This is a test of three of the most appealing superminis available today: the established Ford Fiesta and two relative newcomers, the VW Polo and Citroen C3.
Today's supermini buyer expects of their purchase roughly what a buyer 20 years ago could demand of a small executive saloon: comfort, refinement, safety, ease of use, space for four adults and some fun.
If you needed more proof that times have changed, here's another shocker: the cheapest car in this test is the Volkswagen Polo. Given that its rivals, the new Citroen C3 and the Ford Fiesta, are traditionally bought for value as much as anything else, it shows how much the market has changed.
Pre-haggling, the £13,030 VW Polo will set you back £160 less than the C3 and a staggering £1367 less than the Fiesta.
All of the cars in question have naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engines mated to five-speed manual 'boxes, all have similar mid-range standard spec and equipment, and all of them have MacPherson strut suspension at the front and torsion beam at the rear.
The Fiesta is the slowest of the three, producing 95bhp and 94lb ft of torque. It has a claimed 0-60mph time of 12.2sec, with the VW Polo and Citroen C3 posting 11.9sec and 10.6sec respectively.
And yet, straightline performance or not it is no surprise that the slowest car here is also the most fun. The Fiesta's engine buzzes on the motorway, but the ride always remains perfectly damped and absorbent. Its electrically assisted steering is perfectly judged, whether you're changing lanes on the motorway or parking at the supermarket, and the gearbox has none of the sloppy, rubbery feel that's all too evident in the C3.
That the C3 is the least emotive of the three to drive is no surprise, but that's no bad thing. In fact, this solidifies the C3's ability to offer a relaxing environment in which to travel, rather than an exciting one.
The ride quality is particularly excellent at low speeds around town. Pick up speed and some slight body-shimmering and less well restrained body roll is the compromise you make for that added urban comfort.
Refinement also suffers at higher speeds, when wind noise becomes particularly intrusive.
The new Polo is nothing more or less than perfectly suited to its class. On the motorway it's the most refined car here, and it is comfortable in every circumstance. It's also the only car here with ESP and disc brakes all round as standard, and it is the best value by some margin.
The Polo attracts just one significant complaint, and that's the engine's shortage of mid-range pulling power. Of the three, it is by far the most prone to almost total lack of response when you put your foot down at motorway speeds.
The winner? Had the C3 and Polo arrived a year ago, when the Ford was more reasonably priced, there's no doubt the Blue Oval would have taken victory. But those rises have put this particular Fiesta out of its depth, and have made the effortlessly mature and not unenjoyable Polo seem like outstanding value.
The Citroen? It comes in last, its roomy, airy cabin let down by uncomfortable seats, inconsistent steering and the sense that it could offer more driver reward with with no impact on its benchmark around-town comfort.