Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Ecoboost”

Ford Fiesta Zetec 80PS – Driven and Reviewed

2014FordFiesta_1LiterThree cylinder engines seem to be the current craze amongst manufacturers in their pursuit of increasing mpg whilst leaving performance intact. Amongst others, Hyundai and the latest ‘New’ Minis have adopted the technology, but remember it was Ford and their EcoBoost units that really brought this asymmetrical technology back into the spotlight.

We tested the turbocharged 1.0l EcoBoost Fiesta back in 2013 and were impressed, not only with its peppy engine, but with the refined ride and sorted chassis that’s so willing to be thrown around, especially with this lightweight engine up front.

So, what happens when you take this great recipe and take something away, in this case the turbo? Well, you’d expect performance to suffer, obviously, with the trade-off being even more impressive mpg and even fewer visits to the pumps. Quite bizarrely, only some of this is true – and it’s not good news I’m afraid. This 80ps Fiesta feels laboured around town, unwilling to get up to acceptable speeds without the aid of forced induction, but the improved economy part of the deal seems to have gone amiss somehow.

Ford's EcoBoost engine

Ford’s EcoBoost engine

Both 80ps and 125ps Fiestas return a claimed 65.7mpg combined and emit 99g/km Co2, and I dare say that the stifled acceleration of the lower powered model will encourage drivers to push the engine harder, negating any potential petrol savings as they grow frustrated with travelling so slowly.

One aspect of the 80ps Fiesta’s performance that’s surprisingly good is at higher-speed, on motorways and the like. The lack of turbo is fairly irrelevant when 70mph is reached, and should the need arise, the EcoBoost engine responds admirably when pushed. It’s just a shame that this car was primarily designed with inner-city driving in mind, where it’s found lacking.

I suspect that the 80ps Fiesta will find its way into many homes as a first car for the inexperienced driver, and this is where it could really excel. Speaking as a parent, I’d personally welcome the loss of performance if it were my child’s steed, and you obviously still get all the advantages that come with every Fiesta, such as 5 Euro NCAP stars. It’s also the cheapest way into Fiesta ownership (£13,995), but not only this, its 6E insurance group is significantly lower than other models.

Fiesta 2012 1FordSync-580-90Standard equipment is still impressive for your £14K, but if the budget will extend a little, I’d opt for the Nav system with DAB radio and SYNC system at £700 – it’s not infallible but it’s still one of the best systems on the market.

We’ve grown to expect a lot of bang for our bucks with Ford’s multi-award winning EcoBoost engines. Taking away the turbo has resulted in a decline in the fun factor, but taken in its own right, this version of the much-hailed Fiesta still stands up to scrutiny against the competition, especially in the quality and appeal departments.


By Ben Harrington


Specifications; Ford Fiesta Zetec 80PSEngine –1.0l EcoBoost three cylinder na petrol, 5 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power –  80ps, Torque – 105NM, Emissions – 99g/km CO2, Economy – 65.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 103 mph, Acceleration – 14.9s 0-62mph, Price – £13,995 OTR


For full details, go to http://www.ford.co.uk/Fiesta




Ford Focus Zetec S EcoBoost – Driven and Reviewed

2013 Ford Focus Front angle

2013 Ford Focus Zetec S

In the not too distant past, a car sporting the looks and dimensions of this Ford Focus Zetec S, coupled to a 1.0l petrol engine would usually be found lurking suspiciously in the classifieds, tagged with the highly undesirable moniker – ‘lookalike’ or ‘replica’. Back to 2012 however and Ford have worked some engineering wizardry and installed it in their latest Focus models, the results include the Zetec S model we have here which is propelled by a diminutive 1.0l EcoBoost engine.

EcoBoost Engine

Punching way above its weight, this tiny powerplant may only house three cylinders but they’re assisted by a turbocharger, its engine block is infamously the same size as an A4 piece of paper. Interesting pub facts aside, the EcoBoost provides a 20% decrease in emissions over a similarly powered engine of higher displacement. All of this obviously hasn’t gone unnoticed and Ford’s pocket-rocket is consistently winning more awards and titles than Titanic and Manchester Utd combined.

2013 Ford Focus Rear

Note the ‘Venturi’ rear splitter

Ford have always been the masters of visual drama and this Zetec S in Race Red is no exception. There are aerodynamically efficient spoilers and angles everywhere, from the jutting chin spoiler to the Venturi style rear diffuser.  Whether their potential is regularly utilised is somewhat irrelevant as their visual impact is undeniable even when the car is stationary. The optional 18” wheels and privacy glass on our test car only reinforce the impression that this car means business. I’d even go as far to say that this Zetec S model offers more visual drama than its big brother – the ST. Quite an accolade.

