The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (2022)

There was a time when the word downsizing was used most often by retirees who were selling the family home in favour of something smaller now that the children had moved out. For the last decade or so now, though, it’s been used at the launch of hundreds of new cars. Performance-bred engines have dropped capacity in favour of smaller turbocharged units, and in the city car world we’ve seen many four-pots have a cylinder knocked off. With that in mind, we thought it only right to jump headfirst into the thrummy world of the most popular small-car engine configurations around with a list of the best three-cylinder engines.

Suzuki LC10 (1967)

Three-cylinder engines have brought down emissions as well as physical engine size, but not all three-pots are truly dinky. The smallest three-cylinder engine ever is the motor that rested in the 1967 Suzuki Fronte, a 356cc two-stroke with 24PS (18kW). It had to be small to fit in the Fronte, really, which itself weighed only 425kg. Launched in 1967, the Fronte’s engine was at the back with power going to the rear wheels, and took over from the Suzulight Fronte that was introduced in 1962 with a 360cc engine, the TLA, itself a curious little motor (each cylinder was individually cast rather than in a block).

The LC10 was developed alongside a single-cylinder engine which had the same bore and stroke, and used something called ‘Posi-Force’, an automatic lubrication system that meant the Fronte could do without pre-mixed fuel. A performance version emerged in 1968, admittedly with an extra 4cc, the Fronte SS 360 with 36PS (26kW), up from 28PS (21kW) in the standard car.

And here’s a fun tale for you: it was driven by Sir Stirling Moss in a promotional journey against Japanese Grand Prix motorcycle winner Mitsuo Itoh from Milan to Napoli, a journey they completed with an average speed of 76.08mph. Imagine seeing Stirling Moss storming along the Italian autostrada in a microscopic Kei car keeping its engine absolutely pinned for nearly seven hours?

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (1)

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (2)

Honda S07A Turbo (2015)

There aren’t many places on GRR where the Honda S660 is likely to feature, but truth be told we’re quite fond of the little sportscar, and seeing as it had a three-cylinder engine we had to give it a mention. The S660 launched in 2015 and followed on from the S2000 with a name that referred to its engine capacity, the S07A Turbo measuring 660cc. The engine was mounted in the middle with power going to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox (a seven-speed automatic was available as an option), all 64PS (47kW) of it.

No, it was never available in the UK, and the on-paper performance figures weren’t all that exciting. But that little three-pot motor revved to 7,700rpm, and the whole car weighed just 860kg, meaning you could have fun at sensible speeds and not need loads of space to do so.

(Video) Top 5: Three-cylinder engines

Toyota 1KR-FE (2004)

Here’s an engine that you’ve almost certainly had some sort of interaction with: the Toyota 1KR-FE. This naturally aspirated, three-cylinder wonder powered the Toyota Yaris, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 107 and 108, among others, for two decades, and is in many ways the engine that got us all used to a small car world packed full of downsized, three-pot motors.

Built in both Japan and Poland, the 1KR-FE is a 1.0-litre (998cc if we’re being specific) with 67PS (49kW) and 91Nm (67lb ft) of torque, and won the sub-1.0-litre International of the Year award four years running from 2007 to 2010. Weighing just 69kg with all of its ancillaries, it’s an engine that just kept on giving, with an 18-year run in the Aygo, C1 and 107/108 thanks to various improvements. For example, its CO2 output dropped from 109g/km at launch to 99g/km and finally 88g/km to meet more stringent emission requirements.

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (5)

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (6)

(Video) How a 3-Cylinder Engine Works? Pros & Cons | Top Cars Using I3 Engines

Ford EcoBoost Fox (2012)

EcoBoost engines were introduced by Ford in 2009, a new range of smaller, lower-capacity turbocharged units that were all about boosting economy while maintaining power and torque. The first EcoBoost motor was a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, which of course means it doesn’t belong here, but the three-cylinder ‘Fox’ certainly does. The Fox, a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder, was introduced in 2012 in the Ford Fiesta and has become the defining engine of the class – it was and still remains the three-pot to which all others have been judged for a decade.

