How many hatchbacks does Ford think we need? That’ll be three. We’ve got the Focus, Fiesta and the smallest of the lot — the Figo, which you see here on these pages. Small it may be, but make no mistake, it knows how to put a big smile on your face.

However, I thought the sub-compact — manufactured in Chennai, India and which has been sold in developing countries since 2010 — would be bullied on the road by bigger vehicles and blown around a bit. But surprisingly that is not the case, even though it only weighs 1,040kg it holds its own on both the highway and around town. Following a couple of days with the little Figo (its name means ‘cool’ in Italian) I was sad to see it go. It really grows on you, what with its cute looks, roomy cabin and zippy performance. And that’s before you consider the price, which I’ll reveal a little later.

With an Aston Martin-esque front grille, peeled-back headlights and a crisp, clean body, this hatchback doesn’t blend into the background. It’s quite meaty-looking, has a roofline that flows neatly into the rear, while the deep shoulder line and the distinct character line look pretty slick. However, it rides on a set of tiny 14in wheels hiding in equally small wheel wells (every model in this segment has this problem; 15s would look better — along with bigger wheel wells) but they don’t detract from the car’s overall proportion. Around the back, the wraparound taillights look good and there’s decent definition in the tail gate.

The old model shared the Fiesta’s platform but this one is built on the modern B2E — the same one as the EcoSport — so the suspension, floorpan and chassis are similar to it. It gets MacPherson struts up front, which work in tandem with a torsion beam at the back, and the ride is smooth and supple, and clearly sprung on the soft side. Its electric steering is light and direct, which makes parking a stress free affair.

The cabin, finished in black plastics with good fit and finish, gets cloth upholstered seats (very well padded and comfortable but only manually adjustable), and the familiar-looking Ford dash and busy centre console. And with dual front airbags, plus a very decent audio system with four speakers, there really isn’t much to complain about in there; on the contrary, it has loads of leg-and-headroom (1,069mm and 1,014mm, respectively) for front-seat passengers, while those at the back are also afforded a decent amount of space thanks to a best-in-class wheelbase of 2,491mm. There are quite a few cubby holes to store bottles and knickknacks in while the 257-litre boot has ample space to shove four or five grocery bags. It has very good all-round visibility, too, but it’d have been nice if the steering wheel would have adjusted for reach and not just rake. That said, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Figo. It’s loaded with features, including Bluetooth, AUX, USB connectivity, keyless entry and climate control.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre four-pot mated to a six-speed automatic that sends the 105bhp to the front wheels. Around town that’s ample power to keep up with traffic, and with 136Nm of torque it offers a rather zippy ride, and sipping just 5.5 litres per 100km, it’s cheap to run too. It isn’t the fastest but it’s ideal for the city and it cruises happily along on the highway.

The transmission isn’t exactly lightning quick and you can feel the cogs swapping in slow moving traffic but once the Figo stretches its little legs the changes are far smoother. Give it the beans from a standstill and the engine makes a thrashy sound; it’s best to be gentle with the throttle. You can shift gears manually in Sport mode via the small buttons on the gear lever but the gearbox isn’t the most responsive to your inputs. After a while, you won’t bother, as letting it operate by itself is far less annoying than doing it yourself and not really getting anywhere.

It doesn’t have the lowest centre of gravity and in spite of being saddled with a spongy suspension, it handles really rather well. Relatively speaking of course. You can push it pretty hard in the corners and even though the wheels begin to scream at around 60kph, the Figo manages to hold a steady line. The direct steering and the strong stopping power from the brakes (front disc, rear drum set-up supported by ABS with EBD) make this a fun little car to zip around in.

So, it’s well built, well equipped and has a happy-go-lucky feel about it. The base model will set you back Dh38,950 (it has a 1.2-litre four-pot mated to a manual!), the mid-range costs Dh43,950, while our top-of-the-range Trend trim will only set you back Dh49,500, making the Figo not only very affordable, but a whole lotta fun, too.