Let's face it. Small engines are here to stay. Big V8s are being replaced by small V6s. Small V6s are being replaced by little I4s, and now little I4s are being replaced by tiny I3s. Ford was first to the premium pint-sized engine party with their 1.0L Ecoboost, but now GM is showing off its Ecotec line.
Torchinsky thinks the new for the US 1.0L Ecoboost is the bee's knees, but I'm here to tell you the Ecotec is better...at least until Fiat-Chrysler releases their new Eco-Skyaktiv-Tec-Boost-Puredrive-McEarthdreamy line of teeny engines next week.
So why is Ecotec better than Ecoboost? Is it the turbocharger? No. Is it direct injection? Nope, they both have that. Is it that fancy cast-in exhaust manifold? Nah, they both have that too. Is it the supposed quietness of the new GM mills? Bah, I couldn't care less about that. Instead, the advantage of the Ecotec can be summed up in one word: commonality.
The new GM small Ecotec range will span 11 different variants in three basic configurations. The key to this is pointed out in Car and Driver's deep dive. All three engines share the same 81 mm bore spacing (distance from the center-line of one cylinder to the next), 74 mm bore diameter, and block height. That is HUGE!
There are three major costs when developing a new engine. There is the cost of designing, testing, and validating the new engine. There is the cost of all the manufacturing tooling to build the new engine, and finally, there is the cost of the physical engine itself. The more components you can share between different engines the cheaper all three of those major costs get. There will be less parts to design and validate, less tooling to pay for, and higher volumes of each part to lower costs.
It is pretty routine for manufacturers to use a lot of common parts between different engines like bolts, sensors, belts, hoses, etc... to reduce cost. However, GM has taken this one step further with the Ecotec. By keeping the bore spacing and bore diameter identical, critical and expensive components between the three different engines can be shared such as cylinder sleeves, pistons, piston rings, valvetrain, and bearings. Even parts that will have to be different between the 3 and 4-cylinder versions like crankshafts, engine blocks, cylinder heads, and head gaskets will be able to share a lot of the same manufacturing tooling due to the modular design of the engine block.
Now, this is the part where you say, "But wait! Ford has a whole line of Ecoboost engines. Surely they share a lot of critical components." Well, let's take a look through an engineer's favorite form of communication; a spreadsheet.
Despite having six engines in the Ford Ecoboost family, only the 2.0L and 2.3L share a common block height and similar bore, which means they are the only two that could potentially share the engine block. (I could not find any info to back that up.)
So, Ford may have been the first to offer a line-up of high-power small engines in the U.S., but they did so with increased complexity and complication, which translates into more cost. That cost is $995 for the new 1.0L Ecoboost in the Fiesta over the base N/A 4-banger.
Think of it this way...on paper the Camaro and Mustang are direct competitors. They both are modern muscle cars with a monster V8 at the front, transmission in the middle, and drive wheels at the rear. Both are good muscle cars. Both have great engines, but there is no question that the Camaro's LS engine is the more desirable engine for gearheads everywhere. Whereas Ford's Coyote 5.0 is only found under the hood of the Mustang, F-150, and Falcon in Australia, GM has shoved versions of the LS engine into every truck, SUV, muscle car, sedan, sports car, boat, and even a helicopter for the past 17 years ranging from 4.8L all the way up to the mighty 7.0L LS7 in the C6 Corvette ZO6. As a result, the LS engines are easy to find, cheap to buy, and have aftermarket parts galore! You can even grab an LS engine for free if you're willing to get your hands dirty.
All GM has done is made a tiny LS engine family. Once in production these things will be everywhere! Don't believe me? Read for yourself. GM is hoping to sell 2.5 million of these things annually by 2017! It took Ford four years to hit the 2,00,000 mark with their Ecoboost engines.
So, Mr. Torchinksy...you can bolt the 1.0L Ecoboost into your Beetle's back-end, but I'll be swapping GM's cheaper and easier to find little Ecotec turbo 3-banger into the pretend small project car I have for this article...let's go with Miata.
(Photo Credit: GM & Autoguide)