design engines from scratch with efficiency in mind.

Ford started to produce smaller engines – such as the three cylinder, 1.0-litre unit introduced to the Focus in 2012 – with direct fuel injection. Direct injection is a method of delivering fuel which can be regulated far more accurately than older mechanical systems. This means fuel measurements are more precise, and the engine can even use a ‘lean burn’ mode, where only the bare minimum fuel is used under low loads – say when cruising at speed. Combined with a small, lightweight engine which demands less fuel in the first place, it adds up to a much more efficient unit.

So that’s the ‘Eco’ taken care of. What about the ‘Boost’?

Obviously, downsizing engines comes at the expense of power. To compensate, Ford adds turbochargers to its EcoBoost range. The turbo makes up for the reduced displacement by increasing the strength of each power stroke.

The combination of the small, direct injection engine and a turbo means – in theory – the 1.0-litre EcoBoost is able to produce similar power to a regular 1.6-litre petrol unit, but with the fuel efficiency of a much smaller engine. The addition of a turbo also results in a greater spread of torque than in the old 1.6, so it feels more flexible on the open road and requires fewer gearchanges.

Which Fords make use of it?

EcoBoost engines are available right across the Ford range in a whole host of sizes and power outputs. The most popular 1.0-litre is used in the Fiesta, B-Max, Focus, MondeoC-Max and Tourneo Connect, producing either 105 or 123hp.

The technology finds its way into performance models, too. The brilliant Fiesta ST is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo producing 182hp, while the Focus ST is powered by a 2.0-litre EcoBoost offering 247hp. A 2.3-litre version is even slotted under the bonnet of the entry-level Mustang muscle car.

Any other advantages?

Because the engines are downsized, they are both smaller and lighter than similarly-powered non-turbo alternatives – the 1.0-litre unit’s engine block is so small it could fit on an A4 sheet of paper! As a result, the unit can be set further back under the bonnet, allowing for better weight distribution and a sharper, more agile drive.

What about downsides?

There aren’t many, but in some applications the claimed fuel economy figures can be drawn into question. In the lower-powered 1.0-litre models where the engine needs to be worked harder, the turbo is called into play more often, which can increase fuel consumption greatly.

It’s also worth noting – although it’s not an issue in the lighter Fiesta – when the 1.0-litre is fitted to the likes of the Focus and Mondeo, the engine can feel lethargic before the turbo kicks in. This isn’t an issue in the larger engines fitted to the Fiesta and Focus ST, however.

Any alternatives?

Yes. Several manufacturers have followed the same method of producing smaller engines supplemented by turbochargers. Volkswagen and Audi produce 1.2 and 1.4-litre ‘TSI’ turbo engines which sit in the likes of the Polo, Golf and A1 Sportback, while Vauxhall has recently released a 1.0-litre turbo in the Corsa and Adam, aimed directly at Ford’s units.

EcoBoosting your fuel efficiency

If you like the sound of Ford’s advanced engines why not check out the Ford range then, once you’ve picked the model that suits you best, head over to our car configurator to see how much you could save. For more options, take a look at our deals page to see our very latest discounts.

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