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Road Test

Ford Focus 1.0T 125 Zetec driven

Driven March 2012

Additional Info

I'm not sure Ford should call this thing the Focus 1.0T. Admitting how small it is will have thrusting estate agents spurning it as a company car, but it vastly overperforms your expectations of 999cc.

It's a three-cylinder turbo jobbie, and can be had with either 100 or 125bhp. The higher-power version, which I drove, runs a six-speed 'box. It replaces the naturally aspirated 105 and 125bhp Focuses, and is far better to drive because it's quieter, more characterful and torquier. It's also lighter, so the car steers more faithfully and urgently. And it uses lots less petrol. What's not to like?

The quietness really is the most striking thing. We've got used to diesels in economy hatches, but to get into a little petrol like this is such a joy. Generally, you run it at 1,500-3,000rpm: that's where the best economy is, and the high torque and absence of vibes (bar a little through your feet) make it an agreeable and relaxing way to get about. But when you need to slip along, the thing is happy to rev higher. But again, quietly: there's some of the characteristic three-cylinder thrum, but in a good way, a half-a-911 way. No harshness at all. And barely any turbo lag or other colourations of the throttle response.

And it really excites your inner engineer. It was an absolutely clean-sheet design, not a bigger one with a cylinder amputated, so everything is optimised for the size. The block length is the same as a sheet of A4 paper, and the powertrain weighs 40kg less than the old 1.6 (or a staggering 150kg less than a 2.0 diesel). It's got direct injection and dual variable camshafts, and an absolutely diddy jewel of a turbine that spins up to 248,000rpm.

The exhaust manifold is cast into the cylinder head, which means water cools the exhaust gas, and also the narrow-bore design of the engine means it doesn't have much tendency to knock, which in turn means it seldom needs much ignition retardation, which again means lower exhaust-gas temperatures. Finally, the turbo itself can accept gas at 1,030°C. What does all this mean for the price of fish? Most turbo engines squirt extra fuel at high power, simply to evaporate and cool the turbo. What a waste that is. This little engine is carefully designed seldom to need that overfuelling, so, even if you use wide throttle occasionally, you won't diverge too much from the official fuel figures. Unlike a Fiat TwinAir. I saw 40mpg on a particularly swift drive through some hilly Spanish countryside.

So you'll be saving petrol money. That covers the price: in 125bhp form, it's £500 more than the old 125 1.6, with an extra cog in the 'box thrown in. That's less than metallic paint, for Pete's sake.

Paul Horrell

The numbers
999cc, 3cyl, FWD, 125bhp, 147lb ft, 56.5mpg, 114g/km CO2, 0-62 in 12.5secs, 115mph, 1240kg

The verdict
Modern petrol engines keep on clawing back the advantage. This one's far sweeter than a 1.6 diesel and not much thirstier. Don't be put off by its tiny size

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