2012 Ford Focus

Direct-injection technology made headlines when it appeared in the 2008 Cadillac CTS, eventually finding its way into many engines from dozens of automakers around the world. Now, the technology is on the verge of another world debut: the 2012 Ford Focus.

While Ford has used direct-injection technology before, it’s always been assisted by a turbocharger. But the 2012 Focus will use the system without forced induction in its new 2.0-liter four-cylinder, achieving 160 horsepower and up to 40 miles per gallon in the process.

If you’re like me, you’re probably still scratching your head. What exactly is direct injection? How does it help me? It turns out that it’s all about how gasoline is delivered to the engine. In a traditional car, that happens indirectly, through a system that distributes it to the cylinders. But in a car with direct injection, fuel is sent directly into the cylinders, bypassing any extra processes. That makes direct injection engines more efficient and more powerful, since it is one less process for the engine to manage.

But direct injection is also more expensive. Since fuel is sent directly into the cylinder combustion chambers, injectors have to cope with additional heat and pressure, meaning more costly components are required. So including direct injection in an inexpensive car like the Focus a pretty big deal.

Ford understands the system’s expense – but the Blue Oval also sees the benefit. Compared to the traditionally-injected Toyota Corolla, a perennial best-seller and one of the Focus’s top rivals, the 2012 Focus achieves 30 percent better fuel economy despite nearly 30 more horsepower than the Corolla.

Undoubtedly, Ford will help justify the pricey technology by installing it in other models, offsetting the development and parts costs. While it’s uncertain which models it will pick, likely candidates include the midsize Fusion sedan and the Transit Connect cargo carrier. Until then, we’ll have to be content with enjoying the direct injection benefits in the 2012 Focus.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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