Triple threat: Three-cylinder engines | CarExpert

Gentle vehicles have all the time tended to have engines with smaller displacements, however usually these autos have at minimal been powered by four-cylinders.

Extra not too long ago, nevertheless, producers are slicing again on the cylinder rely by equipping fashions with three-pot engines, reportedly with minimal compromise to energy or efficiency.

Some producers together with Toyota, Ford, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, are even utilizing three-cylinder engines as an integral a part of their efficiency or superior plug-in hybrid powertrains.

What provides?

Advantages and drawbacks

Why have these engines develop into the powertrain of alternative for smaller autos? There are myriad causes.

Security requirements, particularly these promoted by ANCAP, Euro NCAP and different our bodies around the globe, have develop into extra demanding over time, with autos being examined at greater speeds and with extra large gear used to simulate bodily impacts.

Extra not too long ago, these requirements have additionally mandated the incorporation of energetic security gear resembling autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to attain the very best scores.

Because of this, carmakers should attempt to make sure their smaller fashions stay appropriately sized and with satisfactory inside and boot house, while additionally incorporating beefier crash buildings and larger know-how, all of which have the potential to extend car weight and introduce additional packaging constraints.

The compact measurement and lighter weight of three-cylinder engines make them ideally suited to the restrictive house necessities in compact autos, and the house saved within the engine bay may be devoted elsewhere to maximise security and passenger house.

Smaller vehicles usually even have strict value targets to make sure that a mannequin stays worthwhile, and which means even a small saving on a per unit foundation can multiply into a considerable quantity throughout mass manufacturing.

With one much less cylinder and a corresponding discount within the variety of components in comparison with a traditional four-cylinder engine, three-cylinder engines may additionally be cheaper to fabricate, serving to be certain that even the most affordable mannequin in a carmaker’s lineup stays a superb enterprise funding.

One much less cylinder than the norm additionally means one much less combustion chamber, and this yields environmental advantages with regard to decreased gas consumption and decrease CO2 emissions, enabling carmakers to fulfill stringent Euro 6 and upcoming Euro 7 laws.

That is particularly related in European nations, the place regulators have set fleet-wide targets that imply the common CO2 emissions from a carmaker’s lineup of passenger autos should not exceed 95g CO2/km. Promoting a better variety of environment friendly three-cylinder engines could assist offset bigger, much less environment friendly autos.


Be aware that these necessities are all primarily based on testing in accordance with the NEDC and WLTP cycles, and while three-cylinder engines could excel in accordance with these testing protocols, they might even be extra burdened beneath greater masses, particularly throughout heavy acceleration.

Which means the real-world gas financial system financial savings will not be as vital when in comparison with an equal automotive outfitted with a four-cylinder engine.

Three-cylinder engines could also be much less balanced than an equal four-cylinder, and this, in flip, has opposed penalties for NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), with these engines being perceived as much less refined in operation than four-cylinder powerplants, usually with a extra ‘gruff’ sound.

To a level, that is subjective, and the sound could also be perceived as ‘sporty’ by some fans.

Efficiency three-cylinder choices: What’s out there?

Arguably probably the most iconic three-cylinder efficiency automotive is the WRC-inspired Toyota GR Yaris.

The GR Yaris makes use of a 1.6-litre turbocharged straight-three engine to supply a complete of 200kW of energy at 6500rpm and 370Nm of torque over a broad unfold from 3000-4600rpm, making it probably the most highly effective mass-produced, road-going three-cylinder engine but, and with comparable outputs to many bona fide sizzling hatches from the section above.

A extra inexpensive efficiency choice is the Ford Fiesta ST, priced from $33,490 earlier than on-road prices, and is provided with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that makes 147kW of energy at 6000rpm paired with 320Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Direct opponents for this automotive embody the VW Polo GTI and Hyundai i20N, each of that are supplied with extra standard, bigger displacement turbocharged four-cylinder engines producing comparable energy and torque figures.

Economical three-cylinder choices: What’s out there?

With the EU broadly thought to be having among the strictest emissions laws globally, it’s no shock that many fuel-efficient three-cylinder engines originate from European carmakers.

French marques Peugeot and Citron (each now beneath the Stellantis banner), in addition to German manufacturers BMW (together with Mini) and the broader Volkswagen Group (together with Audi) supply broad line-ups of vehicles out there with three-cylinder engines.

On the French facet, every little thing from the Citron C3 and C4 to the Peugeot 2008 and upcoming Peugeot 308 shall be out there with the broadly used Puretech 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine, in various states of tune.

From a German perspective, the BMW Group has unveiled a modular engine household whereby every cylinder has a displacement of 0.5-litres (500cc), and the smallest mixture of this, a 1.5-litre three cylinder powerplant, is obtainable within the entry-level Mini Cooper in addition to the BMW 118i hatch and 218i Gran Coupé with outputs of roughly 100kW and 220Nm.

In the meantime, fashions from the VW Group together with the Audi A1, Volkswagen Polo and Volkswagen T-Cross are supplied with a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder powerplant producing 85kW of energy and 200Nm of torque in all fashions.

Non-European manufacturers providing three-cylinder engines embody Kia (Picanto and Rio GT-line), Suzuki (Swift), the Nissan Juke and Ford Puma small SUVs, in addition to cheaper variations of the Toyota Yaris, and the Yaris Cross spinoff.

A technique to enhance the efficiency of three-cylinder engines with out compromising on emissions or effectivity is thru electrification, and other than the ‘closed-circuit’ hybrids supplied by Toyota, three-cylinder engines are additionally getting used as a part of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrains.

For instance, the Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV and the Vary Rover Evoque PHEV each pair a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine with a battery pack.

Vehicles offered in Australia with three-cylinders embody

  • Audi A1
  • BMW 1 Collection, 2 Collection, X1, X2
  • Citroen C3, C4
  • Ford Fiesta, Puma
  • Kia Picanto Rio Stonic
  • MG ZS
  • Mini hatch, convertible, Countryman
  • Mitsubishi Mirage
  • Nissan Juke
  • Peugeot 2008, Associate
  • Vary Rover Evoque
  • Skoda Fabia
  • Suzuki Swift
  • Toyota Yaris, Yaris Cross
  • Volkswagen Polo, T-Cross
  • Volvo XC40

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