In the previous three years in fact, the International Engine of the Year accolade has been won by an engine with three cylinders or less.
While four cylinder engines have been far more prominent in the past, the impressive advancements made by manufacturers in engine technology have opened the door for a new era of smaller power units.
A wide selection of popular car manufacturers now offers or soon intends to offer a three-cylinder petrol unit. The most important thing is that not only are they capable of developing as much power as larger units, they are comparatively more efficient.
So if you’re after a new small car with a top quality petrol engine then this guide is for you. Here is our pick of the best new three-cylinder petrol engines.
Ford 1.0-litre EcoBoost
Arguably the most famous three-cylinder petrol engine around at the moment, Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit has been receiving a lot of well-deserved plaudits.
It has been voted the overall winner for the International Engine of the Year awards in both 2012 and 2013.
Available with multiple outputs, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost can produce over 100bhp for impressive speed but deliver low running costs at the same time.
Today the 1.0-litre Ecoboost is offered in the Fiesta supermini and the Focus family car, as well as the C-MAX MPV.
Later this year the updated Ford Focus range will have a new version of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost able to emit under 100g/km for the family car.
Vauxhall 1.0-litre ECOTEC
Later this year, Vauxhall are excitingly introducing a 1.0-litre three cylinder turbo petrol engine, which will feature on the stylish ADAM city car.
The performance figures for this new unit make for impressive reading. The new engine called ECOTEC will be capable of delivering outputs of either 89bhp or 113bhp. Wither output it also comes with strong, low-end torque of 166Nm from just 1,800 rpm.
Also mated to a lightweight six-speed manual gearbox, Vauxhall’s new 1.0-litre engine is also backed by stop-start technology. This saves on fuel and cuts down emissions while the car using the new engine is idle in traffic.
In the ADAM, the 89bhp version of this new engine returns a combined fuel consumption of 62mpg and CO2 emissions at just 99g/km. Not only is it efficient, the new turbo engine packs a punch as well. In the ADAM, Vauxhall says it provides around thirty per cent more pulling power compared to a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre petrol unit – a common engine used in modern small cars today.
The new Vauxhall ECOTEC engine will likely find its way to other models in the not-too-distant future, including the next-generation Corsa and the Astra family car.
0.9-litre TCe (Renault and Dacia)
Current Renault models including the Clio supermini and the Clio-based Captur crossover are currently available with a high quality three-cylinder petrol engine called TCe.
The 0.9-litre TCe is a turbocharged engine can deliver punchy performance on small cars, mixed with low running costs. In the Clio for instance the 0.9-litre unit returns CO2 emissions from just 99g/km.
This engine is expected to feature on the new-generation Renault Twingo, out later this year, where it will likely return even greater savings in running costs.
This 0.9-litre engine has also been passed across to Renault’s budget sub-brand Dacia. The low-emission engine is available for mid and top-trim derivatives of the extremely affordable Dacia Sandero.
Kia 1.1-litre CRDi
A real eye-catcher in Kia’s latest engine line-up is a 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel unit sold for the Rio. It’s available on the cheaper ‘1 Air’ trim and it’s backed by Kia’s stop-start engine technology.
The result of Kia’s efforts is a supermini which emits just 94g/km and falls under the group insurance number three. Kia Rio models with the 1.1-litre diesel are cheaper to insure then with any other engine in the car’s line-up.
The diesel is also available on the higher ‘2’ trim level but in the ‘1 Air’ trim the Rio is cheaper, currently priced at £12,095.
SEAT 1.0-litre Ecomotive
All models in the SEAT Mii city car line-up use a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine which offer enjoyable driving on one of the most affordable small cars currently around.
The pick of the range though has to be the 59bhp unit used in the ‘Ecomotive’ derivative, which delivers the greatest fuel economy and lowest CO2 emissions.
The 1.0-litre Ecomotive officially returns a highly impressive 68.9mpg on the combined fuel cycle while CO2 emissions are a road tax-beating 96g/km.
While the other units in the Mii line-up are not far behind in terms of efficiency, and some offer greater performance, producing 74bhp, the Ecomotive’s engine is brilliant for saving more money in the long run.
Prices for the SEAT Mii 1.0-litre Ecomotive currently start from just £9,420.