Downsizing Clearly Happening Under The Hood

The size of engines offered in new cars is downsizing and this tendency is confirmed by the recently unveiled list of nominees for the 19th annual Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition.

A high total of 41 engines are being evaluated this year, or seven more than last year’s busy list of 34; this shows how much energy, R&D and renewal is happening under the hood.

Interestingly, 23 of the 41 new engines being considered have a displacement of 2.0 liter or less, and even includes the electric motor in EVs.

Four of those engines will be found in multiple vehicles that highlight new applications or the recent availability of stop/start technology or new transmissions.

Other interesting fact: engines that were part of the winning list less than a year ago are back with significant upgrades.

Ward’s cites Hyundai’s direct-injection 138-horsepower 1.6L 4-cyl. found in the Accent subcompact: this year, that engine arrives with a turbocharger, boosting output to 201 hp, for an impressive specific output of 126 hp/L in the Veloster Turbo.

Ward’s also cites GM’s Ecotec rated last year at 135 hp/L. That 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. Found in the Buick Regal GS is already being phased out in favor of a new version with the same displacement, but with more active cam phasing, better sound attenuation and increased efficiency. The specific output of this new Ecotec 2.0L turbo will be raised to 136 hp/L in the new Cadillac ATS compact luxury car.

Last year, Mazda’s 155-horsepower Skyactiv 2.0L 4-cyl. Found in the Mazda3 (boasting an unusually high compression ratio of 12.0:1) won, and this same engine is back this year under the hood of the CX-5 CUV.

Extra space under the hood of this CUV allows the use of a special 4-2-1 exhaust manifold that allowed engineers to use an even more efficient 13.0:1 compression ratio, while running on 87-octane fuel.

The list of 41 engines features three V8s, 10 6-cyl. and 24 4-cyl. engines, including six hybrids.

These six hybrid vehicles are not exclusively small 4-cylinder engines; it includes the BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3 and the Infiniti M35h, both of which feature sizeable 6-cylinder engines.

Battery-electric versions of the Honda Fit, Ford Focus and Mitsubishi i are also in the race, pushing forward their high efficiency.

Winners will be known sometimes in December and awards will be handed out at the Detroit show, officially known as the North American International Auto Show.

2013 Ward’s 10 Best Engines Nominees 2.0 L And Under:

(Full list can be found here)

Acura ILX / 2.0L I-4

*BMW 328i / 2.0L TwinPower N20 I-4

Dodge Dart / 2.0L Tigershark I-4

Fiat 500 Abarth / 1.4L MultiAir turbocharged I-4

Ford Fusion / 1.6L EcoBoost I-4

*Ford Focus ST / 2.0L EcoBoost I-4

Ford Focus EV / motor + 23 kWh battery electric

Ford Fusion Hybrid / 2.0L I-4

Ford C-Max Energi / 2.0L I-4 PHEV

Cadillac ATS / 2.0L turbocharged I-4

Chevrolet Spark / 1.2L 4-cyl.

Honda Accord / 2.0L PHEV

Honda Fit EV / 20 kwh battery electric

*Hyundai Accent / 1.6L DI I-4

Hyundai Veloster Turbo / 1.6L turbocharged I-4

Hyundai Genesis Coupe / 2.0L turbocharged I-4

* Mazda CX-5 / 2.0L Skyactiv I-4

Mitsubishi “i” / motor + 16-kwh battery electric

Nissan Sentra / 1.8L I-4

Subaru BRZ / 2.0L FA H-4

Toyota Prius c / 1.5L I-4 HEV

Toyota Prius PHEV / 1.8L I-4 HEV

Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid / 1.4L turbocharged I-4 HEV

*Denotes returning winners.