The Making of a 61-MPG Car: Ford Fiesta ECOnetic

What does it take to make a four-seater car that equals the gas mileage of hybrids sold in the States, but without the expensive battery pack and electric motors? Many cars made for the European market use a simple formula: Put a highly efficient turbocharged direct-injection small diesel engine into your basic super-mini, or “B” segment, car—one size smaller than a Volkswagen Golf—and then make every possible tweak to improve its mileage even more.

The latest example from this recipe is the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, introduced at the 2008 British International Motor Show in London. And it’s instructive because Ford will offer the Fiesta to North American buyers in 2010, the first of several European small cars that Ford will make and sell in the US. Two days after the show’s press preview, Ford announced a stunning quarterly loss of $8.7 billion and a plan to build several of its European car models, the Fiesta among them, in North America.

But by emitting just 98 g/km of CO2, it’s being lauded as “the UK’s most economical family car” with fuel economy of 61 miles per US gallon—using the European combined test cycle. The car is offered in the UK for £11,800 ($23,600). And because its CO2 emissions are below 100 g/km, it is entirely exempt from the annual British Road Tax (registration fee) as well as the first-year “showroom tax.”

The new Fiesta itself had been launched in January at the Detroit auto show, but Ford kept to its traditional singing-and-dancing extravaganza as it revealed the car to UK buyers. Singing star Alesha Dixon and six backup dancers pulled the wraps off a Zetec S model amidst pounding music, strobe lights, smoke effects, and confetti. (Some of the motoring press chuckled when they noticed the hood was slightly ajar throughout the performance.)

To lower its consumption, besides recalibrating a 1.6-liter TDCi turbocharged diesel engine and fitting a higher final drive ratio, Ford lowers the suspension, adds aerodynamic rear air deflectors, uses tires with low rolling resistance, and even runs low-friction oil and advises drivers on optimal gear-shifting points.

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  • Shines

    Ford has to lose 8.7 billion before deciding to bring this car to the US and not until 2010. I won’t ask where their heads have been because we already know…

  • Skeptic

    98 g/km? And that’s good? Yikes – how much do “regular” cars emit?

    For the inummerate, if that 98 g was Coca Cola, this car would spew a regular US can every 2 1/4 miles. And that’s considered good.

  • JamesWhr

    Sorry but Euro diesel cars will never cause a huge splash in the U.S. Market. As stated in the article diesel cost about 20% more. You can call Americans dumb for not looking at diesel cars but if taxes are not lowered on diesel this concept will never take off.

    Seems sad to me that the Big 3 w/ so much political influence doesn’t go beyond the old marketing and engineering tricks. Lets see turbocharging and other fuel saving options in ALL of their new vehicles.

  • Shines

    According to the gov. a gal of gasoline produces 20 lbs of CO2.
    So a car that gets 25 mpg would spew about a can a mile…
    (for a gas CO2 is heavy)

  • Shines

    I’m surprised we aren’t hearing the big 3 / govt talk about lowering the “tier 2 bin 5” diesel standards – at least for smaller cars…

  • domboy

    Great car, but I agree – we won’t see it in the US. CARB hates diesels, even though at 61mpg it probably emits less greenhouse gases per mile than anything else on our road. NoX might be a bit worse of course, but that just goes to show you can’t have your cake and eat it too (this is true for gasoline engines as well – lookup the lean-burn Insight). So we will get the gas version, which will actually cost more per mile to drive based on the current gas vs. diesel price spread. And many US drivers will pick the autotragic transmission instead of the manual, further reducing fuel economy. After all that, will it be any better than a Focus or Yaris?? Probably not by much. Sad. America can be so misguided at times.
    My pipe dream – the government should give the automakers a wavier to import these high-millage European models right now as-is. I have a sneaking suspicion that European cars are plenty safe and clean.

  • ShawWills

    Why is that when I read about new cars (that we need now) its always 2010 or 2012?

    I like to think of the automobile industry as two markets: 1. United States 2. The rest of the World

    And why has Ford lost so much in the U.S, Along with economic downturns, they believed producing lots of F-150s and Explorers would carry them through anything. If only they could take their Ford Explorer Hybrid more serious. For the U.S market major restructuring is needed.

  • Karkus

    Diesel contains ~15% more energy (i.e. carbon) per gallon than gasoline, so it seems reasonable that it costs about that much more than gasoline.

