Ford Brazil is launching a new, 1.5 litre, three cylinder, flex fuel engine in the updated EcoSport. Internally known as Dragon, the engine initially will come from Ford India, where it is in production but not used in any locally produced model but the Brazilian powertrain plant in Taubaté, 146km/91 miles east of São Paulo City will eventually produce it as a replacement for the current four-cylinder, 1.6-litre Sigma motor.

The new engine brings small displacement with high specific output, higher efficiency and less emissions to Ford Brazil.

“Brazil will be the first market to launch the new 1.5 litre, three-cylinder,” said the Irish born Ford South America president Lyle Wattters.

This new powerplant develops 135 bhp and 154.9 Nm on straight ethanol, a performance exceeding that of higher displacement four cylinder engines. It has achieved the highest specific output of naturally aspirated, regular production engines – 90 bhp/litre – and it is A rated in energy efficiency for the Brazilian vehicle rating programme.

The three cylinder design enables compact size and lighter weight thanks to the aluminium engine block. Technical features include integrated head and exhaust manifold, counter rotating balance shaft running on hydrodynamic bearings, variable pressure oil pump, oil bathed timing belt for 150,000 miles of use and double, variable phase overhead camshafts.

It also has direct ignition coils, valve actuation by fingers with roller bearings and zero lash hydraulic fulcrum, 1cm offset from block centreline crankshaft and ethanol cold start with no petrol injection required at all. Despite the higher power output, the new engine is 5% more fuel efficient on average than the current I4.

Brazilians like three cylinder engines and they power the best selling vehicles in this market. However, so far, only one-litre and 1.2-litre versions have been offered.

Ford will be the first automaker to produce a 1.5 I3 here, thus widening application potential beyond the entry level segment. In future there could also be a turbo version of this engine.