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The new Ford Fiesta revives the long lost blessings of a 3 cylinder engine. Check out why we think this trend is here to stay:

It’s a pretty simple concept. Want a car that burns less gas? Then limit the number of cylinders in the engine. Let’s take a four cylinder engine and make it three? Well, in theory that was a good way to build a high MPG car a couple of decades ago but in practice it didn’t work so well. The problem was in the execution. The 3 cylinder cars of the 1980s, such as the Geo Metro, Subaru Justy and Daihatsu Charade were quite thrifty but rough around the edges. The engines in those cars weren’t balanced terribly well because of basic physics of three pistons moving around. Because two of the pistons move up and down in the cylinders at the same time, a three-cylinder engine is naturally unbalanced. Plus, these three bangers delivered painfully low performance. The 1.0-liter engine in the Charade, for example, sold here in the states from 1988 to 1992, generated just 53 hp and needed a full 15 seconds to reach 60 mph. Perhaps it’s only strong suit: a respectable 38 mpg highway MPG.

Today the second coming of the 3 cylinder engine has occurred. The new Ford Fiesta SFE is a three banger, 1.0-liter engine that is rated at 123 hp, over twice that of the old Daihatsu Charade. It carries an EPA rating of 45 mpg on the highway and can move the Fiesta — which weighs 800 pounds more than the Charade — to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. BMW and several other manufacturers are announcing three cylinder engines in addition.

The automakers are turning to threes for a number of reasons: Smaller engines reduce vehicle weight, which improves handling and braking. Also, three-cylinder engines use roughly 20 fewer parts than four-cylinders and are thus cheaper to build. And, because the engines are so compact, they can help improve safety in front-end crashes. But most important, three-cylinder engines can deliver diesel-like levels of fuel economy for much lower cost than what diesel engines cost to build.

What is not yet known is how consumers will accept the modern three-cylinder car. Ford, BMW and other automakers are not drawing attention to the number of cylinders in their three cylinder cars. That’s due in part to the reputation of older three-cylinder engines. Instead, their message focuses on performance and fuel economy.

Information from here

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