    Ok, let’s look at diesel/gas tax disparities:
    In the US, diesel taxes are indeed higher. Guess how much? ~6.6 Cents/per gallon higher on average. Thats just over a percent of the cost of fuel. Puny difference.

    It’s actually the europeans that have it all screwed up.
    They have traditionally taxed gasoline WAY more than diesel, and we’re not talking about a few cents per gallon here. We’re talking about a HUGE bias in favor of diesel. But they are coming to their senses, in part because of the bad pollution you’ll find in most European cities, and in part because they realize they have to correct for the energy content of the fuel to figure out the impact on global warming. It’s CO2 that matters, not MPG.
    Yes, diesel still burns more efficiently than gasoline (even with the 15% correction), but that advantage is going away too, with the HCCI engines being developed.

    As for the originial point of the post….the Fiesta can’t be compared to a Prius. Fiesta is a 4 person B-segement car (subcompact in the US), while the Prius is a 5 seater with more storage space and is actually classfied as a “Large familiy car” in europe (midsize in the US).

  • Bryce

    Interesting. Prolly won’t fly here, given the diesel.

  • MilwaukeeT

    I think people would buy it, even if prices were 20% higher. I’m old enough to remember the 50+ mpg VW diesel rabbit. You don’t have to sell to everyone in America to make a hit product. Even though toyota is not able to make enough priuses to meet demand, i have met several people who simply don’t like them. No real reason, they just don’t like them…

    Good luck Ford!

  • Bryce

    On a completely unrelated note…….why hasn’t this site put up a notice on the 3rd party verification of EEstor’s technology today? Google it!!!

  • RKRB

    We recently returned from a trip to Europe. The cars there are fantastic — fun to drive, well constructed, with good mileage. The Fiesta is small but it’s all many of us really need. We look forward to its arrival. THe product introductions over the next couple of years should be exciting ones. More fun, less fuel.

  • Bryce

    I am excited myself. Conveniently, I will be graduating in 2011, just in time for me to purchase one these shiny new vehicles. : )

  • Ste

    I am from Europe. We have always driven small cars (>30 MPG gasoline or >45 MPG diesel).
    This is not a solution: once US reach better milleage using european models, US will still burn oil and will still have the same problems than us.
    Ford misleads you by promising ad already existing car… by 2010, while 2010 is foreseen to be the turning-point for global oil depletion and real EV market start up.

  • Old Man Crowder

    If diesel is 20% more expensive but you get 43% better mileage (from 35 mpg to 61 mpg), would it not make sense to switch to diesel?

    You’d still come out ahead by 20%-plus.

    Did I do my math correctly?

  • Anonymous

    I applaud Ford for trying to make a fuel efficient car. The numbers are not that stellar compared to the Prius which as stated above is a larger vehicle.

    According to Toyota’s Synergy drive site (Google it) the Prius emits:
    104 g/km CO2
    0.010 g/km NOx
    0.020 g/KM Hydrocarbons (HC)
    and other particulate matter (PM) was undetectable.

    Don’t forget that the Prius gets its best fuel economy AND emissions at low speed when it runs more in electric mode. The diesels do the opposite in city driving.

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  • uktiger

    Ford, day late and a dollar short. In 2011 this will be ancient technology. The big 2.5 are in maintenance mode. We should outlaw the 11 mpg garbage on the roads or make people pay an annual gas guzzling fee if they want to drive a hummer or f150.

  • Bryce

    an f-150 and a Hummer are very different things my friend

  • Anonymous

    Hummers and F-150’s of course have different functionalities. But I wonder why they put V8s in trunks? I believe that any truck beyond a V6 should have to be diesel.

  • Anonymous

    since a gallon of gas doesn’t weigh 20 lbs how does it produce 20 lbs of Co2

  • uktiger

    don’t forget the air.

    Yeah Bryce, the f150 and hummer are different.

