Three cylinder engines: reviews and applications

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So are the three cylinder engines versions so criticized by many netizens really an excess of environmental dreams?

The Fiat 126p had a two cylinder engine, and that was enough because parents took their kids around town, on vacation at sea and even to Turkey, Italy or France!

Three cylinder engines a few years ago

Anyone who has had the opportunity to drive a Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1, or Peugeot 107 petrol car from 2005 to 2014 will surely remember the culture of the 1.0 three-cylinder engine. When starting off, it looked like the engine would break down or explode. It was only when the speed of about 2,000 rpm was reached that the performance of the machine leveled off to such an extent that drivers got the impression that they were operating a “car change” and not an “exclusive mower”.

So what if the technical data indicates a power of about 70 hp, a torque of 93 Nm, a maximum car speed of 157 km / h and an acceleration of 14.2 seconds, since from the tests of those versions I remember only the “shaky engine operation”. Since then, many Internet users have developed an aversion to three-cylinder engines.

Downsizing is an ecological path that is too thorny and winding

Since reducing fuel consumption has become an obsession forced by the regulations of each manufacturer, a principle has been developed to reduce the size, that is, to reduce engine power. The goal of this solution was to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
The development of this system has been made possible by increasingly sophisticated power systems, and the technology is based on direct fuel injection and a turbocharger. Direct fuel injection ensures even and accurate atomization of the air / fuel mixture in the combustion chamber with increased efficiency, and thanks to the turbocharger, we get a more linear power graph without acceleration jumps.

Unfortunately, the situation is worse with engines without a turbocharger. Although the new injection systems and injection and ignition circuits allow for 95 Nm of torque, which is already available in the lower rev range, engine performance is still not very pleasant from the start until around 1500-1800 rpm. However, as the manufacturers boast: when developing the crank system, the engineers managed to reduce the moving masses compared to the previous three-cylinder engines, and the connecting rods and pistons with lower guides are weight-optimized, which, without sacrificing comfort, balancing shafts may not normally be used on engines with three cylinders. However, this is theory. In the second decade of the 21st century, we must note that although these engines are much better than twenty years ago, there is still a real chasm between them and the four-cylinder versions.

Fortunately, units without a turbine are found only in cars of segment A (Citigo, C1) and in the cheapest versions of segment B, i.e. models used mainly in the city.
If one wishes to have a B-segment car with better driving characteristics, it is now also possible to buy a more expensive version of this segment with an engine equipped with a turbine, and thus also have a better engine (e.g. Nissan Micra Visia + costs 1.0 71KM – $ 14,000, and 0.9 90 hp turbocharged – $ 14,500).

Three cylinders – turbine and modern technology

Many more engines currently on the market are turbocharged. In the case of the most popular engines of the VW group, these are 1.0 units with the following powers: 90 KM, 95 KM, 110 KM and 115 KM, Opel has 1.0 90 KM and 105 KM engines, and in the case of the PSA group version – 1.2 PureTech units with a capacity 110 and 130 hp
The four-valve cylinder head in engines is made of aluminum alloy. The valves are located at 21 degrees (inlet) or 22.4 degrees (outlet) and are driven by roller tappets. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head as the design allows the engines to reach their optimum operating temperature faster. Because the outlet ports converge inside the head at the center flange, the coolant heats up faster during cold starts. However, during normal operation, the exhaust stream cools more quickly, which allows the engines to operate at an optimal fuel-air ratio of lambda = 1. As a result, emissions and fuel consumption are reduced.
Kind of technologically perfect, but …

Not every engine fits … every car

Unfortunately, as a result of this environmental campaign for green standards, three-cylinder engines have become the cure for all diseases. In countries with a higher environmental culture (where car scrap that has ceased its life in countries of civilization is brought in with open arms without control), there are emission standards and new environmental models are being promoted more than versions with higher CO2 emissions. However, it is often just “paperwork”.
Having the opportunity to test many cars with three-cylinder engines such as: Citigo, Skoda Rapid, Peugeot 208, Opel Corsa, Citroen C3 and C3 Aircross, three-cylinder engines are really a great choice (especially the turbine version). Not only are cars really fuel efficient when you gently press the gas pedal, but when you drive vigorously, you can feel the benefits of turbocharging and “push” when accelerating. In addition, these models are usually considered the versions used in the city.

