It was with considerable amusement last week that I noted the British car industry trade association’s plea to motorists not to ditch diesel engines in favour of new, small, efficient, clean petrol engines, writes Declan Colley
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) put together an information briefing for motorists highlighting the benefits of diesel as — guess — small, efficient and clean engines.
It was obviously concerned that propaganda from the likes of me — pedalled, it has to be said, by the motor manufacturers themselves — that the new generation of petrol powerplants were so good that they would kill buyer interest in diesels. The plea smacked more than a little of desperation, and was amusing because it contradicted the successful public relations campaigns of its own members.
Petrol is making a huge comeback in the collective minds of the buying public, and there is considerable concern this might become an epidemic and that demand for diesel will evaporate.
Diesel power is unsuitable for many car buyers, because it doesn’t do the miles necessary to be either worthwhile or economic. Car-makers have reacted by making a series of new petrol powerplants, which are hugely frugal, very tax-efficient and driver friendly.
Ford has gone down this route with its fiendishly clever, award-winning, diminutive, one-litre EcoBoost engine, which has been a big hit in cars such as the B-Max and, more importantly, the Fiesta.
The Blue Oval, convinced of the viability of this engine, always intended to use it in larger cars, too, especially in the Focus and — stretching it a bit, perhaps — the Mondeo. I’ve driven the engine in both the B-Max and Fiesta and found it to be fantastic.
We did wonder, however, if it would be as good a driving prospect — especially in the Focus. Well,I recently had my first drive of the engine in the Focus and, with one or two minor reservations, found it to be a very relevant and interesting option for customers.
The Focus has been a flag-bearer and class leader for Ford for many years. Its handling dynamism, good looks, practicality and excellent build-quality have put it up there with the VW Golf as the two top cars in the family-oriented C segment. All other opponents aspire to this level.
But would the Focus perform well enough to maintain that status when fitted with the EcoBoost engine? Well, the answer is very definitely in the affirmative. I was initially concerned that it would not have the necessary guts to get the job done to my satisfaction, but after a week with it, any fears I had were quashed.
Certainly, the car takes goading to get it up to speed, but such is the soulful and pleasant thrum from this three-pot that you never feel like you are thrashing it. The power band is narrow, but if you keep it singing within the necessary parameters, it works really well. The harder you make it work, the more it likes it.
Making it work hard, of course, won’t do for your consumption rates, but with a little tenderness you will find the company’s claim of 4.9 l/100 km (56.5 mpg) is not outrageous. The 11-second 0-100 kph time is the same as that of competing diesels and the top speed of 210kph is decent.
I tested the car in Titanium spec. (the 125bhp version I tested is only available in this specification — the 100 bhp version is on offer in Style and Zetec specs), so you get a lot of kit for the money.
More importantly, you also get a diminutive engine with very clean credentials, good driving dynamics and excellent economy, wrapped up in a package that continues to excel in its class.
It’s no wonder the SMMT are worried about collapsing diesel sales.
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