Powershift makes Fiesta an automatic choice

Buying a small car with an automatic transmission has long been the desire of many drivers - but frequently the cars themselves have been less than desirable.

Ford's 1.0 litre EcoBoost three cylinder petrol engine brought fresh vigour to the car market and now there's added vim with what must be the cleanest-changing automated gearbox on a small car with the arrival of the Powershift gearbox in the Fiesta.

It adds to the price of the basic car but it's money well spent, far better than joining the debate of petrol versus diesel. We normally drive a Ford S-MAX with a Powershift box and the Fiesta Powershift feels so grown up in its approach that it's almost like condensed S-MAX when you get in.

Two of the big drawbacks of small autos in the past have been the power-sapping use of torque converter transmissions and the snappy rather than smooth changes between ratios.

The Fiesta Powershift solves both these conundrums that have dogged product engineers. The EcoBoost engine may only have three cylinders and a 1.0 litre capacity but it generates 99 bhp which means it's not short on energy.

A boost to its efficiency is the speed with which it warms up, probably as fast as any diesel engine. Exhaust catalysts need heat to make them work and a constant snag with petrol cars used on short trips is that the catalytic converter doesn't get hot enough to do its job.

Driving the Fiesta EcoBoost Powershift is great fun, whether in town or on longer trips. Because the Powershift system uses a six speed manual box with computerised electronic changes there is no clutch pedal to worry about and changes are both far faster and much smoother than any driver can achieve for themselves. Drive from the engine is through a conventional clutch so there's none of the power-sapping that comes from a torque converter auto.

It makes the Powershift Fiesta very responsive to drive, especially as the best bits of a conventional auto, such as kickdown for fast overtaking, remain. The car surges ahead as soon as you need it so overtaking opportunities are always easy to exploit.

Normal driving sees the EcoBoost Powershift giving around 42 mpg, which matches its urban driving figure. Bear in mind that it uses petrol rather than more expensive diesel and running costs become even more appealing.

Even in Zetec form, the Fiesta feels well equipped but many owners actually opt for even higher spec cars so Powershift is available on Zetec, Titanium, and Titanium X Fiesta EcoBoost. Zetec trim brings a good selection of equipment and with is split folding rear seat, featuring two ISOfix mounting points for child seats it makes a great family choice.

The engine itself has turned into something of a star for Ford. It has been named International Engine of the Year for the third year in succession, a unique achievement, and Ford says 20 per cent of all the cars it supplies in Europe now use this engine, which was developed at its Dunton R and D facility in Essex.

The Fiesta is a delight to drive thanks to Ford's dedication to finding the right blend of handling and ride characteristics so it's not difficult to see why the Fiesta is, and has been for some time, the best selling car in the UK. There are fantastic prices on Motability, too.

Maurice and Annette Hardy 

Car: Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.0 EcoBoost 100 Powershift

Does it fit your ego... 0-62 mph: 11.2 secs Top speed: 112 mph Bhp: 99 @ 6000 rpm Torque: 125 lb ft @ 4100 rpm

...and your wallet... Price: £15,795 Combined: 57.7 mpg CO2 emissions: 114 g/km Insurance Group: 11

Best bits: so effortless to drive.