Can't wait for the all-new Ford Focus ST to arrive in dealers? Then why not try the 1.6-litre EcoBoost version instead?
Admittedly, the firm isn’t billing the car as a performance variant, but as we discovered when we took the keys to the first official models to arrive in the UK, the new engine provides sufficient pace to really make the most of the Focus’s excellent chassis.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Ford Focus
While the 148bhp output doesn’t make it a hot hatch in today’s money, the EcoBoost’s 8.6-second 0-62mph sprint time is not far off that of a MkI Focus ST170. And on the move, it actually feels faster.
The powerband is so wide that you could be mistaken for thinking that there’s a bigger engine under the bonnet. Mid-range punch is on a par with the 2.0-litre diesel, yet it revs past 6,000rpm and has a rasping exhaust note. The clutch and six-speed box are lighter to use, too.
Not only is the engine more fun, but as it weighs less, it gives the car a dynamic advantage over the heavier diesels by making it even more responsive. For now, the 1.6-litre EcoBoost is definitely the most entertaining model in the Focus line-up – indeed, the whole Ford range.
And then there’s the fuel economy. During a 30-minute drive, on a mixture of urban and suburban roads, we managed 43mpg – which is not far off what Ford claims. Efficiency is helped by vents behind the grille, which close at higher speeds to reduce drag, while stop-start technology cuts the ignition when stationary.
Then there’s Ford’s Eco Mode. This monitors your driving style and illustrates how efficient you are being using a green flower graphic. If you’re too heavy with the throttle, the petals drop off; but with smoother driving and less fuel use, they grow back.
However, while the new Focus 1.6-litre EcoBoost is efficient, it still can’t match the economy of the 1.6-litre 115 TDCi diesel, which we also tried. The oil-burner managed an impressive 56mpg.
Based on our results, the EcoBoost would cost the average 8,000-mile-a-year driver £122 more in fuel annually than the TDCi, and a further £95 in tax due to its higher emissions. Overall, that works out at only 60p more per day – a small price to pay for a whole heap more fun. But here’s the rub. The 115 TDCi is offered across the entire range and so starts at £17,495, but the EcoBoost unit is available only in top-spec Titanium and Titanium X trims. As a result, it costs from a rather less palatable £19,745.