New technology in detail
15 September 2009

The C-Max will be the first Ford to get the firm’s new small EcoBoost engine, which offers the performance and power of a 2.2-litre petrol with the economy and emissions of a 1.6. It was launched today at the Frankfurt motor show.

The technology is not new – direct injection, a turbo and reduced friction all contribute to the unit’s efficiency – but Ford has added two variable camshafts. Most other manufacturers use one variable cam, normally on the inlet side.

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According to Andrew Fraser, Ford’s petrol powertrain development manager, this was one of the hardest parts to get right, along with dealing with the airflow into the engine.

The 1.6 produces from 150 to 180bhp, while the 2.0-litre delivers over 200bhp and will better the output of Ford’s old 3.0-litre V6. Along with the C-Max, they will be used in the S-Max, Mondeo and Galaxy – and expect the next Focus to have them from launch. And there will be what Ford calls an “advanced, small-capacity” engine coming later, likely to be a 1.2 producing around 120bhp.

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Ford B-Max

The Ford C-Max MPV is as much fun to drive as it is easy to live with, if you're more interested in storage than the driving dynamics you'll find in an SUV

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So why has it taken this long to develop these clever, downsized engines? Fraser says turbochargers are now capable of delivering their boost at lower engine rpm, because they can spin so much faster and have a much wider response range. “Direct injection has come of age, too,” he says, “and it’s cheaper.”

It’s also a scalable technology – essentially Ford has designed a single, very efficient cylinder that can be multiplied on bigger or smaller engines.

Fraser didn’t rule out the possibility of a three-cylinder unit, but said there no immediate plans to build one. “We’ll watch what Mercedes and BMW do with their three-cylinders very carefully,” he said.

In the future, you can expect all of Ford’s petrol engines to use EcoBoost technology, although Fraser reckons that will still be a market for less advanced entry-level engines in markets such as Russia, naturally aspirated and without the clever cam technology.

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Our Verdict

Ford B-Max

The Ford C-Max MPV is as much fun to drive as it is easy to live with, if you're more interested in storage than the driving dynamics you'll find in an SUV

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week