    14 mpg vs 16 mpg

  • Clifford Keele

    Well, it is nice to see that Ford is still planning to trail behind the pack…

    Aptera Plug-in Hybrid, estimated 200+mpg, 2009/2010 release
    Volkswagen 1L – 230 mpg, 2010 production
    Loremo Diesel – 130 mpg, 2009 or 2010 production
    SEAT Ibiza 1.4 TDI DPF Diesel, 88 MPG. Current Production
    Smart for two Diesel, 81 MPG. Current Production
    Volkswagen Lupo Diesel, 78 MPG (Production 1998-2005)
    Honda Accord 2.2 i-CTDi, Diesel, Current Production, 63-76 MPG
    Volkswagen Polo Blue Motion, Diesel, Current Production, 74 MPG HWY, 62 MPG Combined
    Honda Insight, Gasoline, Manual Transmission, 1999-2006, 70 MPG HWY, 61 MPG City

    Oh, and what about the Ford Escort Express 75 1.8 Diesel delivery vehicle… 39mpg – 47mpg… would at least be competitive for a small pickup/delivery truck.

    Now, if we could just convince our government to allow us to purchase fuel efficient vehicles. Almost every vehicle on this list is illegal to bring into the USA (with the exception of the Aptera Concept car (not yet in production) from California, and the Honda Insight which is no longer in production).

    As far as diesels vs gasoline… I’d gladly pay 20% more to double my gas mileage, and Veggie Oil & Biodiesel (Diesel substitutes) are much more efficiently produced than alcohol based fuels (gasoline substitutes).

  • RKRB

    Reducing fuel use is critical, but for those responders with a reflexive feeling that not buying a Prius is un-ecological, we tested a Prius, thought about it, and decided not to buy one, for several very good reasons. Here are some:

    1. The “deal-breaker” was the Unacceptable visibility from the passenger’s rear quarter (even worse in the wet or dark). My wife and I don’t want to back into a pedestrian, and that was among our first thoughts as we backed up and first noticed the “Prius Blind Spot.” Our attention now perks up especially high when we see a Prius (or an SUV) backing up close by. We thought visibility to the front was not so good either.
    2. The center-mounted, all-in-one video monitor was so distracting it seemed almost like using a cell phone when driving. The seats felt and looked pretty cheesy and uncomfortable, too.
    3. Driving dynamics were not good, with very indifferent handling and stopping — it seemed we were driving a refrigerator. This is where Ford has shone, especially in the European versions. “Fun” and “Prius” seemed mutually exclusive.
    4. “Winter traction” and “Prius” are also mutually exclusive. They do not go (or stop) well in the snow, ice, or up a gravelly hill — in such conditions the “traction” control will often not let you go at all (well, OK, this may be the safest, most ecological way in a storm — don’t plan on driving anywhere).
    5. As you pointed out, you don’t need to buy a Prius to “feel less bad” about affecting ecology (a good Prius bumper sticker would be “My car is probably destroying the planet more slowly than your car”). There are other important ways to save gas, including driving far less (we cut out two vacation trips and saved more gas this year than if we bought the Prius, and enjoyed it so much we will probably repeat it). If everyone in America drove a vehicle with even 2/3 of the Prius’s mileage we’d have far less of a problem with oil dependency, CO2, etc.
    6. The safety rating is OK but not great, and other small cars (i.e. Honda) do better. It’s rational to suspect the folks at Toyota may have cut a few corners to save weight.
    7. The unconscionably high dealer markup significantly lessened our trust in the dealer (and Toyota).
    8. Incidentally, the ElectroMagnetic Field effect is an unknown risk with any hybrid (I personally think it’s very low, we did buy a full hybrid, and there’s no risk-free car, but those who think cell phones are a cancer risk may not want a hybrid).
    9. After our decision, we heard of a gentleman who spent $8000 post-warranty to replace a Prius transaxle (an unusual CVT arrangement). That’s a lot of money.

    -If you buy a Prius, hey, that’s great — diversity is often strength. It’s a rational and fine choice (but at least consider an after-market backup warning signal).
    -But if you don’t want one, you may also be making a rational choice. There are alternatives, and not buying a Prius does not make you an ecological thug. I will wait until other models come out, especially since upcoming models sound so good.

