I had an uncle who for decades was a die-hard Ford fan. To be more accurate, a Ford Fiesta fan.

Uncle Tom clearly wasn’t alone. Since the car first arrived in 1976, more than 4.5 million have taken to the roads in Britain, with a million British drivers ordering new Fiestas since 2008 alone.

Small wonder then that for year after year it has been Britain’s favourite car.

No pressure then on the new model that aims to keep the name at the top of the sales charts.

With competition white-hot in this segment of the car market, Ford had no choice but to up its game and the changes for 2017 are quick to see and feel.

Upgrades have been made to the quality of the roomier cabin, which now has a much more premium feel about it.

But it is technology that is leading the way in Ford’s bid to continue attracting buyers.

Cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors are some of the devices being fitted to the car to enable features such as pedestrian detection, meaning that the driver is warned of people who are in or near the road ahead – even in the dark – automatic perpendicular parking, blind spot alert and automatic high beam.

Built in Cologne, Germany, prices start from £12,715, with the Titanium model driven here having a price tag of £18,525 before optional extras are added.

For that you get a smartly styled, five-door hatchback powered by a punchy, 120 horsepower, 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine with a claimed combined fuel consumption nudging the 90mpg mark. I managed about 60mpg.

Handling is sharp and the little car is nimble and easy to manage on country roads, though the ride on poor surfaces on the £350 optional 17-inch alloy wheels can be a little harsh – the standard 16-inch wheels might work better.

Specification, as you would expect, is high with a heated windscreen, three-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and an eight-inch touchscreen which links to both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Extra cost options on the test car, including a panoramic roof, an automatic parking pack with front and rear sensors and camera and a fancy ten-speaker Bose audio system, bump up the price by another £2,500.

Innovative concealed door edge protectors, which are an £85 option, spring quickly in to place when the doors are opened to protect both the doors, and those of cars parked alongside from dings and scrapes.

Despite its compact size, the Fiesta has been given a top safety rating, being awarded the maximum five-star safety rating by independent crash test authority Euro NCAP. It also commended the car’s technologies including an adjustable speed limiter and lane keeping aid, as well as seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters – offered for the first time for rear-seat in addition to front-seat occupants; and front-seat airbag coverage for side, head, chest and pelvis.

The line-up includes the Fiesta Titanium driven here, the performance-inspired ST-Line, the upmarket Vignale, and Zetec. The Fiesta Active crossover – the first in a new line-up of Active vehicles to be rolled out across the Ford range in years to come – and the new 200 horsepower Fiesta ST will also go on sale next year.

Uncle Tom is not with us any more but, if he was, the chances are that he would still be driving, even more happily, behind the wheel of a Fiesta.

Auto facts

Model: Ford Fiesta Titanium 1.5 TDCI

Price: £21,030 as tested

Insurance group: 14E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 88.3mpg

Top speed: 121mph

Length: 404cm/159in

Width: 173.5cm/68.3in

Luggage capacity: 10.3 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.2 gallons/42 litres

CO2 emissions: 89g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles