When fellow Drivesouth writer Richard Bosselman served up a rave review for the new 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta Ecoboost after driving the car in Thailand last year, I had my doubts.
However, having now spent the best part of a week driving the car in and around Dunedin, I can confirm that the diminutive Ford - powered by an engine so compact its cast-iron block can sit on a piece of A4 paper - makes an impression out of proportion to its size.
To recap, the Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost is powered by a state-of-the-art three-cylinder engine. Thanks to a small but incredibly high-revving turbocharger, the lack of power one might expect from such an engine is fully overcome, to the extent that it delivers a solid 92kW of power and - in a band from 1400-4500rpm - a decent 170Nm of torque.
The imbalance inherent in a three-cylinder configuration is apparent in the car's distinctive warbling engine note, but is balanced in a mechanical sense by a clever flywheel system.
The cheapest, most economical Fiesta 1.0 is the $27,340 manual, but the version served up by Ford for appraisal was the $28,840 six-speed Powershift double-clutch automatic that is easily the more popular customer choice.
To be frank, I expected this package to struggle a little in a week that included plenty of time traversing Dunedin's steeper streets, but the 1.0 Ecoboost takes the daily motoring grind with commendable aplomb and with a miserly appetite for fuel that owners will surely appreciate.
The engine is admirable in its own right, but its relationship with the transmission is the icing on the cake as far as round-town motoring goes. Changes are smooth and slick and, most importantly, they are timed to maintain momentum and keep the motor humming away in its sweet spot, even if that means venturing quite high into the rev range.
The dual-clutch auto isn't quite so assured on the open road, with some hesitation apparent when there's a need to grab a lower gear quickly to execute a snappy pass. Manual override is possible, for sure, but only via a fiddly rocker button on the side of the gear lever.
Otherwise the Powershift-equipped 1.0 Ecoboost is as good out of town as it is within the city limits. Mechanical refinement is good when cruising and, like every other member of the Fiesta family, it handles serious twists and turns with a high degree of dynamic flourish.
Equipment levels should not disappoint either, with Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a 4.2-inch colour centre display screen, trip computer, air-conditioning and partial-leather seat trims all included.
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