  • Bryce

    every mpg counts my friend. (plus, there is a big functionality difference in these two beasts. Some people actually use trucks for work, HUMMERs are just status symbols…..which is fine and all I suppose….its like driving a Cadillac….or Lexus…..or something along those lines. Certainly not functionality oriented though, and most certainly not for work)

  • ian

    yeah, many people have been waiting for small diesels in small and medium trucks for many years. Ie, the only diesel trucks have heavy duty diesel engines for the heavy duty load trucks. WTF happened to this country i do not understand well, even though I took classes from one of the smartest scientists in the US in environmental science. It seems that incompetence and maybe multi-layered corruption is to blame, as well as a very weak dollar. In theory much of the good tech is developed in europe.. but if it’s developed by ford then it should be importable cheaply. However german engineering co’s are the main designers of the technology. Honda is the co i’m most hopeful about with their small diesel car. They are the best engineers in the world overall and overbuild the entire car, whereas the germans do underengineer some components (actually they, like every co, outsource the easy to make stuff.

  • Wishful thinking

    I want one that can fly over the traffic when necessary!!

  • Uncle B

    By the time Ford and the rest of the automakers get something useful produced, the bubble will have burst! public transport, including fast trains, and locating closer to places of employment are big things on the public mind these days. Fewer personal cars will be required , and the horrendous expense they entail will discourage the next generation from buying or even desiring them. Buses work well, and cars don’t fly! People are going to look for cheap and easy ways to survive on a daily basis, and car ownership is rapidly becoming as complex as gridlock and clogged parking garages! Bus Rapid Transit and airplanes for distant travel will be the new vogue for the upcoming computer smart folks.

  • Bryce

    As someone from said “next generation”…….public transit sucks (I have experienced it in its full suckiness at school) and I can’t wait to buy one of these small cars/Volt.

  • dangerous

    They should be sure that this one can help them survive the loss.
    The features written are great but are these click in the market?Hopefully so, because 8B is not a joke. This should be in The Fast Lane marketing. Good luck to Ford.

  • Ecoboy

    61 mpg out of a new car is nothing. I have a twenty year old Civic that gets 50 mpg. I would think with today’s technology that we would be able to get over 100 mpg. In 1979 Volvo created the LCP 2000. A four seater car bigger then this current Ford and it’s rated mpg was around 100 mpg on straight vegetable oil. I think that the car companies are stalling on bringing out the higher efficiency cars. Check out the page below.

  • justin

    i drivea 1977 caddie coupe devill an it gets 6 mpg that car cost me a 100 $ i cant afford to pay for gas so im selling the car and taking the bus cant afford a hybrd

  • Bryce

    dude, u could get an old civic if u are really in need of transportation.

  • Mark Pilbeam

    If you like me want to express your discontent with the CEO of Ford Motor Mr. Allan Mulally, you can email him at

    Dear Mr. Mulally:

    I recently found out about Ford’s announcement of the “new” Ford Fiesta Diesel and the fact that Ford is not going to be offering this product in the US.

    My comments to you Mr. Mulally is you have got to be kidding that you are not offering this product in the US.

    You are struggling to make Ford Motor Company into a profitable business as it once was.

    You company is getting kicked around by the Japanese automakers.

    The oil companies have killed your profitable SUV and Truck sales here in the US, which is mainly why Ford is in the shape that it’s in. This business is not coming back as long as fuel is near $.4.00 per gallon. Unless you can get the mileage in the high 20’s to 30 mpg we aren’t buying these vehicles again.

    Other than the Focus, which is getting half of the mileage as this new car can you have nothing to offer us Americans that can cut our fuel bills.

    Now you have a chance to offer the American public something that in my mind would be as huge as when Ford introduced the model T and for some unknown reason you don’t want to offer it in the US?

    For a CEO that doesn’t want to take and introduce this to the US. Your company must be looking out for the oil companies if you don’t introduce this product. These are the same people that from what I can see can care less if Ford lives or dies. They haven’t looked out for your company as they been the major reason that we aren’t buying your profitable products any longer. Why protect them by not introducing this product, they are not looking out for you?

    I am going to tell you one thing, we American’s will be very upset with The Ford Motor Company if you don’t introduce this car to the US. You have a chance to be #1 in the US and if you don’t take this opportunity, when I need a new car it will be Japanese and not Ford. I am loyal to the US car makers, but if you are not going to look out for us then my loyalty will stop and I and many other Americans will be changing our views and we won’t care if The Ford Motor Company is in business or not.

    RETHINK YOUR DECISION. It may be the best or worst decision that you make as a CEO of The Ford Motor Company.

    I and many Americans are waiting to see what you plan to do. I can assure you that we will tell all of our friends and family via email of your decision. When we look for a new car we can either look out for your company or decide that our loyalty is gone as your company obviously can care less about us. We need this product in the US, which is a much larger market than Europe is. I urge you to reconsider this decision.

