The Formula Ford is a low-capacity turbo that’s cheap to run and still fun to drive
Formula Ford is the starting point for most Formula One champions, and to celebrate this, Ford has combined the single-seater with the award-winning 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine from the Fiesta in a roadgoing version of its racer.
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Engineers have added the larger turbocharger from the Fiesta ST, so the tiny engine produces 170bhp – up 47bhp on the most powerful EcoBoost in the standard Fiesta. And to make the racer road-legal, Ford has fitted lights and indicators; there’s even a tax disc holder on the inside of the front wheel.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the conversion to a road car and production engine has toned down the performance, though. Clamber into the narrow cabin, attach the F1-style steering wheel and push the starter button, and the engine fires abruptly into life.
Only after the cut-slick tyres are warm, and you’ve adjusted to the heavy steering, can you really appreciate this car’s superb handling. It changes direction instantly and generates so much mechanical grip that it’s difficult to find the car’s limits – even on a wide, open race circuit. For such a small engine, the noise is astounding, with a turbo whoosh that transforms into an ear-splitting scream at high revs.
The race-spec sequential box automatically blips the throttle on downshifts and only adds to the fast Ford’s hardcore nature. Acceleration is savage, with the EcoBoost covering 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds – that’s quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. Yet despite the performance, Ford is keen to point out that the EcoBoost scores on efficiency, too.
At a steady 70mph motorway cruise, it claims the newcomer will return an impressive 57mpg. Trouble is, not many of us will have the nerve to maintain this speed, as the Formula Ford is so intimidating to drive on the road. The ride is really unforgiving and the narrow pedal box and non-existent rear visibility make it hard work.
A race helmet and warm clothing are essential. Still, as a technical exercise to show the flexibility of the 1.0-litre engine, the Formula Ford is a great achievement. If it reaches production, a £45,000 price would make it an expensive but fun rival to the KTM X-Bow – and allow the lucky few to pretend they’re a future F1 champion.
This Formula Ford would make a great alternative to track day specials like the Ariel Atom. It’s a true race car for the road, and the tiny engine proves you don’t need a big displacement to get a thrilling drive. The bare cockpit, firm ride and lack of creature comforts mean it’s for enthusiasts only, but we hope Ford can turn it into a production reality.