Turning the ignition key in a car with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine you don’t normally have high expectations of performance – or high levels of refinement for that matter.

Sensible, frugal motoring yes but with that distinctive three-cylinder sound always in the background.

But with the new Vauxhall Corsa Excite all preconceived ideas go out of the window in a small car which thinks big .

With 115 bhp this turbo charged engine is not only smooth and refined but packs a tidy punch when you put your right foot down hard on the accelerator.

It means 62mph comes up in a very respectable 10.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 121mph. Not bad for such a diminutive engine which weighs in at just 106kg.

The secret is the fitting of a balancer shaft on the engine which makes it especially smooth and resonance-free with dramatically reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

The end result is you no longer have to buy a car with a big engine to guarantee smooth, quick motoring. And by buying small you get a car which over a week’s motoring gave me an average of 56 miles per gallon – not to mention some very lively performance.

The latest, fourth generation, Corsa bears a very strong resemblance to its predecessor yet all its body panels are new. The changes have been subtle but ensure that the new version of this best-selling car has a far more muscular appearance and with the tapering lines of the three-door making it more coupe-like than before.

Vauxhall Corsa Excite
Vauxhall Corsa Excite

And while the size of the new Corsa’s cabin is more or less identical, everything in it is new.

Dominating the dashboard is the seven inch touchscreen for the IntelliLink communications system which has been copied from the Vauxhall Adam.

The system is compatible with both Apple and Android telephones and incorporates additional features such as voice command, Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free.

Opt for the Excite specification and you get a car which is very, very well equipped with features normally found on more luxurious cars, such as a heated windscreen, heated seats and even a heated steering wheel – not to mention air conditioning and hill start assist.

And when it comes to parking you simply push a dashboard button to activate the city parking system, which means the speed-sensitive power assisted steering becomes super light for getting into those difficult bays.

I did find one or two odd quirks on the car, including no vanity mirror on the passenger’s side but one on the driver’s side. Perhaps my test car was originally destined for the Continent. But that minor distraction apart, the new 1.0-litre Corsa is now certainly among my favourite small cars currently on the market.

Fast Facts

Model: Vauxhall Corsa Excite

Price: £14,820

Mechanical: 3 cyl, 999cc 115 bhp petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox.

Max speed: 121 mph

0-62mph: 10.3 secs

Combined mpg: 57.6

Insurance group: 12E

CO2 emissions: 115 g/km

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles