IT'S definitely time to take five and have a rethink. A few years ago you'd rarely find an automatic gearbox bolted on to anything less than a 1.6-litre engine.
Small engines were considered to puny to allow the luxury of self-changing transmission. But now most small cars and many superminis offer the option, in an effort to ease the city blues of congestion and traffic snarl-ups.
One of the best examples is possibly the Honda Civic, which though propelled by a small motor is a generously sized hatchback with five doors, five seats and a huge boot.
The 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder gets a CVT gearbox - continuous variable transmission - which might sound a strange marriage on first encounter. CVTs can be a tad tiresome, giving an impression of being somewhat frenetic and forever being on the verge of changing up.
But Honda has chosen, wisely, to fit steering wheel paddles that help nullify this by effectively providing ‘steps' similar to different ratios. When the revs build, you simply tap the paddle and they die away again.
The radically styled Civic with its false air intakes, sharp lines and divided rear window, is surprisingly roomy despite a rakish, almost coupe, profile. You sit fairly low but legroom is abundant and even in the rear, six-footers can be comfortable.
There's electric adjustment for the driver's seat but the passenger side gets only a manual lever and the height cannot be increased, meaning the position remains relatively low.
The hatchback boot is among the largest in its class being capable of carrying 478 litres of luggage with rear seats in place. Fold the rear seats and the space expands to 1,267 litres.
The EX version driven here is bristling with treats. Heated seats, glass sliding sunroof, rain sensing wipers, rear parking camera and sensors and sat nav are all included in the spec. Only pearlescent paintwork at £550 is an extra over the £27,395 price tag.
The 1.0-litre engine is a real gem, revving freely and quietly towards the red line with never a grumble. The engine note is a bit unusual but never harsh or unpleasant. Acceleration is hardly of the neck-jerking variety but with a sprint to 62mph in under 11 seconds it's marginally nippier than its manual brother.
With ample torque at hand, it marries well with the automatic box and you find that progress is swifter than expected.
Very much a driver's car, the Civic remains firmly planted on the road as cornering speeds rise. There's more than average feel through the steering and only modest cornering roll making windy country roads satisfying.
Despite the relatively firm suspension - by family car standards - bump suppression is good and it takes either an unrepaired pothole or the like to disturb its composure. Few reasonably priced family models manage to reach such a happy compromise between dynamic excellence and comfort.
The Civic's economy responds particularly sharply to the way it's driven. A leisurely run will easily see 44mpg, but put your foot down and make the little engine work hard and the average will be closer 35mpg.