Chic Interior

2013 Ford Focus Interior

Dual Screens and many buttons – surprisingly user-friendly

It’s a similar story on the Focus’ interior, with the many controls and buttons laid out in a fashion that appeals not only visually, but are tempting in a tactile sense too. The ice blue illumination does provide a certain ‘vodka bar’ chic to the experience but I found it surprisingly relaxing when driving at night, it just seems to exude a feeling of calmness. I’m usually a ‘less is more’ type of guy when it comes down to buttons and dials and I have to admit, I initially felt a little intimidated with the plethora facing you from the Focus’ dash, especially the multi-function steering wheel. They are, however, very simple to become accustomed to and each one just seems to be positioned in exactly the correct place. The quality of materials used in the cabin are of a high quality, even in out-of-view areas. The Focus must surely be vying for the top spot in its class in terms of offering a pleasurable environment.

From a driver’s point of view

Power up the EcoBoost engine and it seems to operate in some manner of stealth mode. Below 3000 rpm, this three cylinder is so quiet that the gear-change indicator becomes an essential driver aid as the cabin is near-silent. Ignoring our environmental responsibilities for a second, the 1.0l engine will rev freely when pushed, providing unexpected levels of fun with negligible lag from the turbo. This same turbo also gives some much-needed grunt lower down the rev range  and I found that, even in sixth gear at relatively low revs, there was enough torque to increase speed without searching around the ‘box for a suitable ratio.

Come rain or shine, the Zetec S was reluctant to come unstuck and its handling was admirable. The latest generation Focus may have grown slightly when compared to previous models but the chassis seems well-balanced and easily capable of coping with the extra mass. Around town, the steering assistance is very welcome and makes manoeuvring in tight spaces a doddle.

Utilising a ‘sliding scale’ approach to power steering seems to be the norm these days and I’m not sure Ford have really got the hang of it with this Focus. I found the feedback from the front wheels to be a little lacking at higher speeds which led to some slightly unnerving guesswork as to their intentions. The same was true on motorways and the car just felt a little twitchy, with every minute movement from the driver being magnified through the steering wheel.

5 door only

Kids thumbs up in back of focus

Thumbs up in the back of the Focus!

Ford have taken something of a gamble with the 3rd generation Focus by dropping its 3dr option and making the hatchback available as a 5dr only. This may not have been a popular decision with their hordes of fast-Ford appreciators but it’s a huge signal of intention that this is, first and foremost, a family oriented car. The Zetec S model must surely represent something of a zenith in the family car stakes as it seems to please all generations. Children can be the harshest of critics but my own young daughters (3 & 4) were very keen to put their seal of approval on the Focus with no complaints about any lack of space, access or visibility in the rear.

Reinforcing this aura of attraction for the modern parent, the Zetec S comes packed with driver aides and safety features as standard. These include, not only familiar features such as traction control, now the norm on most cars, but also reassuring assistance from Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Torque Vectoring Control. We all assume that our loved ones will be ferried around without incident but it’s good to know that the Focus is capable of dealing with any problems that could occur.

2013 Focus free tax

First Year = Free tax

Our test car was fitted with a Driver Assist Pack option as an option. It includes Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert, Auto High Beam and Blind Spot Info System, all of which are working in unison to keep us on the straight and narrow.  Priced at over £1,000, it’s not the cheapest of additions but then, what price safety? Whilst testing the Focus, I experienced first hand the advantage that most of the Pack offers and it’s undoubtedly justifiable. I would bear in mind though that, although very clever, the system is not infallible and in some situations, not entirely appropriate. The Blind Spot Info System, for example, illuminates an orange dot in the applicable door mirror if it detects an object in a blind spot. Although extremely useful on most roads, it came a little unstuck on country roads at night when it was flummoxed by the presence of nearby hedges and seemed determined to warn me of their existence. It was a similar story with the Lane Departure Warning which obviously didn’t appreciate the need to sometimes cross the white line, the Auto High Beam which seemed to hold onto maximum illumination for a little too long, resulting in some irritated flashes from oncoming traffic and the Traffic Sign Recognition which would occasionally get confused with stickers on foreign HGVs and insist that the speed limit on British motorways was 110 mph.  It’s important to remember though, that all of these aides can be simply switched off and sometimes, this may be the safer option.

In Conclusion

2013 Ford Focus front closeOverall, it’s very difficult to fault the Focus Zetec S, especially when fitted with the 1.0l Ecoboost engine. It’s safe, frugal and appealing, both visually and from a driver’s point of view. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and with the options our test car was supplied with, it’s price tag of over £22,000 may prove to be a little much for some wallets. If it’s head-turning, hot-hatch looks you’re after though, without the associated running costs, the Zetec S is the real deal.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Focus Zetec S 5 Door, Engine – 1.ol EcoBoost, Transmission – 6spd Manual, Layout – Front engine, Front wheel drive, Power – 125PS, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy – 56.5 mpg Combined, Maximum Speed – 120mph, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 11.3s, Price – £19,195 OTR, £22,320 as tested.

Optional Extras on our test car included – City Pack-Rear Park Assist and Powerfold mirrors – £525, Ford DAB Nav System – £750, Door Edge Protectors – £50, Privacy Glass – £150, 18” Alloys – £400, Cruise Control with Active Speed Limiter – £200, Driver Assist Pack – £1050

For Richer or Poorer – Are our cars an accurate reflection of today’s society?

