Ford Fiesta

Ford's smallest engine ever is on its way into production. The automaker announced that it has been developing a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder powerplant to join its EcoBoost engine family, and that other new developments – including an 8-speed automatic and hybrid transmission – aren't far behind.

While details of the new engine came from Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters, its development took place at the automaker's research facility in Dunton, England. There, engineers sought to create a powertrain that could perform like a four-cylinder, but with improved fuel economy and lower emissions. The result incorporates several new technologies like direct injection, variable valve timing and turbocharging, giving the 1.0-liter three-cylinder the horsepower and torque of a 1.6-liter four.

"No one's ever built a three-cylinder engine quite like this," said Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of global powertrain engineering. "Not only is it one of the most technically advanced and efficient engines we've ever designed, but it will introduce a number of new technologies to the Ford engine lineup."

Although Ford has announced the engine will "play an important role in North America," it hasn't said what cars it's destined for. When it arrives, it will be the smallest engine available in the US. Obvious applications include Ford's recently introduced Fiesta subcompact and its compact Focus, though further options could include the Transit Connect cargo van, among others. In Europe, the engine will undoubtedly find even broader use among Ford's range of small cars there.

But it's not just the new three-cylinder that has Ford excited. The automaker also announced that a new 8-speed automatic transmission is in the works, with the extra gears meant to improve fuel economy. While Ford is light on details, it's likely that the new transmission will one day replace the already-efficient 6-speed automatics currently in use across the Ford's lineup.

Ford's final announcement was the development of a new internally developed Continuously Variable Transmission, (CVT), intended for use in the next generation of its hybrids. Ford is primarily touting the Detroit-based manufacturing of the new CVT, which will replace a Japanese-built unit currently installed in its hybrids.

With the implementation of high-mileage technology like small-displacement EcoBoost engines and fuel-efficient transmissions, Ford is staying ahead of the gas-saving curve as fuel prices continue to rise. And it's paying off: in May, the automaker sold more F-150 pickups equipped with its EcoBoost V6 than the truck's traditional V8 for the first time in decades. We think it probably won't be the last.

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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

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