Review: 2017 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost - A 1.0L engine worth checking out

The Ford Fiesta is one of the accessible fun hatches one can buy in Malaysia. But how good really is the fuel-efficient Ford Fiesta EcoBoost?

2017 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost Overview

Engine: 1.0L EcoBoost (I3 DOHC, Turbocharged) with Ti-VCT

Year: 2017

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)

The Tiny 3-Cylinder EcoBoost engine


There is actually quite a lot of tech going on in the Ford Fiesta EcoBoost's engine. 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.

The Ford Fiesta's DCT and its issues



Now, let’s get to the transmission. You get a 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 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 red circle in the middle of the picture is where the tiptronic display would be in the Ford Fiesta.


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.

Verdict

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. As for reliability, both the Fiesta and Mazda 2 have their own issues - the Mazda 2 with some steering issues and the Fiesta with TCM issues.


The Ford Fiesta is not exactly cheap, but accessible. It is a fun small car with considerably good fuel economy.

Special thanks to Emir Imran for offering his Ford Fiesta for a review.

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