Developed at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in Essex, it won the International Engine of the Year award three years running from 2012 to 2014, plus best new engine in 2012 and best sub-150PS (110kW) engine in 2019. What’s more, in 2014, tweaks to the Fox meant it became the first non-hybrid engine in Europe to drop below the 99g/km of CO2 mark, and it has since become the first three-cylinder engine to incorporate cylinder deactivation.

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (7)

(Video) The Truth About New 3 Cylinder Engines

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Ford EcoBoost Dragon (2018)

Three-cylinders have never been the pick of the bunch for a fast car – why would you go for three when you could go for a nicely balanced four-, six, eight, 10 or 12-cylinder engine? But as engine sizes have come down in the drive for better efficiency manufacturers have looked to the three for some fun, too, and one of the first to put a smile on our face was the EcoBoost Dragon in the Ford Fiesta ST.

Not only did it have more power than the four-cylinder turbo it replaced but it was more efficient and, as you’d expect, smaller too, and in no way lacking in character. With 200PS (147kW) at 6,000 rpm and 290Nm (215lb ft) of torque from 1,600-4,000 rpm, the Dragon uses the same cylinder deactivation tech to switch off cylinders in 14 milliseconds for more economical motoring, plus both port fuel injection and direct fuel injection for flexibility when balancing power and efficiency.

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (9)

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (10)

Toyota G16E-GTS (2020)

Another small car with a whole heap of three-cylinder driving fun is the Toyota GR Yaris. The rally homologation special was unveiled in January 2020, complete with a 1.6-litre turbocharged three-pot, all-wheel-drive and two Torsen limited-slip differentials, all resting on a dedicated platform, a mix of the Yaris (front) and the Corolla (rear).

Built by Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s performance sub-brand, the G16E-GTS produces 261PS (192kW) at 6,500rpm and 360Nm (266lb ft) from 3,600rpm-4,600rpm in the GR Yaris (another version in the GR Corolla in the USA and Australia produces more but doesn’t fare as well when it comes to emissions). That, as we know very well, is plenty in a car that weighs 1,280kg, enough to power the GR Yaris to 62mph in 5.5 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 143mph. With the highest specific output of any Toyota engine in the company’s history, it’s a brilliant little unit.

(Video) 8 Best Sounding 3-Cylinder Racing Engines

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The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (12)

The seven best three-cylinder engines | GRR (13)

Koenigsegg Tiny Friendly Giant (2020)

This is perhaps the wildest three-cylinder powertrain ever conceived. The Koenigsegg Gemera, unveiled in 2020, has four seats, is all-wheel-drive, and uses a twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre, three-cylinder engine and three electric motors for a grand total of 1,724PS (1,268kW). Of course it isn’t the electric gubbins that interests us here, fascinating though the system is, it’s that three-pot monster, and it’s really very special. On its own it produces 600PS (440kW) and 600Nm (444lb ft) of torque, revving to 8,500rpm and with peak boost pressure of 29psi from those turbos.

It also makes use of Koenigsegg’s Freevalve technology, which is where there are no camshafts but instead the engine’s intake and exhaust valves are pneumatically actuated, so you have fully variable valve timing, fully variable valve lift and fully variably valve duration. Weighing just 70kg but packing a substantial punch, the engine’s name is incredibly appropriate: the Tiny Friendly Giant.

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FAQs

What car has the most powerful 3 cylinder engine? ›

1/10 Koenigsegg Gemera - 600 HP

The Tiny Friendly Giant (TFG) made headlines as it packed a hell of a punch twin-turbo 2.0-liter 3-cylinder engine that cranked 600 hp.

Are 3 cylinder car engines any good? ›

A 3 cylinder engine is much more fuel efficient compared to a 4 cylinder engine of the same size. This is because of two primary factors, reduced frictional losses and lighter weight. Since there is one cylinder less, the frictional losses caused by metal surfaces coming in contact within the engine block is lesser.

