A 1.0L Engine Worth Checking Out - 2017 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost Review
Engine: 1.0L EcoBoost (I3 DOHC, Turbocharged) with Ti-VCT
Drive train: Front Wheel Drive
Transmission: 6-Speed Powershift Automatic (Dual Clutch Semi-Automatic Gearbox)
Price (Brand New in 2017): Approx. RM95,000 (after RM20k 2017 end of year discount)
Second hand value (????): To be updated
I usually do my research after I drive the car so that I can get in the car without any preconceived assumptions. I was actually impressed by the tiny 1.0 litre turbocharged engine so after getting home, I looked it up and found out that the 1.0 Litre EcoBoost engine has actually won a few awards for best engine in its class. Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik even named this as the future of gasoline engines in one of his writings.
Before we go on, I must first thank Emir Imran for offering the Fiesta EcoBoost for a review over the recent weekend. If any of you reading this would like to have your car reviewed by yours truly, drop me an email at email@example.com or drop a dm to my Instagram account (@arif.chan)
The Tiny 3-Cylinder EcoBoost
OK. Back to the 3-cylinder EcoBoost. There is actually quite a lot of tech going on here. You’ve got a turbocharger, variable valve timing (on both cams), considerably balanced 3 cylinders, and the engine hooks up to a 6-speed dual clutch semi-auto gearbox. The engine bay is pretty crammed for a B-segment car. If you’re wondering where the engine cover is, it doesn’t have one. The radiator reserve tank sits nearer to the back area of the engine bay and if you peek through the front grille, you will notice the tiny inter-cooler that it has for the tiny turbocharger. Is it loud? No, not at all. But you do get to hear the sound of the blow off valve, which is actually quite satisfying.
For a 3-cylinder, I have to give my thumbs up for the minimal vibration the engine has at idle. Mind you, it is tough to balance three cylinders. The three-cylinder engines in a Perodua Axia and a Perodua Kelisa vibrate quite violently at idle. The reason being when you have three cylinders, two will be up (TDC) and two will be down (BDC). It is not balanced in both static and dynamic conditions. To counter this, usually balancing shafts or balancing weights are added. Ford hasn’t revealed entirely what it has done but by the looks of it, they’ve offset the weight on the flywheel and probably somewhere else too to counter the imbalance of the three pistons. It still does vibrate and it won’t pass the “full glass of water on engine test” but the vibration is minimal and plausible. Maybe further iterations of the I3 EcoBoost will have less vibration.
That’s the good stuff. Now, let’s get to the transmission. You get this dual clutch 6-speed semi-auto gearbox.
Is it OK?
Yes, it is OK and it is fun to drive. But there seems to be a common problem with the Fiesta. And that is the TCM (Transmission Control Module).
It’s not a mechanical issue. It’s an electronic one. So, the best option is to go back to Ford (or Sime Darby) for a fix. Since this one was purchased brand new at the end of 2017, Ford has given a ten-year warranty for the TCM. At least if you’re buying a brand-new Fiesta, it’s taken care of. I’m not too sure how these things work out in the case of a second-hand purchase.
What happens if the TCM fails?
In less serious cases, the transmission display will flicker. In more serious cases, you won’t be able to get out of ‘Park’ and you can’t move the car. You could avoid this by opting for the manual transmission, but unfortunately, they don’t sell the manual Fiesta EcoBoost in Malaysia.
What Is It Like to Drive?
It’s a fun car. Small, quick, agile, and comfortable. I’ve driven the Mazda 2 before and this is the only viable contender I can think of (link to Mazda 2 review). Of course, it comes with a smaller engine, but it’s turbocharged. And the 6- speed transmission allows you to cruise at high speeds. It actually is quite effortless and stable at 120km/h, 140km/h, or 160km/h. It was not noisy, it was not shaky, there were no noticeable vibrations, and the steering wheel was nice. Only that it felt a little bit soft through the fast corners and didn’t feel so tight. Slightly stiffer suspension and a strut bar will make the ride better. You can do this with aftermarket parts.
