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Rightsizing vs. Downsizing

Updated on January 9, 2016

As fuel prices increased, manufactures started the trend of producing smaller engines with the same power. The results were better fuel economy and less emissions. It looks all very good, at least on paper. But in reality a lot of people were disappointed because the new engines fails to maintain the promise.

One of the first manufacture to start with the downsizing was Ford. In April, 2012 they unveiled the 1.0 liter Ecoboost, the replacement for the old 1.6 naturally aspirated Duratec engine. When launched, it caused a lot of suspicion in public, because a tiny 1.0 three cylinder would be applied in the Fiesta and Focus. The doubts was transformed quickly in conviction, after the journalist and the media praised it as one of the best engine on the market and a worthy successor of the old 1.6 Duratec. It won the “Best engine under 1 lire” award for four years in a row. Thanks to its clever technical solutions like turbocharger and a flywheel weighted properly to ensure smooth running,it hide its capacity very well performing like a bigger engine. The other engine in Ford lineup Ecoboost were the 1.6 (later dowsided to 1.5), the 2.0, 2.3, 2.7, 3,5.

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Given the success of Ford the other manufactured start to develop smaller engine to replace especially the naturally aspirated petrol. Nowadays almost all have a small petrol turbo in their car lineups. The 1.4 and 1.6 aspirated was replaced by 1.0 and 1.2 turbocharged and in some cases like Fiat and Renault even by 0.9 liter engines.

The downsizing of the engine was a trend set to ensure lower running cost and to make the engines comply with the new legal of emissions. But even if this trend started with the city car, it affected even the big super-saloon and the super car. Mercedes dropped the 6.3 aspirated in favor of the 5.5 bi-turbo and the new 4.0. Audi designed a new 4.0 V8 bi-turbo which is used also by Bentley. BMW replaced the V10 with a V8 4.4 biturbo. McLaren and Ferrari now use a V8 bi-turbo which produce more power and torque than the aspirated rivals.

With the era of downsizing, the cost of manufactured raise, so does also the prices of the new cars. Some think that this is just a marketing trick to make you buy something more expensive, complicated and the benefit in running cost are just an illusion, because in the real world the old aspirated petrol and bigger diesels use less fuel.

This is partly true because a smaller engine need to be revved harder to make the same progress, and revving an engine, despite being interesting, affect the fuel consumption. The smaller engine lists the 1.0 Ecoboost or the 1.0 turbocharged in the Opel Corsa needs to be driven gently to extract the best fuel economy. Otherwise they will consume like their bigger brother, because lacking in capacity will make you use more the revs. The benefit are more apparent during steady throttle driving, example in the motorway. A Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost will do 4.5 l/100km (62 mpg) with an average speed of 100km/h (62mph). The old 1.6 naturally aspirated will manage only 5.5 -6 l/100km (47 mpg) at the same speed.

The downsizing of the diesel engine isn't as popular as the petrol. However, Renault and Mercedes has been using the same downsized 1.6 liter diesel. Honda has dropped the 2.2 diesel in favor of a 1.6. Volkswagen has reduced the 1.6 of the Polo to 1.4 TDI (the same in the Skoda Fabia) and BMW has cut a cylinder from its 2.0 making a 1.5 three cylinder.

Other manufactures think that downsizing is not the way to go. Instead the “rightsizing” will make an engine perform better, using less fuel and making it more relaxing to drive. Mazda is one of these who has gone the other way. The 2.2 diesel is bigger than the norm 2.0 and 1.6. Mazda has used the SkyActiv technology to make it more frugal,have a wide torque band and more refined. The Mazda 2 for example, unlike the competition which use small turbocharged petrol, uses a 1.5 aspirated petrol with 75, 95 and 115 hp. Another car which has gone the other way is the Mini Cooper S. The old Cooper S, had a 1.6 turbo petrol, the new has increase the engine capacity to 2 liter. The official data reveals that it is quicker more economical and has more torque than the old 1.6. Jeep has made a refresh to the Cherokee lineup with the new Fiat Multijet engine. The 2.0 is replaced by a new 2.2 which is much faster than the 2.0 and claim better fuel economy.

So the downsizing isn't always the right way to go as some manufactures has shown. I think it works, but only with the small petrol car. The small petrol turbos, help the city cars and hatchbacks to be more frugal, have more torque low down and being more involving to drive. However in the bigger diesel saloon and suvs, it just doesn't work. The small diesels aren't known for refinement, neither overtake punch. It depends on the type of car.

Just try a bigger engine before you choose a small downsized one.

© 2016 Enchel


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