They say the world’s getting smaller – and rightly so – probably due to the notion that jet travel is so rapid and efficient now that we can be on the other side of the world in hours.Groundbound travel, however, is comparably slow and not usually very efficiently - unless you happen to drive a turbodiesel. Such as Ford's new Fiesta with its one-litre, three-cylinder, engine that can make 92kW at 6000rpm and 170Nm from 1400-4500rpm. Or one of a raft of similar three-cylinder cars now on the South African market.LUSTY SOUND TRACKFord says it's capable of 9.4sec to 100km/h and 196km/h but the real appeal in the case of the Ford Fiesta Ecoboost is its remarkable performance despite the 999cc engine - if not its price... from a hefty R231 500!I’ve been driving one around the Mother City for some weeks and its smooth yet sporty performance never ceases to amaze me – the downside is one tends to have a “drive it a bit like you stole it” mentality due to the lusty sound track that accompanies this half-a-vee-six newcomer.Yet three-cylinder engines are nothing new – they’ve been with us for many years.I first came across one (albeit two-stroke) in a 1950's Saab 96 in the UK. It belonged to a friend whose then hero was Swedish factory rally driver Eric Carlsson whom I well remember winning the Monte Carlo Rally two years running, as if to prove how advanced those engines were.In the 1950's and 60's DKW/Auto Union produced the 1000 S, a stylish two-door that proved very popular in South Africa. The range included a wagon, a coupe and a minibus, each powered by a two-stroke three-cylinder engine. I well remember a version called the DKW F Junior that towed my broken Morgan sports car back to Johannesburg from Vereeniging in the late 1960's – the Deek hardly broke a sweat despite its 741cc two-stroke triple.CRITICISM IS RAREIn the 1980's and 90's VW sold the Lupo in the UK – superb economy and lively performance from the one-litre petrol (or diesel) triple. Claims of 4.2 litres/100km) were the norm.Several brands now offer three-cylinder engines in South Africa: Citroen, Peugeot and Toyota offer one-litre derivatives of basically the same car; Suzuki has one in the Swift, Renault in its Clio.Criticism is rare, longevity the one worry most people seem to raise when discussing such engines. All I can say is I’m well able to recall that little German Deek pulling my hefty all-British (if rather sad) sports car, so my appreciation of three-cylinder cars coming to the rescue will always shine through!