When first perusing the press release for the facelifted VW Golf late last year, the first thing we noticed wasn’t the GTI’s power boost, nor the autonomous-ish tech. No, it was the new 1.5-litre TSI ‘Evo’ engine.
It’s a replacement for the old 1.4, so it represents something of an oddity in today’s downsize crazy car industry: an upsized engine. And it’s something we can expect a lot more of. When we queried the increase in capacity with VW chairman Dr. Herbert Diess at the refreshed Golf’s launch this week, he confidently declared that: “The trend of downsizing is over.” The reason is simple, with Dr. Diess adding: “Emissions tend to go up as engines get smaller.”
While it’s significant for a major industry figure for Diess to admit this, it’s not a surprise. It’s clear from real-world economy figures that while downsizing works jolly nicely on paper thanks to the highly unrealistic NEDC testing cycle, smaller turbo engines just don’t deliver anything like MPG and emissions figures they’re supposed to.
Meanwhile, Mazda is probably feeling quite smug it didn’t bother with any of this downsizing nonsense, sticking with comparatively large naturally-aspirated engines that achieve decent real-world fuel economy.
All this follows a report in Reuters last October, citing industry sources that indicated VW and other manufacturers are planning to scrap or increase the capacity of some of their smallest engines. The same report also mentioned Renault’s 0.9-litre H4Bt actually injects excess amounts of petrol to stop it overheating, for example, which is so stupidly wasteful it’s almost funny.
In the case of VW, what’s interesting is that while Dr. Diess concedes “displacements will go up,” he reckons the firm’s dinky 1.0-litre turbo three-pot is safe for now. “We will offer a three-cylinder 1.0-litre which is a very competent engine, but we don’t see any engines below that anymore,” he said.
The world of small engines is set to get quite interesting over the next few years.