12+ Best And Most Reliable 3 Cylinder Engine Ever Made

3 cylinder engines are associated with noise, low running, poor performance and most importantly vibration. When the first downsizing technology of its kind saw the light of day, there was direct speculation about their supposedly short life span.

However, the fact has turned out to be positive – many manufacturers have managed to create units with an odd number of cylinders, which eventually start to go fast, burn a little and withstand high mileage.

We are talking mainly about Ford (1.0 EcoBoost), but also about PSA (1.2 VTi / Puretech) and Volkswagen (1.0 MPI / TSI).

Although the structure is more complicated than that of the older engine (use of a turbocharger, an improved element responsible for vibration damping), the failure rate has even decreased, not to mention the work culture and parameters.

It should be noted, however, that modern 3 cylinder engines have not yet reached such high mileage that it can be said that they are error free. Time will tell what their “barriers” to trouble-free operation are.

List Of 12 Most Reliable And Best 3 Cylinder Engine

  1. 1.0 CRDi Engine (Hyundai / Kia)
  2. 0.9 TCe Engine (Renault)
  3. 1.2 VTi / Puretech Engine (PSA)
  4. 0.6-1.0 Engine (Smart)
  5. 1.0 MPI / TSI Engine (VW group)
  6. 1.0 Ecotec Engine (Opel)
  7. 1.5 TwinPower Turbo Engine (BMW)
  8. 1.0 Kappa Engine (Hyundai/Kia)
  9. 1.2 Engine (Nissan)
  10. 1.0 EcoBoost Engine (Ford)
  11. 1.2 / 1.4 TDI Engine (VW group)
  12. 1.0 VVT-i Engine (Toyota)

1. 1.0 CRDi (Hyundai / Kia)

A small 3 cylinder diesel with Korean pedigree has a maintenance-free chain-driven valve train and a variable geometry turbocharger (75 HP version), thanks to which the car responds decently to the addition of gas.

Unfortunately, it is not a fault-free component, just like the EGR valve. We advise you to carefully examine the history of Hyundai and Kia with these engines – they have often been used in fleets and are already worn out.

Installed on:

  • Hyundai i10 I / II
  • Hyundai i20 I / II
  • Kia Picanto
  • Kia Rio III

2. 0.9 TCe (Renault)

The modern engine has a capacity of only 898 cm³ and despite its good power (90 HP), driving is not pleasant: above all, it lacks torque below 1700 rpm, which has a negative impact on flexibility.

Good words cannot be said about gearboxes either – they have unstable bearings and they do not sin with precision. In terms of durability, this 3 cylinder engines perform well even in larger models and can be economical (6 l / 100 km in city driving).

Installed on:

  • Dacia Sandero II
  • Dacia Logan II
  • Nissan Micra K14
  • Renault Clio IV
  • Renault Captur
  • Renault Twingo III
  • Smart Fortwo III
  • Smart Forfour II

3. 1.2 VTi / Puretech (PSA)

The basic version of this 1.2 VTi / Puretech (PSA) engine (82 HP and no supercharger) was used in city cars of the PSA concern, while the supercharged version with a power of 110/130 HP – also in compact cars and minivans.

The engine has received good reviews in many competitions and is considered one of the best 3 cylinder engines.

It does not irritate with excessive clatter, it accelerates surprisingly even in the base version and is satisfied with small amounts of fuel. Reported faults relate to turbochargers, spark plugs or electronic errors.

Installed on:

  • Citroen C1 II
  • Citroen C3 III
  • Citroen C4
  • Citroen C3 Aircross
  • Citroen C4 Cactus
  • Citroen C-Elysee
  • Citroen C4 Picasso
  • Citroen DS 4
  • Peugeot 108
  • Peugeot 208
  • Peugeot 301
  • Peugeot 308 II
  • Peugeot 2008
  • Peugeot 3008 I / II
  • Peugeot 5008 II
  • Opel Crossland X
  • Opel Grandland X

4. 0.6-1.0 (Smart)

In the first generation of Smart Fortwo, 0.6 / 0.7 units (with or without turbo) and a tiny 0.8 CDI diesel were installed – it successfully withstands mileage over 200,000 km and it does not concern problems with overheating of the aforementioned gasoline engines (they require renovation already at 120,000 km).

The Smart II has improved 3 cylinder engines with a capacity of 999 cm³, 61/71 HP without supercharging and 84, 98 and 102 HP with turbo. Faults related to the refrigeration system or the EGR valve are most frequently reported.

Installed on:

  • Smart I
  • Smart II

5. 1.0 MPI / TSI (VW group)

The uncharged version has 60/75 HP and is characterized by a really economical character (in the smallest cars it is possible to achieve fuel consumption of approx. 5 l / 100 km).

Unfortunately, it disappoints with the work culture and durability of the 5-speed gearboxes connected to them: they were made of too weak materials and sometimes repairs were already carried out under warranty.

The 3 cylinder TSI variant debuted relatively recently, and cars with these engines are approaching mileage of 100,000 km – this is not enough to determine their failure rate. There are no reports of oil consumption yet.

Installed on:

  • Audi A1
  • Audi A3 III
  • Audi Q2
  • Seat Mii
  • Seat Ibiza IV / V
  • Seat Toledo
  • Seat Arona
  • Seat Ateca
  • Skoda Citigo
  • Skoda Fabia III
  • Skoda Rapid
  • Skoda Octavia III
  • Skoda Karoq
  • Volkswagen Up !
  • Volkswagen Polo V / VI
  • Volkswagen T-Roc
  • Volkswagen Golf VII

6. 1.0 Ecotec (Opel)

Reluctantly chosen engine due to the fact that it had all the disadvantages of 3 cylinder engine: it was noisy, not very dynamic and, in addition, it was an emergency (cases of pulling out or even breaking the timing chain). Customers more eagerly reached for lively and more economical 1.2.

