After a 20-year absence, the three-cylinder engine is returning to General Motors’ North American vehicles.
The last time GM sold a vehicle in the United States with a three-cylinder was in 2000: The Chevrolet Metro was equipped with a 1.0-litre nonturbo engine rated at 55 hp. In comparison, the automaker’s modern-day 1.3-litre is rated at 155 hp.
GM has not disclosed the 1.2-litre’s North American power specs, but in vehicles sold overseas, it is rated at 137 hp.
The Encore GX arrives in the first quarter of 2020, while the Trailblazer is scheduled to go on sale in spring as a 2021 model.
Both aluminum engines are built on a common architecture, weigh just over 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and save around 40 pounds (18 kilograms) compared with a four-cylinder.
Fuel economy figures for the Encore GX and Trailblazer have not been released, but they are likely to be higher than the 25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined ratings — that’s 9.4 litres per 100 kilolmetres in the city in Canada, 7.8 l/100km highway and 8.7 l/100km combined — of the 2020 Buick Encore powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder.
The three-cylinder engines, though new to the United States have been in production since 2014 and were developed in Europe and Asia by GM and some of its joint-venture partners.
The engine family is used in several vehicles made by SAIC, which markets vehicles under the MG and Roewe brands. SAIC builds its own versions of the engines. GM will make the engines at its Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant, said spokesman Kevin Kelly.
The 1.2-litre is one of the smallest-displacement engines ever offered by GM in North America. Besides the 1.0-litre Metro engine, the only other smaller engine was a 1.1-litre four-cylinder available in the Opel GT sport coupe in the late 1960s.