With many expecting driverless sooner rather than later, the latest SYNC-3 reveals a challenge still exists, says Paul Myles.

Popularity in sales doesn’t come by accident and driving the latest generation of Ford’s superb little Fiesta compact hatchback it’s easy to see why the car remains top of the European sales charts.

It’s formula, one that has been around for decades, of lightweight, sprightly handling and performance with cute good looks remains rock solid with the latest little car that brings the same smile to a driver’s face as the first model did way back in 1976.

What is now different to the car’s formula of success is the truly impressive technology suite that comes with it right from the entry level Style model chiming in at just £12,715 which still boasts lane assist and speed limiter as standard.

Naturally, with this test being aimed the auto tech audience with enjoy at TU-Automotive, we opted for the Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost Zetect B&O three door 100PS model because the punch power we are interested lives more within the car’s tech suite than under the bonnet. That said, even the 100PS three-cylinder EcoBoost is sprightly enough to get the car to 62mph in 10.5secs and cruise all day at very high motorway speeds in the top of six gears to return around 60mpg in real-world driving.

The big noise here starts with the Bang & Olufsen which boasts a whopping 360-degress 675-watt six speaker system that can bring any nightclub vibe right into the cabin. This middle-market model, starting at £15.745, also plays hosts to some of the most advanced ADAS on the market today. Aptly dubbed by Ford as its NCAP pack, the ADAS includes Including lane-keeping alert and lane-keeping aid, speed limiter, rear seatbelt minder, rear centre headrest and auto-headlamps. There’s also the more traditional electronic stability programme and will start that, nonetheless, are unsung heroes of any safety package and can lay claim to preventing many road accidents.

The lane keeping systems, too, are far from intrusive as I have found on some more expensive cars and only kick in when the driver really does need a telling off. While many drivers may struggle to get excited about these safety features, they’re best influence lies in letting the driver concentrate on what is a remarkably good drive for such a small car. Here the thanks goes to an old-school traditional carmaker who understands the importance of not skimping on quality suspension that not only aids control, boosts safety and driver pleasure too.

Back on the tech, connectivity comes via Ford’s latest SYNC-3 package and it’s a truly impressive system. Hooking up mobile devices through Bluetooth won’t have you rummaging through the user’s manual and reconnections are just about seamless. It even hooked up and allowed remote media access and selection on the 6.5-inch colour touchscreen to my Balckberry Classic – and I can’t remember the last system that allowed for that!

For those of you with 21st Century smartphones, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are even easier to handle through the Ford connectivity suite allowing full access to text and emails while on the go operated through voice recognition for added safety. However, the system, to my great surprise, was not entirely flawless. On a trip to take my youngest daughter to see her parents in the North, as soon as I plugged her Kindle into the rear passengers’ USB port, the system told me it was switching to Android Auto. While I had no problem with this, I did have a problem with the sat-nav which instantly had the car leaving the M40 and adopt an aerial flight path over Maidenhead and Slough not unlike a passenger Boeing held in a holding pattern waiting to approach Heathrow. What’s more, it held this pattern all the way to the M6 Toll services as my picture shows. Of course, with the offending Kindle removed, the system reverted to its usual faultless self.

Amusing? Up to a point until you think how close carmakers, including Ford, have said we are to seeing Level 5 vehicles on our highways. Will the software be world’s away from that being used in SYNC-3?

Maybe it’s a coincidence that Ford’s new CEO, Jim Hackett,has ditched the target of 2021 to get consumers in driverless cars saying he does not believe that the segment will be dominated by these robot cars. I, for one, applaud this dose of realism by an automaker refusing to be dragooned into providing a solution that is not as robust as the rest of it products. Some of the more radical techsters of Silicon Valleyshould be aware that a carmaker risks far more than just a frozen computer screen if they get it wrong.

So, well done Ford, another great product whose superb tech package will only get better at the right pace of development while keeping safety and vehicle performance at the heart of all its offerings.

TU-Automotive ADAS & Autonomous USA 2017

02 Oct 2017 - 03 Oct 2017, NOVI, USA

The most focused forum on the here and now of self-driving technology. As these technologies storm the headlines, we focus on the current challenges and unite players from research labs, automakers, tier 1’s and the complete supply chain to plan for the imminent future.