How Would You Convince Someone To Spend More For a 3-Cylinder?

Like many of you on here, I'm thrilled the 2015 Ford Focus is getting a three-cylinder Ecoboost engine in the U.S. It was brave of them to bring it in the Fiesta, but the Focus is a different league and much more mainstream. Now, who's going to actually buy a three-cylinder Focus?

It's important that Ford doesn't make too many people look at a Focus Ecoboost and wonder why they should spend more money for a little engine. Their engine is a gutsy attempt at downsizing that could reasonably catch on, if it's done well. Three-cylinder engines are getting more common, but they're still limited to quirky small cars right now – the 2014 Mini included.

Ford is betting people will spend more to get a turbocharged three-cylinder engine, rather than a normal four-cylinder, on the 2015 Focus that's due out later this year. It's the same engine that's offered in the 2014 Ford Focus SE with the "Ecoboost Fuel Economy Package." That's elegantly named.

How Would You Convince Someone To Spend More For a 3-Cylinder?

Actually, it is elegant compared to the ugly wheel covers the $995 package forces on you. Never mind the mandatory five-speed manual that's bound to turn off some buyers, the Ecoboost package that's only offered on one trim level of the Fiesta also makes it look as if you were too cheap to afford something nicer. That's the wrong move for Ford.

If you have to shell out about $1,000 to lose a cylinder and potentially 40 horses compared to the 2.0-liter four in other Focuses, the outward appearance needs to look better. In Europe, the engine choice doesn't dictate ugly wheel trims like it does on our Fiesta. And that's a shame, because on fuel economy alone the Fiesta Ecoboost is a winner. Sure, it's manual-only here, but in this market that's not as big of a handicap as it is on larger cars.

But if you want alloy wheels, navigation, leather seats or any of the features offered on 1.6-liter Fiestas, you're out of luck. That's when you have to think how badly you want to save gas or have this cool little engine or both.

While it's unknown now if that's having an impact on the smallest Ford sold here, I'm convinced it would be a bigger problem on the Focus. It's a more expensive car with more options hitting a different market. If you can only get a Focus Ecoboost with plastic wheel covers and a low trim level, what's not to stop it from losing sales to 2.0-liter Focuses or even the cheaper Fiesta Ecoboost?

For those of us who think it's great this little engine is being offered in a car as large as the Focus in this country, we're not going to be that upset about the odd packaging we have to put up with to get a three-cylinder. But we're not normal people. If someone asks you (and they probably will because they'll say, "Well, you like cars") if it's worth getting the Ecoboost instead of the car equipped the way they want it, what are you going to say?

I'd say it would be more fun because manual, more fun because of the small turbocharged engine, and a potentially more fuel efficient choice when you're not revving it like crazy. But if you don't want to look like a cheapskate, you might need to buy a model that doesn't look like the cheap one.

This is why we don't need three-cylinders to look cheap anymore.

Photo: Ford