FEW cars enjoy supremacy over every rival for their entire lifetime. But that’s exactly what the Ford Fiesta achieved.

Despite being on sale for eight years, the award-winning supermini saw off all-comers and was still selling strongly at the end of its life. It was good-looking, great to drive and cheap to own. No wonder it was still Britain’s best-selling car at the moment of its demise.

So Ford’s engineers had a lot to live up to.

They started with the last generation’s underpinnings - because it was still setting the pace in the supermini class - and improved the interior, beefed up the technology and polished the ride and handling.

So the new Fiesta has driver-assist and connectivity technologies that simply weren’t available eight years ago.

Highlights include enhanced versions of Ford’s pedestrian detection and active park assistance systems. The Fiesta is also the first Ford to feature an exclusive B&O multi-media sound system

Despite growing in all major dimensions, the Fiesta is still a compact supermini. Ford has wisely left clear daylight between the new Fiesta and the latest Focus so as not to cannibalise sales of the larger (and more profitable) hatchback.

However, it’s still a useful 71mm longer and 13mm wider. That means there’s more room in the cabin, particularly in the back seats where passengers will appreciate the extra 16mm of knee room.

To sharpen the handling Ford has specified more ultra-high strength Boron steel in the chassis while the B-pillar and doors have been redesigned to make the car safer in the event of an accident. Some of the body panels are made using a new manufacturing technology that can analyse the noise frequency of the stamping process and rejects components that don’t meet Ford’s high standards.

At the front the distance between the driven wheels is 30mm wider than before and 10mm wider at the rear. The wheelbase is slightly longer at 4mm. Ford’s engineers have gone over the suspension with the intention of replicating the big car ride they achieved on the Focus.

Engine choices include the award-winning 1.0-litre turbo that made its debut in the last gen Fiesta in three stages of tune: 95 bhp, 123 bhp and 138 bhp. Performance of all Regardless of which one you choose, performance should be good: the 1.0-litre triple is responsive and loves to rev.

Inside there are better materials and lots more useful space.

A lot of work has gone into making the interior more resistant to everyday wear and tear. To test their durability, Ford’s engineers assaulted the seats with coffee, dirty sports kit and even the dye from a wet pair of new denim jeans. A pair of robot buttocks ‘sat’ in the seats 25,000 times before the seats were signed off for production.

However, the modest increase in the Fiesta’s wheelbase means there isn’t much more room compared to the out-going model (which was already among the more compact superminis) and over the life of the new Fiesta we can expect many rivals to steal an advantage here.

Useful ideas abound - such as the hidden door edge protectors which spring into place when you open the doors to protect them from unintended knocks and scrapes.

Ford is particularly proud of the Fiesta’s sound system. A group of engineers spent more than a year listening to thousands of tracks fine-tuning the speakers and tweaking the 675-watt amp to ensure it sounded great no matter what your musical taste. Reference tracks ranged from AC/DC to Aretha Franklin.

In top-of-the-range models, the audio system runs to ten speakers and tweeters, a boot-mounted subwoofer and a centre dashboard speaker, which are all driven by a nine-channel amplifier. The B&O high output system is a £300 option on other models.

The Ford’ SYNC 3 communications and entertainment interface enables the driver to control the audio system, navigation and a connected smartphone using simple, conversational voice commands.

But the biggest improvement to the dashboard is the tablet-inspired touch screen, which replaces the old fashioned mess of buttons that was based on a 15-year-old Nokia feature phone, and can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures. Depending on how much you spend, the touchscreen can be up to 8.0-inches. Ford used eye-tracking software to help decide where to site the major information, connectivity and entertainment controls. The steering wheel also has fewer buttons.

The MyFord Dock enables users to store, mount and charge mobile devices such as phones and navigation systems. Naturally, Fiesta delivers Bluetooth connectivity and two USB ports.

If all this sounds like a lot of work then that’s because it is - and with good reason.

The Fiesta is a massively important car for Ford in Europe. One rolls off the production line in Cologne, Germany, every 68 seconds and if it is to continue its run as Britain’s favourite car the new one has to be better in every way over its much-loved (and bought) predecessor.

And the good news for Ford is that all the early indications show that it is.

The King is dead, long live the King.