The idea of a 1.0 litre engine pulling a Ford Fiesta about may not sound very appealing, but throw in the likes of a turbocharger and direct injection with say, 120 PS for numbers and it doesn’t sound quite so boring, does it?

Such a scenario isn’t that far away from reality; the company’s 1.0 litre three-pot EcoBoost looks to be a certain offering on the B-segment hatch in this market, sometime in 2012. It promises much, and much is expected of it.

First seen in the Ford Start concept car that debuted in Beijing in 2010, the engine made its European debut in the Ford B-MAX at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Full technical details are set to be announced in Frankfurt in September, so the mill should make its market debut next year.

Ahead of this, we managed to get some idea of how much the engine will offer in terms of output. According to David Filipe, Ford of Europe’s chief engineer of engine programs, the European-designed mill – developed at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in the UK – will come in two output variant forms when it makes its market debut.

“We’re coming out with two initial output levels for the engine, which will be 120 PS and 105 PS,” said Filipe, who was in town for the launch of the Mondeo and S-MAX Ecoboost models. His work at Ford has included the design and development of Ford’s in-line Ecoboost programs, including the 1.0, 1.6 and 2.0 litre Ecoboost engines as well as the Diesel Stage V engine programs.

The higher 120 PS output form is identical to the Fiesta’s current 1.6 litre twin independent variable camshaft timing, normally-aspirated lump, so it won’t fall short when it comes to numbers. And it promises to be zestier too, according to Filipe.

“That 1.0 litre is very much more fun to drive, compared to the normally-aspirated 1.6. For one, the torque comes in earlier,” he said. As to the choice of partnering powertrain, Filipe said that while the brand would always try to protect itself to be flexible with options, its prime task is to get the engine going with a twin dry-clutch transmission.

Tech-wise, besides turbocharging (another Borg Warner unit again, presumably), direct-injection and Ti-VCT, the three-cylinder – with a 10.0:1 compression ratio – contains a number of innovative efficiency solutions, among them an offset crankshaft that reduces friction and an advanced, Ford-designed split cooling system that allows the cylinder block to warm up before the cylinder head.

Elsewhere, the 1.0 litre EcoBoost, which will come with a cast iron block, cast aluminium cylinder head and cast aluminium sump, features an exhaust manifold cast into the cylinder head – the one-piece assembly lowers the temperature of the exhaust gases, enabling the engine to run in a wider rpm band with the optimum fuel-to-air ratio. The new design also saves weight and allows the engine to operate more smoothly.

It’s set to be available globally – including the US – in the company’s small cars, and will be deployed in the Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX, among others, when the time comes. It will also be a significant milestone when it is introduced, because Ford has never before built a regular production car with fewer than four-cylinders.

Ford may have come to the table later with turbocharging and DI than its European competitors, so how is it aiming to make up ground? “Some of our competitors have been out there with similar technology bundles, but I think we’ve been more aggressive and clear on our strategy to make it a high volume solution,” Filipe said.

“Some competitors have it as a low volume answer for certain products and applications, but we are taking it all across our engines around the globe, and that’s how we get the cost structure more affordable to our customers,” he added, bridging into the next question, that of deployment costs.

In the initial phase of any new cycle or technology, there’s always the issue of increased cost, and though Ford’s plans are ambitious (it plans to offer the EcoBoost engine in up to 80% of its vehicle nameplates, supporting global sales of 1.5 million EcoBoost-powered vehicles per year in the near future), won’t EcoBoost also bring about added cost to the consumer, at least initially?

“As we add the technology, it will cost a bit more, but we’re adding volume and scale to keep the costs of turbo, DI and variable cam timing as low as we can. The fuel economy will certainly get better (by up to 20%), and if you look at other technologies that deliver the same fuel economy, it’s going to be much more cost-effective than those other technologies, so even if it does cost more to start with, it’ll be very good value as it goes along. It really is the lowest cost solution over the long run,” Filipe stated.

Then there’s always the point of perception, about displacement being everything and that something like a 1.0 litre mill, though turbocharged, isn’t going to cut it on a Fiesta will still ring loud in this region, though thankfully the likes of VW’s offerings of late have helped dispel those archaic beliefs somewhat.

David Westerman, regional manager for Asia-Pacific, Ford Export Operations, says that’s something that the Blue Oval’s marketing people will have to break down. “It’s a challenge, but we’ve got to work on dispelling a lot of stereotypes and customer perception about displacement that a vehicle this size needs an engine of a certain size,” he said.

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Though the three displacement units in the current EcoBoost family (aside from the primarily US-based V6) cover ground well enough in terms of output and spread – 150 PS and 180 PS for the 1.6 litre, 203 PS and 240 PS for the 2.0 litre as well as the 105 PS and 120 PS for the upcoming 1.0 litre – the question surely begs as to whether there are plans to open say a 1.2 or 1.4 litre option to provide an even more comprehensive solution in terms of output tune coverage.

Felipe says that things are being looked at, though nothing as yet has been fixed. “We are studying to see if there are any gaps that are there, for example between 1.0 litre and 1.6, and if there is, to fill them.” Finally, to the point about fuel requirements, he said that the likes of the 2.0 litre (as found on the Mondeo) can run RON 91 as a minimum, with the 203 PS output rating obtained with RON 95; in terms of robustness, a wide variety of fuel quality grades are used on an EcoBoost design during testing, so it’ll handle what we have comfortably.

On a different note, here’s an interesting snippet of info, and Asean-based at that. The company is exploring the possibility of a small seven-seater, essentially something along the lines of the Nissan Grand Livina. “We know that here, the families are larger and the passenger needs are greater, and as such, a seven-passenger carrying ability is an important feature for a platform in this marketplace,” Westerman said in reply to a question whether there were plans to introduce a B/C segment-spanning product in the region.

“We’re certainly looking at applications to bring it to the marketplace, something smaller than an S-MAX and priced competitively,” he added, though no indication was given as to when such a product would be introduced.