What is the best car engine of all time? ›

  • 1) Small-Block V8: Chevrolet. The iconic American V8 engine has been sold in more than 100 million vehicles. ...
  • 2) Flat 4: Volkswagen. ...
  • 3) Model T Engine: Ford. ...
  • 4) Fuhrmann Engine: Porsche. ...
  • 5) B-Series: Honda. ...
  • 6) XK6: Jaguar. ...
  • 8) 22R/R-E: Toyota. ...
  • 9) S70/2: BMW.
21 Sept 2020

What is the disadvantage of 3-cylinder engine? ›

Not Refined: A 3 cylinder engine requires more work than a 4 cylinder engine due to the lower number of cylinders present. The 3 cylinders perform most of the work against the 4 cylinders which makes them a tad bit noisier than their 4 cylinder counterparts.

Does Toyota make a 3-cylinder engine? ›

The Toyota GR Corolla uses a turbocharged, direct-and-port injected 1.6-liter inline three-cylinder engine. The hot hatch comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission that feeds the standard all-wheel-drive system. Toyota says it plans to have the GR Corolla on sale before the end of 2022 as a 2023 model.

Are 3 cylinder turbos reliable? ›

There is absolutely no reason for a three-cylinder engine to be less reliable than a four-cylinder engine if both are built with the same material and build quality. Reliability issues of three-cylinder engines stem from the fact that they were usually “budget” products.

Who makes a 3 cylinder diesel engine? ›

Yanmar 3 cylınder diesel engines are produced with the name of 3TNV diesel engines by Yanmar.

Are there cars with 3 cylinders? ›

Three-cylinder engines are all the rage right now. Once the preserve of basic economy cars, they're now used in everything from the latest generation of economy vehicles, through sporty hatchbacks like the 2015 MINI Cooper and Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost, to BMW's i8 plug-in hybrid sports car...

Do 3 cylinder engines vibrate more? ›

Three-cylinders typically have more vibration than an equivalent four-cylinder engine (or higher) of the same displacement. This isn't to say they are worse—they're just different, and the vibrations can be quelled to almost negligible levels with good old-fashioned engineering creativity.

Are 3 cylinder engines noisier? ›

It is not that 3 cylinder engines are noisier, the difference in the sound occurs due to a different firing orders than a 4 cylinder engine.

Can a 3-cylinder car run on 2? ›

Ford recently introduced the all-new Focus and its new 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine. When the car was unveiled, the company said North American specifications would be announced closer to launch.

What engine lasts longest? ›

These Are Some Of The Most Reliable Car Engines Ever Made
  • 8/10 Honda B Series Engine.
  • 7/10 Honda K Series Engine.
  • 6/10 Lexus 1UZFE Engine.
  • 5/10 Lexus 2UR-GSE Engine.
  • 4/10 BMW M57 Diesel Engine.
  • 3/10 Nissan RB26DETT Engine.
  • 2/10 Mercedes-Benz OM617 Diesel Engine.
  • 1/10 General Motors LS Engine.
5 Jan 2022

Which car brand has the best engine? ›

These are the 12 best car engines from 1999 to 2018*
  • 8: Mazda Renesis Rotary. ...
  • 7: BMW 3.0-litre twin-turbo. ...
  • 6: BMW 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid. ...
  • 5: Toyota 1.5-litre Hybrid Synergy Drive. ...
  • 4: Volkswagen 1.4-litre TSI twin-charger. ...
  • 3: BMW M 3.2-litre straight-six. ...
  • 2: Ford 1.0-litre EcoBoost. ...
  • 1: Ferrari 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8.

What vehicle will last the longest? ›

Longest-Lasting Cars: Toyota's Land Cruiser Easily Wins the Top Spot
Longest-Lasting Vehicles to Reach 200k Miles – iSeeCars Study
RankVehicle% of Cars Over 200k Miles
1Toyota Land Cruiser16.3%
2Toyota Sequoia11.2%
3Chevrolet Suburban5.1%
14 more rows
28 Feb 2022

Which is the high fuel efficient engine? ›

Diesel engines generally achieve greater fuel efficiency than petrol (gasoline) engines. Passenger car diesel engines have energy efficiency of up to 41% but more typically 30%, and petrol engines of up to 37.3%, but more typically 20%.