    Thank You,

    Your name

  • Bryce

    um…….no……talking to him like that, accusing him of “sleeping with the oil companies” I am sure rubs any carmaking CEO the wrong way and would probably be ignored.

  • chrisb

    How is it physically possible to get 20 lbs of CO2 out of a gallon of gas that weights approx. 8 lbs.

  • Bryce


  • Jack M

    I wonder what the quality will be like coming from the company that brought us the exploding Pinto.

  • Jon Peacy

    I would like to buy a Ford Fiesta Econetic Diesel with a USA Ford warranty & Guarantee, before I die??? How can I do that?

    Jon Peacy
    2988 Province Circle

  • Bryce

    your mom

    sorry…..someone made me write that

    just give me anything fuel efficient. That will make me a happy character. Preferably a pure / range extended electric.

  • Stephen Trask

    Ask Congress where these cars were. US laws have prohibited many of the more efficient engines, including those burning clean diesel, from being sold across the pond, probably to protect truckers and airlines from competing for that portion of the oil barrel that produces diesel and jet fuel. That’s how screwed up this place is.

  • Endstufe

    For a CEO that doesn’t want to take and introduce this to the US. Your company must be looking out for the oil companies if you don’t introduce this product. These are the same people that from what I can see can care less if Ford lives or dies. They haven’t looked out for your company as they been the major reason that we aren’t buying your profitable products any longer. Why protect them by not introducing this product, they are not looking out for you?

  • online games

    we will get the gas version, which will actually cost more per mile to drive based on the current gas vs. diesel price spread. And many US drivers will pick the autotragic transmission instead of the manual, further reducing fuel economy. After all that, will it be any better than a Focus or Yaris?? Probably not by much.

  • Dirga

    Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, I like the style and body. This car is become top model in my country now. I must write about this car in my Travel Blog . Thank a lot.



  • Arya

    Cool, I love this style

  • Obena

    we will get the gas version, which will actually cost more per mile to drive based on the current gas vs. diesel price spread. And many US drivers will pick the autotragic transmission instead of the manual, further reducing fuel economy. After all that, will it be any better than a Focus or Yaris?? Probably not by much.

  • Fast Sports Cars

    Yeah..Its looks great dude. I would like to buy it.

  • Used Construction Equipments

    Hybrids are the next big thing and its amazing to see the impact these vehicles are having on the environment by releasing 0% CO2, people should support and encourage such technology as for betterment of all 🙂


  • chemistry

    chrisb: “How is it physically possible to get 20 lbs of CO2 out of a gallon of gas that weights approx. 8 lbs.”

    Remember that when you burn a hydrocarbon it combines with oxygen from the atmosphere. The exhaust is mostly H2O (water) and CO2. A lot of the mass of the CO2 comes from the oxygen, not from the gasoline.

    I’m not sure about whether 20 lbs is correct. It seems a little high to me. But that’s the jist of it.

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  • car news

    thanks for article about making of Ford Fiesta. hybrid sedan

  • RicM

    Diesel may contain 15% energy by volume than gasoline but it is easier to process (comes out lower on the fractionating tower. Diesel was traditionally cheaper than gas until 2004 then, High global demand, transition to low-sulfur diesel and a 6 cent/gal higher Federal excise tax on diesel has kept the price high. Also, energy companies lobby to keep diesel prices high.

  • Cody

    It’s not going to work because de diesel is 20% more expensive???
    I don’t get that one. My Chrysler is doing 25mpg with a gallon of gas priced today at $3.40 while the diesel is price today at $3.80 where I live.
    To make 61 miles, I will spend $3.80 with this car.
    To make 61 miles with mine, I will spend $8.30
    Where do you see it’s not going to work?

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  • Baffler

    He who has the Gold Makes the Rules

    The Big 3 are
    Oil companies
    Car companies

    Government is run by Big Buisness or the people?

    I keep scouring craigslist to find an old VW diesel rabbit.
    I use to get 60+ on the highway.
    0 to 60 Mph —– hahaha
    no frills
    Go from point a to boint b.

  • Europe Tourist Places

    Nice one 0 to 60 Mph 😀

  • arizonataylor

    Can you imagine what a car like this could do if you were HYPERMILING? 100mpg?


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