The rich are getting richer and the poor are helping them get there. For a few years now, the headlines have been dominated by global, double-dip recessions and credit being crunched beyond all recognition and yet some small pockets of society seem to be  immune to these awful afflictions. On the contrary, certain, more affluent members of the population are reeking of their own grotesque prosperity, seemingly oblivious to the general mood of the masses.

Multi Millionaire - Premiership Footballer Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez – laughing all the way to the bank

Footballers are one such group that spring to mind. You can’t blame them; combine the prospect of a short career with an IQ smaller than their (sponsored) boot size and a parasitic agent who doesn’t even have the decency to work up a sweat for his money and who wouldn’t take every penny they could get?  Of course, the irony is that without us plebs trying to enhance our humdrum lives by cheering on our team of choice every week, no-one would go to football matches, pay Sky to watch football matches or buy replica shirts for easy tribal recognition and where would the footballers be then? The world of finance shares similar ironies, every week new reports surface from the seemingly failing banking world, detailing the inflated bonuses being received by the head honchos, on top of their already inflated salaries. If my memory serves me correctly, this whole mess was kicked off by these same bankers irresponsibly lending money to people who quite obviously couldn’t afford the repayments.

Car manufacturers have by no means been immune to this worldwide recession with automotive giants such as Ford and GM staring into the precipice of permanent oblivion, holding onto their lives by the skin of their teeth. Some long-established marques such as Saab have gone by the wayside but hopefully we’re on the better side of things and the car industry as a whole can go onwards and upwards, back into profit.

The Bugatti Veyron L'Or Blanc - Highly Exclusive

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

How different manufacturers have gone about this seems to fall into two categories. Some of the traditionally more luxurious marques have taken a huge gamble and made their products even more exclusive, even more out of reach of the masses whereas the other 90% of cars on the road are apparently made to be as cheap to run as possible. Take Ferrari for example. Thankfully, no-one on the board at Ferrari has ever sat down and announced that their products are just a bit too shouty and maybe they should look into the practicalities of an MPV. On the contrary, Ferrari have obviously realised that if you can afford to pay a lot for a supercar, you can afford a lot more and so that’s how much the price of their mid-engined supercars has risen in the past five years. In 2007, an F430 would have set you back £128,000. Today, if you can find one, the F430’s replacement – the 458 Italia would set you back upwards of £160,000. That’s an increase of  25% but has it deterred buyers? Has it heck, supply can’t keep up with demand because when you’re in the market for a new Italian supercar, an extra £32,000 makes little to no difference. Maybe this is partly due to what I call the ‘Veyron effect’. When Bugatti unleashed this hyper car on the world it came complete with a mind-boggling array of huge, impressive numbers. 1,000 horsepower, 0-60 in 2.5s and a top speed of over 250 mph. The one fact that everyone remembers though is the list price of $1,000,000. All of a sudden there was a car being manufactured that was out of the reach of your everyday lottery winner, this one set the rich apart from the super-rich at a time when the rest of the world was worrying about job security and mortgage payments. The likes of Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Porsche must have thought all their Christmases had come at once, they could add a few thousand pounds to the list price of their entire range because they knew that they had a ‘get out of jail free’ card – compared to the price of a Veyron, all of their products cost peanuts.

Of course, every action must have a reaction and in the real world that 99% of us live in, the way in which we buy cars has also altered. In the past we would gauge our opinions towards the cars we drove in various ways but they would usually  involve either how quickly they got us from A to B or in how much comfort, that was it. These days, no matter what, the first thing someone will think of when they consider a particular car is what MPG it can achieve and which tax bracket it will fall into. It’s become a national obsession and when you think about it, it’s bordering on the ridiculous. Just because the world’s finances are in a bit of a mess, why can’t cars that are made for the general population be interesting instead of just frugal?

Ford's 1.0l Ecoboost Engine

Ford Ecoboost Engine

Take Ford for example. They’ve recently announced that the Focus will soon be available with an all new engine. Through wizardry and witchcraft, this five door, family hatchback will be powered by a 1.0 litre unit, it’s block being smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Whether this will result in the Focus becoming the most terminally boring car on the planet to drive or not hasn’t been mentioned, probably because Ford don’t really care. As long as the emissions from the exhaust are lower than their competitors, that’s all that truly matters as that’s what sells cars.

The world of used cars has also suffered from this phenomenon and their value can vary dramatically dependant on how much the annual tax bill will cost, even if a far cheaper model is only £50 a year more expensive to tax. £50! That wouldn’t even pay for a meal for two in a half decent restaurant and yet many people will dismiss a perfectly good automobile on the basis that it’s less powerful, less luxurious sibling will save them this paltry amount once a year.

What I think I’m trying to say here is that if the makers of luxurious marques for more affluent people want to charge what they want and can get away with it, good for them. But to the manufacturers of the majority of the world’s cars- have the nerve to go back to letting the quality and driving experience of your products be what sells the car. Let owning a car return to being the pleasurable experience it once was for all of us instead of simply trying to make car ownership seem like one expensive chore that the masses can little afford and could do without.

By Ben Harrington

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