Which engine is better turbo or normal? ›

Is a turbo engine better than a normally aspirated engine? Yes, a turbocharged engine is better than a normal engine in terms of performance and efficiency. A lower capacity turbo engine can produce the same amount of power as a higher capacity NA engine.

Are more cylinders better? ›

In general, the more cylinders an engine possesses, the faster power can be generated. This often comes at a tradeoff in fuel efficiency. More power requires more fuel, which means you will end up paying significantly more for gas over the lifetime of your vehicle.

Can a Corolla handle a turbo? ›

It is possible to modify a Toyota Corolla with a turbo kit. However, unless you're a skilled mechanic or you've successfully done this before, it's highly recommended that you get it done in the shop. Otherwise you risk mistakes that can permanently damage your engine.

How strong is the GR Yaris engine? ›

Going by horsepower per liter, the Toyota GR Yaris has one of the most powerful production engines currently on the market. Its 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-three is rated at an incredible 268 hp straight from the factory.

Is the Toyota Yaris a 3 cylinder? ›

And it's easy to see why. A radical hot hatch, GR Yaris is equipped with an all-new 268-horsepower, * turbocharged 3-cylinder engine; a rally-derived GR-FOUR All-Wheel Drive system; and a track-proven suspension.

Is the 1.5 3-cylinder EcoBoost a good engine? ›

The good: EcoBoost

As far as three-cylinder engines go, Ford's 1.5-litre EcoBoost is nothing short of marvel. With 181 horses and 190 pound-feet of torque, it's a titan among 2.0-litre engines and not far removed from what was expected from a turbocharged 2.0 less than 10 years ago.

Why are multiple cylinder engines preferable? ›

Eight cylinders spread the load out during the engine's cycle. This means the whole motion will be much smoother than having one big cylinder that just jerks the engine to bits as it lobs it around after unleashing a big explosion then "recharges" till it's time to go again.

What is the disadvantage of an inline engine? ›

Disadvantages: -Secondary forces are not balanced, which ultimately limits the size of the engine. -Inline fours will rarely exceed 2.5 litres to 3.0 litres. -Larger four-cylinder engines will often require balancing shafts to cancel the vibration caused by the secondary imbalance.

Does Cummins make a 3 cylinder diesel? ›

4-G1 Diesel Engine 19.3HP @ 1800 RPM.

How many strokes does a 3-cylinder engine have? ›

1-4 , the engine of the present invention works in a three-stroke cycle: expansion stroke, exhaust-intake stroke, and compression stroke. The three strokes are accomplished within a single revolution of the crankshaft, in which each of the two pistons reciprocates once.

How many horsepower is a 3 cylinder Perkins diesel? ›

For ultra-compact power, the 3 cylinder, 1.1 litre 403-11 provides up to 21 kW (28.2 hp) of power from an engine that is ideal for a wide range of small off-highway applications.

What Ford car has a 3 cylinder engine? ›

Next-Gen Ford Fiesta ST Debuts 200 PS, 3 Cylinder, 1.5-litre EcoBoost Engine and Drive Modes for Ultimate Fun-to-Drive. COLOGNE, Germany, Feb. 24, 2017 – Ford Performance today revealed the next generation Ford Fiesta ST, powered by an all-new three-cylinder, 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine.

Does GM make a 3 cylinder engine? ›

GM 1.3 Liter Turbo I-3 L3T Engine

The L3T is a turbo-charged 1.3-liter three-cylinder engine produced by General Motors for use in a small vehicles. Very little is currently know about the GM 1.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder L3T engine. The engine was first discovered for the 2020 Buick Encore GX.

Is there a one cylinder car? ›

This single-cylinder, four-horsepower engine powered the Oldsmobile Curved Dash runabout. It has one cylinder, one piston, one connecting rod and crank, one balance wheel, and two valves. The complications of larger multi-cylinder engines were eliminated.

Does 3-cylinder engine make noise? ›

It is not that 3 cylinder engines are noisier, the difference in the sound occurs due to a different firing orders than a 4 cylinder engine. Traditionally, a balanced 4 cylinder engine will fire one of the cylinders after every 90degree rotation of the crankshaft.