The indicator stalk is on the left, like a Proton. The half leather seats are comfortable. The dash is nice, not too edgy and not too fun and chirpy. What’s weirdly out of place here is the phone dial buttons on the dash. It seems stuck in the BlackBerry Era.
Is it driver focused?
Well, it’s not trying as hard as the Mazda 2. The dash centre doesn’t point towards you and there are no paddle shifters. The Ford also doesn’t have a HUD which the Mazda does. Another bonus point from the driver-oriented Mazda is that it has a cushion for your knee.
Talking about the lack of the paddle shifter, the Fiesta gives you this PlayStation-ish tiptronic button instead on the gear knob. It’s not great. It would be better with the ‘Push & Pull’ type tiptronic controller. The buttons don’t feel intuitive and the display for the tiptronic gear is small and hard to see. The best tiptronic display I’ve seen so far is the one in the Naza 206 Bestari - It was huge like a WRC game display. (Click here for Naza 206 Review)
The red circle in the middle of the picture is where the tiptronic display would be in the Fiesta. Very small.
Pictured above is the gauge cluster of the Fiesta and pictured below is the gauge cluster of the Naza 206 Bestari.
Although the Naza 206 generally sucked, it does have a decently huge tiptronic dsplay.
What Does the EcoBoost Come With?
Rather sporty looks, fancy bumpers, front disc brakes only, day time running LEDs, no reverse camera, minimal steering-wheel button controls, and no cruise control. Looks like the Fiesta’s high price comes from the engineered performance instead of gizmos and gadgets. What surprises me here is the lack of disc brakes in the rear. With a car that could go 160km/h and above quite easily, rear disc brakes would be beneficial.
The Ford-Mazda Relationship
In the 60s, Mazda had some financial difficulties and ended up partnering with Ford in 1979. This relationship lasted longer than some people’s marriages and ended in 2015. The result was shared platforms and similar looking models. The Fiesta and Mazda 2 actually shared the same Ford B3 Platform some years ago. Put them side by side and you will see the resemblance. I’m not too sure about the latest Fiesta and Mazda 2.
Other shared platforms include the Ford Laser Lynx and the Mazda Lantis.
Remember when these were still running around? Look at their roofline. Almost the same car.
Great fun to drive. Definitely made up for my disappointment with the Iriz’s throttle response. Just that the ride was a bit soft through corners. The price tag is a little hefty for a small car but I guess we’re paying for the little ‘engine of the year’ under the hood. Be prepared for the TCM issue if you buy one. If they’re giving the ten-year warranty, then good.
Personally, this is not within my budget for a small car. But if it is for you, another option would be the Mazda 2. I am not confident to say anything in terms of reliability for both of these cars since even the Mazda 2 has had some problems with the steering column (and this was covered by Mazda which means something was actually messed up from the factory). For the Fiesta, you are risking a TCM failure with your purchase. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen at some crucial moment. We can’t put these matters aside when you’re considering to spend your hard-earned money for a car. A third option would be a VW Polo but I haven't driven one yet.
If you are the kind of person who sells their car after 5 years or so, you can always try purchasing these cars and experience them yourself. (Minus the worry of sudden breakdowns and massive repair bills). 2011 and 2012 Ford Fiestas seem to be going at RM30k to RM50k. Some are even RM20+k so that’s some drastic depreciation for the Fiesta. I predict a similar depreciation rate for the 2017 model.
You know what it means when a used car is cheap to buy – it's expensive to fix. So, reselling the Fiesta isn’t going to be a ‘Pawn Stars’ kind of situation for yourself. But if you’ve got the money and want a fun small car, go ahead and get the Fiesta. Just remember to not keep it for a long time. Aftermarket parts are also quite expensive since most of them need to be imported.
If you’re just looking for a cheap runabout vehicle, this is not the car for you. Maybe it is affordable in the UK but not here in Malaysia. Our import tax kills every budget import car. Every import car in Malaysia becomes a luxury car no matter what the original intent was by the manufacturer. So, you might as well go full on luxury or full on sports car when purchasing an import.
Yes, it does have a 1.0 L engine but it’s not in the Axia 1.0 price territory. However, if you want a fun small car with considerably good fuel economy (and can very well afford it), the Fiesta EcoBoost is the car for you.