Last time on State of the Engines, I covered the singular 2-cylinder car... but if you want a 3-cylinder, there’s more options. Most of them are still from BMW, but hey.
I’m going to change up the format a bit, now that there’s more than one engine, and two of them (in various states of tune) are shared between multiple cars. We’ll go in order of base MSRP here.
The 3A92 is used in one of the cheapest new cars available in the US market today, the Mirage. (The Nissan Versa has a lower MSRP, but I checked AutoTrader last night, and the Mirage hatch was the cheapest new car in the US that was listed with an actual price, some of them going for under $8000, brand new, model year 2017.)
It’s a 1193 cc naturally aspirated inline-3, 78 hp @ 6000 RPM, and 74 lb-ft @ 4000 RPM.
Reviewers tend to pan the Mirage for its driving dynamics, but in today’s economy, the price has a hell of a lot going for it. 78 hp doesn’t sound like a lot, but this is also, in manual hatchback form, the lightest new fully-assembled car available on the US market, at 2018 lbs... and some of us probably had worse power to weight ratios in our first cars (mine was ~2350 lbs and 52 hp). And, it’s efficient, too - EPA mileage is above 40 highway in all trims, with city mileage ranging from 33 to 37 depending on body style and transmission. For 2014-2015, the years with the most cars, Fuelly users are reporting right around 39-41 mpg average.
So, you know how we worked ourselves into a frenzy over the Buick Regal TourX, as the Second Coming Of The Station Wagon™? EcoModder was like that about this car, except it never stopped. See, a huge portion of EcoModder’s membership is motivated by cost first, rather than environmental impact first, making the Geo Metro the popular choice there - before they all rusted out, it was quite possibly the cheapest way to get from point A to point B in the US. Therefore, they see this as the second coming of the Geo Metro - a dirt cheap, efficient conveyance.
A Renault engine, in my United States? It’s more likely than you think... at least for now. (It’ll be gone for next model year.)
This is also our first turbocharged engine in the series, and the smallest engine we’ll be talking about today. It’s an 898 cc turbocharged inline-3, producing 89 hp @ 5500 RPM, 100 lb-ft @ 2500 RPM. With a displacement that small, you know it’s going into a small car... and it’s going into the smallest fully-assembled new car you can buy in the US, the smart fortwo:
The Renault connection here is that the W/C453 smarts are sharing a platform with the Renault Twingo, and all internal combustion smarts are using a Renault engine now as a result.
This also means that the horrific single-clutch automated gearbox is gone (my dad had a W451, I’ve driven it, it was fucking awful), replaced with a dual-clutch box, and for the first time, a true manual is available.
Efficiency has never been the fortwo’s forte - EPA mileage is between 31 and 33 MPG city depending on transmission, and 38 and 39 highway depending on body style, on premium. The fortwo’s aerodynamics are the problem here - with tall packaging, frontal area is high, and without any sort of length, the tail can’t taper and drag coefficient is high.
And, ultimately, this means that the internal combustion fortwo is dead in the US market after this model year - it doesn’t make much sense here. Internal combustion makes sense for longer-range travel, but the fortwo’s high drag and short wheelbase make it less suited to longer-range travel. And, for much of the country, parking a subcompact or compact is exactly as easy as parking a smart - you find a parking space, and you park in it.
I do have concerns over the all-electric strategy for the brand in the US, though - for deep urban use, charging is a huge issue, and I don’t think they’ve satisfactorily dealt with it in the US context. The car supports 3-phase AC fast charging, but that’s not a thing in the US, and there’s no DC fast charging alternative for this car. Home charging isn’t an option for many urban dwellers, either.
Yet another turbocharged engine, and this has the interesting twist that it’s one of the few remaining engines that is sold (at least in the Fiesta) only with a manual transmission.
It’s a 999 cc, turbocharged inline-3, making 123 hp @ 6000 RPM, 125 lb-ft @ 3500 RPM. Ford sells this engine in cars as large as the Mondeo (aka Fusion) in Europe, but here, they keep it to the Fiesta and Focus. In the Fiesta, it gets only a 5-speed manual, whereas in the Focus, it gets your choice of a 6-speed manual, or the much-maligned 6-speed PowerShift dual-clutch box.
This is the first (actually, I believe it’ll be the only one in the entire series) of these engines that I’ve actually driven - I test drove a 2015 Fiesta SE with the SFE package when they first came out, as a backup plan in case my Mk4 Golf TDI needed replacement. I hated the car’s utter lack of feedback and sensation of speed... but the engine was extremely competent. It really didn’t matter what revs you were doing, it just did what you told it to without complaint. The gearing was almost identical to my TDI, and that was fine, to be honest.
EPA mileage with a manual is 30-31 city depending on model, 40-41 highway depending on model, on regular. Yes, a Focus with the 1.0T is rated at similar mileage to the smart fortwo. It’s 27/38 for the DCT.
So, there’s actually two states of tune that we’re going to talk about here, and they almost belong separately. In either case, we’re talking about a 1499 cc turbocharged inline-3.
The entire Mini lineup uses the lower-powered of the two tunes, the B38A15M0, as its base US-market engine. This tune produces 134 hp @ 4500-6500 RPM, and 162 lb-ft @ a shockingly low 1250 RPM.
Fuel economy on premium ranges from a best of 28 city, 38 highway, in the 2-door Mini Cooper Hardtop with a manual, to a worst of 22 city, 29 highway in the Mini Cooper Clubman ALL4. (Interestingly, the Countryman isn’t the worst - my guess is that, even though it has added height, it’s allowing more curve to the roofline, reducing drag coefficient.)
There’s also an upcoming PHEV version of the Countryman (the *takes a breath* Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4... or is it Mini Cooper S E ALL4 Countryman? Because Mini uses both...), using a rear electric motor combined with a FWD automatic B38 powertrain. This is based on the BMW 225xe that’s been on sale in Europe for a while now (the X1, 2-series Active Tourer, and Countryman are on the same platform), but it’s not out in the US yet, so it doesn’t actually make the list.
And here’s Doug DeMuro reviewing the higher-powered B38, the BMW i8. It uses the B38K15T0, at 228 hp @ 5800, 236 lb-ft @ 3700 RPM, through an automatic. Combined with the front 128 hp electric motor, there’s a total system output of 358 hp. Conceptually, this is the 225xe/Countryman S E, just in reverse, and with a lot more power.
We’re still talking about smaller engines, so what the hell, fuel efficiency numbers. 28 city, 29 highway in charge sustaining mode, which, as far as 360 hp sportscars go... not terrible, but the highway mileage isn’t great. I’d say you’re not buying this for the mileage, but to be honest, you probably are if you’re buying this one... However, it’s got 14 miles of all electric range (with, of course, significantly less power than with the engine running), and another mile of charge depleting range with the engine running.
Next time, I’ll discuss the flat-4. I’ll have to figure out the format - there’s three engine families, and two of them are from the same manufacturer (but have many variations). I’ll probably combine a lot more than I did here.