The Volkswagen Group already offers direct injection petrol engines in the Volkswagen Polo, Audi A2 and A4, and will offer the same technology in the new Audi A3 later this year.
Mitsubishi developed direct injection petrol technology for the Carisma and its sister cars, the Volvo S40 and V40, and most recently Vauxhall introduced a direct injection petrol option in its new Signum model.
Ford has now joined the fray and while the Volkswagen Group suggests that the full benefits of its FSI engines will not be felt until sulphur-free fuel becomes more widely available, the Blue Oval says its engines can offer advantages in real-world driving on conventional low-sulphur unleaded petrol.
The SCi engine is currently available as a 128bhp 1.8-litre unit and will be offered on high-specification Mondeos (Ghia and Ghia X), slotting between the 123bhp 1.8-litre and 143bhp 2.0-litre models.
CO2 emissions for the new unit are 173g/km, compared to 187g/km for the standard 1.8-litre in Zetec trim and 192g/km for a 2.0-litre Ghia.
Ford says that if its experiment is successful, then SCi will be introduced in other models. For example, the new Focus C-MAX has been engineered to accept the engine and additional SCi units could be developed.
Although you pay about £500 more for the SCi unit, it will cost less in the long run because test figures show a 9% improvement in fuel economy over a standard 1.8-litre engine, according to Andrew Fraser, powertrain manager for SCi.
He said: 'If a driver covers 12,000 miles a year, the fuel savings from SCi would pay for themselves at between 12 and 18 months compared with a conventional 1.8-litre engine.
'However, most Mondeo drivers cover significantly more than 12,000 miles a year so the technology will pay for itself much sooner.'
Developed in conjunction with Bosch, the injection system is similar to a diesel common rail unit where fuel is sprayed directly into the combustion chamber at very high pressure to help efficient mixing of fuel and air, which improves economy.
Meanwhile, a complex exhaust catalyst system ensures compliance with the latest emissions requirements with a nitrous oxide (NOx) trap. Normally, direct injection petrol engines operate at their most fuel efficient (stratified) mode under light loads. However, SCi has been designed to remain in stratified mode for longer, so drivers save fuel for a larger proportion of the time.
Fraser added that Ford's intention from the outset was for the SCi engine to comply with Euro IV emission requirements and run on standard 95 octane fuel. Engineers also worked on reducing noise intrusion into the cabin, with unique engine mounts and extra insulation.
The SCi arrives in the Mondeo at the same time as a minor facelift, with much of the car's exterior unchanged but interior enhancements aimed at improving the perceived quality of the car.
Entry-level LX models now have cruise control, a trip computer and interior scan alarm as standard, while Zetec and Zetec S models also gain automatic climate control and sports suspension.
Ghia models have new alloy wheels, power-folding door mirrors, automatic headlamps and windscreen wipers, electrically-adjustable passenger seat and a Sony six-CD stereo, while Ghia X models add real wood and leather or Alcantara trim. The ST220 models gain a combination of the extra equipment offered on Zetec S and Ghia models while heated rear seats and climate front seats (offering either heat or cooling modes) are offered as options.
Behind the wheel
THE current Mondeo caused a stir when it was launched in 2000, offering a combination of ride comfort and handling unrivalled in its class.
Despite the introduction of other cars since then, the Mondeo can still claim to offer the best compromise of ride and handling, and with the exception of sports suspension on Zetec, Zetec S and ST220 models, this has been left unchanged.
The car is as satisfying to drive as ever and offers a roomy and comfortable interior with plenty of luggage space. Exterior alterations are limited to new wheel designs, chrome around the radiator grille and a redesigned front bumper.
Inside the plastic grain combination on the top of the slush-moulded dashboard has been changed and the lower part of the dashboard, including the glovebox door, is now the same colour as the panels on the doors.
The centre dashboard panel now accommodates a new Sony audio system, which looks far cleaner and neater than previous Ford stereos, while the satellite navigation option includes a new touch-screen wide display.
Our 1.8 SCi Ghia X test car also included optional climate front seats, which offer hot and cold settings – a first-in-class feature for Ford. The SCi also comes with a six-speed manual transmission, as found on V6 and TDCi models.
The engine has been designed to offer a refined and harmonious sound at lower revs, alternating with a more sporty note when driven harder. It seems to work well, as the new 1.8-litre is whisper quiet when idle but has a crisp rasp above about 4,000rpm. The engine is also supremely flexible. It keeps going without complaint in high gears at low revs, but also has more than sufficient punch when stealing a low gear to overtake slow traffic.
The Mondeo is still a great car for the company driver. It is enjoyable to drive and roomy. SCi technology gives it an added dimension and if the fuel economy benefits are as good as Ford claims, then it might offer company car drivers an excuse for staying out of diesels for a while longer.
However, as the new engine is currently only offered in Ghia and Ghia X models, the number of drivers able to benefit is restricted for now.
Model: Mondeo 1.8 Sci
Engine (cc): 1,798
Max power (bhp/rpm): 128/6,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 129/4,250
Max speed (mph): 128
0-62mph (sec): 10.5
Fuel consumption (mpg): 39.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 173
Transmission: 6-sp man
Service interval (miles): 12,500
On sale: Now
Prices: From £17,500 (Ghia)