Installed on:

  • Opel Agila
  • Opel Corsa C / D
  • Suzuki Wagon R +

7. 1.5 TwinPower Turbo (BMW)

The engine is available in gasoline (B38) and diesel (B37) variants and is used in the smallest BMW and Mini models.

It has direct fuel injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger. In the B38 units from the beginning of production, a service action was carried out in which defective bushings or even the entire engine were replaced.

Users increasingly emphasize that 3 cylinder engines are starting to consume oil. In B37 diesels, you have to be prepared for possible failures of the exhaust gas recirculation system.

Installed on:

  • BMW Series 1
  • BMW Series 2
  • BMW Series 3
  • BMW i8
  • BMW X1
  • BMW X2 Series
  • Mini Clubman F54
  • Mini Cooper F56
  • Mini Countryman F60

8. 1.0 Kappa (Hyundai/Kia)

The 3 cylinder engine from the Kappa II family received a variable valve timing system and went to the smallest models of Kii and Hyundai. It is only 69 HP, but it has been muted enough and vibration reduced. Thanks to the use of chain timing, the 3 cylinder engine is practically maintenance-free.

Installed on:

  • Hyundai i10 II
  • Kia Picanto II / III

9. 1.2 (Nissan)

The only engine in the Micra K13 is called HR12 and was available in two versions: naturally aspirated indirect injection (80 hp, 110 Nm) and DIG-S with direct injection and compressor (98 hp, 142 Nm).

The 3 cylinder engine is not special, but it does not cause problems. It is worth paying attention to the condition of the clutch and CVT box, which was combined only with a more powerful variety.

Installed on:

  • Nissan Micra K13
  • Nissan Note II

10. 1.0 EcoBoost (Ford)

It appeared in Ford cars in 2012 and delighted with the ratio of performance to fuel consumption, and with time also the level of reliability: many 1.0 ecoboost engine already have 200,000 behind them km and they do not think to break.

Initially, the manufacturer had a false start and installed the coolant pipes susceptible to cracking: he improved them already in 2013, and carried out a service action for already produced cars. More powerful 125 HP versions successfully power even the C-Max and Mondeo.

Installed on:

  • Ford Fiesta VI
  • Ford Focus III
  • Ford B-Max
  • Ford C-Max II
  • Ford EcoSport
  • Ford Mondeo V

11. 1.2 / 1.4 TDI (VW group)

The 1.4 TDI 3 cylinder engines were created by cutting off one cylinder from the “indestructible” 1.9 TDI. It did not have a positive effect on his work culture or durability.

It must be admitted, however, that it is a very economical and quite lively engine, although with a noticeable turbo-lag.

The 1.4 TDI does not have a dual-mass flywheel, but the more powerful versions (80 and 90 HP) received a turbo with variable geometry, which over time began to cause expensive problems (similar to unit injectors).

However, this is nothing compared to the fact that play on the crankshaft appears at high mileage. In 2014, a new generation of the 1.4 TDI common rail engine was introduced, this time as a result of the 1.6 TDI engine being deprived of one cylinder.

The 1.2 TDI 3 cylinder, on the other hand, is a unit focused on the lowest possible fuel consumption. This especially applies to engines with unit injectors mounted, among others, in the Volkswagen Lupo 3L.

Due to the complex construction of not only engines, but also entire cars, there may be problems with collecting the necessary spare parts. It cannot be confused with the 1.2 TDI CR, installed since 2009 in the company’s city cars.

Installed on:

  • Audi A2
  • Seat Arosa
  • Seat Ibiza III / IV
  • Seat Cordoba II
  • Skoda Fabia I / II / III
  • Skoda Roomster
  • Volkswagen Lupo
  • Volkswagen Fox
  • Volkswagen Polo IV / V

12. 1.2 HTP (VW group)

This 3 cylinder engine cannot be recommended due to its meager performance, not the lowest fuel consumption compared to the 1.4 16V and a whole avalanche of failures that affect it.

After exceeding 200,000 km the timing chain stretches and the oil consumption increases. In addition, there are known cases of burnout of valve seats and deterioration of compression (also in cars without LPG).

Installed on:

  • Seat Ibiza III / IV
  • Seat Cordoba II
  • Skoda Fabia I / II
  • Skoda Roomster
  • Volkswagen Polo IV / V

13. 1.0 VVT-i (Toyota)

While it rattles, vibrates and does not provide sporty performance, it is considered one of the most successful 3 cylinder engines without supercharger.

It has a durable timing chain, and in fact, the only problem is leaks from the area of ​​the coolant pump (at high mileage).

The gearboxes mounted with this engine look a bit worse: manual ones are accompanied by grinding, automatic ones work slowly and prematurely wear out clutch plates and actuators.

Installed on:

  • Citroen C1
  • Peugeot 107
  • Peugeot 108
  • Toyota Aygo
  • Toyota iQ
  • Toyota Yaris II / III


In reality, it is difficult to find a car with an odd number of cylinders. In the case of newer cars, customers initially approached small units in downsizing technology with reserves, but opted for a simpler (and weaker) engine, which is why many 3 cylinder cars were imported.

Another thing is, when the manufacturer has focused its range on engines with an odd number of cylinders (aspirated or turbo) some time ago – this is what PSA did a few years ago.

That is an overview of the 13 most popular 3 cylinder engines. We present brief specifications, common faults and the model of the car in which they are installed.

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1 thought on “12+ Best And Most Reliable 3 Cylinder Engine Ever Made”

  1. And where better a 1.1 / 1.4 petrol engine. In smaller cars, it’s a reliable engine. However, I have a 2.2 HDi, very durable, 300,000 km and I have no problem with it.


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