Cars & Motorbikes

Charged Light Brigade - engine downsizing and turbocharging (Part 1)

2/16/2014 10:50:00 AM

Two trends continue in the light car sector, engine downsizing and turbocharging. Can a 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo Fiesta foot it with Polo TSI and Barina RS?

Soon enough every car will feature forced induction; most cars will be turbocharged. We’re close to the tipping point already. Ford and VW are heading down a totally turbo path. Even atmo stalwarts like Mazda are admitting to playing with hair dryers. When turbos are attached to miniature engines to provide a mix of both measured economy and performance, the results can be impressive. For evidence, look no further than Polo gaining our Car of the Year in 2010, and Ford’s 999cc triple EcoBoost mill gaining International Engine of the Year for two years running.

New face of Fiesta features Aston-esque grille shape

New face of Fiesta features Aston-esque grille shape

Now the multi-award-winning miniature EcoBoost engine is available here for the first time, hooked up initially to a six-speed twin-clutch (or manual) transmission powering face-lifted Fiesta. A few months earlier, Holden launched its most focused Barina ever, wearing an RS badge, and powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four channeled through a six-speed auto (or manual) gearbox. No matter which gearbox you choose, both variants cost less than the Fiesta. And while the Polo is now a slightly different beast from the one we awarded Car of the Year in 2010, with a bit less puff, it is also priced more pleasingly below $30,000. We thought it appropriate to bring these boosted babies together for a full-force face-off.


Try as we might to secure three price and spec competitive vehicles, the stars didn’t quite align. The Polo would have been better in $29,990 Highline status, but we were presented with the $34k R-Line variant instead. It’s the same in essence as the HL version, but gets cosmetic enhancements, consisting of larger 17-inch alloys and lower profile rubber, a sports body kit and Alcantara-trimmed seats, adding $3390 to the bottom line. We’ll try to overlook these add ons for the purpose of this comparison. The RS Barina in these photos is the manual, whereas the auto which we tested previously would have matched the other two on the transmission front, and would have been closer in price too ($27,990 vs. $26,490), and so we have included the auto’s performance data in this test to try and even things up. Otherwise, we have a reasonably close comparison, the Fiesta Sport auto fiscally in the middle of this trio costing $28,840.

Looking like Golf jnr, Polo in R-Line guise seems quite grown up

Looking like Golf jnr, Polo in R-Line guise seems quite grown up

Each has a few special features. Barina is the only one to get non-cloth sports seats, though the leather is faux. The Holden alone also scores seat heaters, a definite plus for winter. There are also sports pedals and suspension, and some extra chrome and piano black finishings inside. The exterior, especially in the hero hot Orange Rock colour, looks a bit spesh, with 17-inch alloys, a honeycomb grille and RS badging. This is the only offering with a four-way adjustable steering column, and it also gets a dedicated iPod glovebox with holder and USB/minijack inputs. Its MyLink system offers music and entertainment apps too, along with BringGo nav, providing you’re packing a smart phone. The auto version features a lever-mounted rocker-switch manual shift system, as does the Ford.

Barina RS the most muscular looking of the trio

Barina RS the most muscular looking of the trio

Polo counters with a seven-speed auto (twin-clutch, like the Ford’s), and a pair of underseat oddments drawers. This and the Barina have a touch-screen for the audio. All three have manual air con and cruise control. A tick for trip computers too, but the Ford’s is accessed through the wheel rim by a thin wand you push repeatedly to scroll through the menu. It seems cheap. While we’re on that, only the Ford gets drum rear brakes; so much for the Sport title. All three have five-star crash ratings.


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