Who makes a 3 cylinder diesel engine? ›

Yanmar 3 cylınder diesel engines are produced with the name of 3TNV diesel engines by Yanmar.

Does GM make a 3-cylinder engine? ›

GM 1.3 Liter Turbo I-3 L3T Engine

The L3T is a turbo-charged 1.3-liter three-cylinder engine produced by General Motors for use in a small vehicles. Very little is currently know about the GM 1.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder L3T engine. The engine was first discovered for the 2020 Buick Encore GX.

Are 1.0 EcoBoost engines reliable? ›

How long will an EcoBoost engine last? As with all mainstream engines, EcoBoost engines have been designed to last. They should easily clock 80,000-100,000 miles with little need for repair, so long as the vehicle is regularly and properly serviced.

Do 3-cylinder engines vibrate more? ›

Three-cylinders typically have more vibration than an equivalent four-cylinder engine (or higher) of the same displacement. This isn't to say they are worse—they're just different, and the vibrations can be quelled to almost negligible levels with good old-fashioned engineering creativity.

Which engine is better turbo or normal? ›

Is a turbo engine better than a normally aspirated engine? Yes, a turbocharged engine is better than a normal engine in terms of performance and efficiency. A lower capacity turbo engine can produce the same amount of power as a higher capacity NA engine.

Are more cylinders better? ›

In general, the more cylinders an engine possesses, the faster power can be generated. This often comes at a tradeoff in fuel efficiency. More power requires more fuel, which means you will end up paying significantly more for gas over the lifetime of your vehicle.

Does Cummins make a 3 cylinder diesel? ›

4-G1 Diesel Engine 19.3HP @ 1800 RPM.

How many strokes does a 3-cylinder engine have? ›

1-4 , the engine of the present invention works in a three-stroke cycle: expansion stroke, exhaust-intake stroke, and compression stroke. The three strokes are accomplished within a single revolution of the crankshaft, in which each of the two pistons reciprocates once.

How many horsepower is a 3 cylinder Perkins diesel? ›

For ultra-compact power, the 3 cylinder, 1.1 litre 403-11 provides up to 21 kW (28.2 hp) of power from an engine that is ideal for a wide range of small off-highway applications.

What GM car had a 3.0 engine? ›

GM 3.0 Liter V6 LFW Engine
Type:3.0L V6
Cadillac CTS Wagon:270 hp (201 kW) @ 7000 rpm SAE CERTIFIED
Chevrolet Captiva:265 hp (198 kW) @ 6950 rpm SAE CERTIFIED
ApplicationsTorque lb.-ft. (Nm)
Cadillac CTS (dual exhaust):223 lb.-ft (302 Nm) @ 5700 rpm SAE CERTIFIED
53 more rows

Does the new Trailblazer have a 3 cylinder engine? ›

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

As with the Encore GX, the Trailblazer offers two different turbocharged three-cylinder engines, a 1.2-liter and a 1.3-liter. The former produces 137 horsepower and the latter generates 155 horses.

How much horsepower does a 1.3 Turbo have? ›

With output rated at 155 horsepower and 174 pounds of torque, the optional 1.3L turbo engine hits harder than its tiny size suggests.

Is the 1 Litre EcoBoost engine problems? ›

What is the issue with the 1.0L Engine? Certain Ford Focus vehicles with the 1.0L EcoBoost engine may have an issue with the degas pipe causing it to crack. This may result in the engine overheating and failing.

Which Ford engine is best? ›

With so many to choose from, which one is right for you? The top 4 best Ford truck engines include the 5.0L TI-VCT V8, the 3.5-Liter EcoBoost V6, the 3.3-Liter TI-VCT V6, and the 3.0-Liter Power Stroke Turbo Diesel.

How powerful is a 1.0 EcoBoost? ›

Anyways, most 1.0 EcoBoost engines deliver 99-140 horsepower. Some Focus models receive a less powerful 84 horsepower variant for 2018 and 2019. On the other hand, mHEV models use a belt-driven starter, alternator, and propulsion motor. Some of these models offer up to 153 horsepower.

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