The use of a small three-cylinder engine in larger cars is a complete misunderstanding. When tested on Skoda Octavia 1.0 with 115 hp. with a DSG gearbox, driving is not an economical smooth ride, but an energetic start at every traffic light. This is due to the low torque before turbocharging. As a result, when driving, we add gas to start a heavy, large car and … nothing. So we add more gas, the turbine starts running, and … we get a dose of torque to the wheels that forces us to loosen our grip. Characteristically, in the city the version with this engine was no more economical than other models, but on the road it was less energetic, less maneuverable and … – just as overly stressed – more economical.

This proposal of “small ecological engines”, as the embodiment of the government’s ecological aspirations, has become a real disaster. How to explain that Skoda Octavia uses petrol engines 1.0 115K (3 – cyl.), 1.5 150KM and 2.0 190 KM (245 RS is associated with a significant reconstruction of units), and in Opel Astra 1.0 105 KM (3 – cyl.), 1.4 125 KM, 14 150 KM and 1.6 200 KM, and in Peugeot 3008 SUVs engines 1.2 130 KM (3-cylinder) and 1.6 180 KM? This huge spread in engine offerings is a result of the desire for low CO2 emissions and a super cheap deal on the market due to discounts on the base version. It is characteristic that versions with the weakest 3-cylinder engines are usually only available in the cheapest versions.

Customer Reviews

At the moment, models with modern three-cylinder engines have been on the market for a short time, here are some reviews:

  • Citroen C3 1.2 82 HP – “Three cylinders can be heard, but personally it does not bother me. Overclocking to 90/100 is normal and more than enough. After all, there are only 82 horses, so don’t expect miracles. The engine is small, simple, without a compressor, I hope it will last a long time. “
  • VW Polo 1.0 75 HP – “Economical engine, growls only at cold start. In a busy city, on the highway 140-150 km / h, there are no problems without howling. “
  • Skoda Octavia 1.0 115 KM – “The car burns an insignificant amount of fuel on the road, as opposed to driving in the city, the result is very disappointing.”
  • Skoda Octavia 1.0 115hp – “Everything is going well and the power is actually quite low. Mostly I drive alone, but when I was traveling with my family (5 people) and I started to feel a lack of power above 160 km / h. “
  • Peugeot 3008 1.2 130 KM – “And the quintessence is 1.2 Pure tech, the automatic engine fails and the average fuel consumption in the urban cycle is 11 to 12 liters in normal use. On the road, at a speed of 90 km / h, consumption can be reduced to 7.5 liters. Relatively dynamic with one person in the car. “
  • Peugeot 3008 1.2 130 KM – “Engine: If not for the combustion, the dynamics of such a small engine were very satisfying.”


Since cars with three-cylinder engines must be the answer to environmental demands to reduce emissions, it is worth remembering the facts that were announced at the conference of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Then it was reported that when 1 liter of gasoline is burned, 2370 g of CO is formed, which means that cars are more environmentally friendly when they consume less fuel. In practice, in the city, these will be hybrids, and on the roads, cars with more powerful engines, moving with a minimum load (for example, the Mazda 3 has only 1.5 engines with 100 hp and a two-liter engine with 120 hp). So the three-cylinder versions are just “paperwork” that must meet the requirements, but in reality the expectations of the legislator enforcing the regulation and ecology, fuel consumption and driving comfort are very different.
It is also worth remembering that the automotive industry is not the biggest destroyer of nature. According to accurate calculations by the IPCC, the sources of CO emissions in the world are as follows:

  • energy – 25.9%,
  • industry – 19.4%,
  • forestry – 17.4%,
  • agriculture – 13.5%,
  • transport – 13.1%,
  • households – 7.9%,
  • sewerage – 2.8%.

It should be noted that transport 13.1% is made up of several factors:
passenger cars (6.0%),
railways, aviation and shipping (3.6%),
trucks (3.5%).
Thus, cars are not the largest source of environmental pollution in the world, and the introduction of small engines will not eliminate the problem of emissions. Yes, in the case of small cars that drive mainly in the city, some savings are possible, but the three-cylinder engine in a large family model is a misunderstanding.

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