Fun affordable cars: group test

Fun affordable cars pic
18 Aug, 2014 4:21pm

You can now own something fun for less than £100 a month - and we've tested three affordable cars to see how

Can you really enjoy fun motoring in a new car for less than £100 a month? In a unique road test, we’ve brought together three small and affordable contenders that, with a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP), can be yours for a double figure monthly outlay. Bargain motoring is one thing, though. The question is, can this trio raise a smile and offer enjoyment beyond the satisfaction of being cheap to buy and run?

First up is the new Peugeot 108, which its maker claims “builds on the strength of the 107 to meet the needs of today’s small car buyer”. But if it’s fun you’re after, the sporty-looking MG3 is a tempting choice with its promise of enjoyable handling. And is either one a better all-rounder than our reigning City Car of the Year – the Skoda Citigo?

Peugeot 108 review

MG3 review

Skoda Citigo review

The best budget cars make you feel good with clever cabin design, big car refinement and fun handling, so which of this trio deserves the Auto Express fun for under £100 recommendation?

Click on the links above to read each review, then rea don for our verdict.

Head-to-head

MG handling

We spent time at the test track and out on the road exploring the handling characteristics of all our contenders. With its larger wheels and 195 section tyres, the MG simply has a bigger contact patch on the tarmac than its rivals, so there’s more grip. Combined with the good body control, it helps make the Brit feel tauter than its rivals. However, reach the limit and it scrubs its front tyres more than you’d expect, plus it isn’t that adjustable and steering weighting is inconsistent.

Citigo, 108 tyres

The Citigo comes with 14-inch 175-profile tyres as standard, but our car featured £190 15-inch rims with a wider 185 tread. The 108 had 195/15-inch rubber. On the track both cars provided plenty of grip, but the Skoda edges ahead on driving fun, due to its natural steering and better body control.

Interior finish

Build quality isn’t the first thing you think of if you’re looking for a fun car, but the feelgood factor of a top-quality cabin certainly adds to the enjoyment. The Skoda Citigo and its VW up! and SEAT Mii sister cars top the class in this regard, while the 108 has youth appeal. All are way ahead of the MG.

Verdict

1st place: Skoda Citigo

In this test we set out to find the best fun for £100 car, and the Skoda Citigo’s brilliant blend of refinement, near-perfect handling and quality certainly gives you enjoyment or pleasure every time you climb behind the wheel. It may not be as visually exciting as the MG, but the Citigo is a great value, superbly engineered, well rounded little car.

2nd place: Peugeot 108

The personalisation options, smartphone-friendly touchscreen and modern looks have breathed new life into Peugeot’s cheapest car. However, the driving experience is disappointing. The 108 is more refined, but no more engaging to drive than the old 107. On the plus side, clean emissions and low running costs give it the edge over the MG.

3rd place: MG3

A good looking and decent handling car, the MG3 nearly hits the fun on a budget sweet spot at £99 a month, plus it’s bigger and more spacious than its rivals. Sadly, high emissions result in expensive running costs, while the outdated engine’s poor refinement is also an issue. The MG’s low cabin quality, firm ride and three-star Euro NCAP rating are big concerns as well.

Figures

Skoda Citigo Elegance GreenTech 3dr Peugeot 108 e-VTi Active 3dr MG3 Form Sport
On-the-road price/total as tested £10,000/£10,490 £9,745/£10,310 £9,549/9,944
PCM price/mileage limit/deposit £89/10k/£2,855 £99/6k/£2,606 £99/10k/£3,728
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000) £4,200/42.0% £5,223/46.4% £3,552/37.2%
Depreciation £5,800 £4,522 £5,997
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £239/£477 £213/£426 £375/£749
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,524/£2,540 £1,662/£2,770 £2,065/£3,442
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 1/£242/A/£0 2/£245/A/£0 4/£258/E/£130
Servicing costs Free (3yrs)^ £16.99pcm (3yrs/30k) £550 (3yrs/45k)
Length/wheelbase 3,563/2,420mm 3,475/2,340mm 4,018/2,520mm
Height/width 1,463/1,641mm 1,450/1,615mm 1,507/1,729mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/999cc 3cyl in-line/998cc 4cyl in-line/1,4498cc
Peak power 59/5,000 bhp/rpm 67/6,000bhp/rpm 105/6,000bhp/rpm
Peak torque 95/3,000 Nm/rpm 96/4,800Nm/rpm 137/4,750Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd 5-spd man/fwd 5spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 35 litres/sealant 35 litres/sp saver (£70) 45 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 251/951 litres 180/780 litres 285/1,262 litres
Kerbweight/payload 865/425kg 855/385kg 1,150/525kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 9.8 metres/0.33Cd 9.8 metres/0.28Cd 10.4 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealer 10k miles/135 10k miles/300 15k (1yr)/51
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 1st/7th* 14th/26th* 3rd/N/A*
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points 89/80/46/5 N/A 69/71/59/3
0-60/30-70mph 14.2/14.4 secs 12.2/13.5 secs 10.1/10.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 7.2/12.0 secs 8.7/11.1 secs 6.7/9.2 secs
50-70mph in 5th 16.3 secs 17.9 secs 14.8 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 99mph/3,000rpm 99mph/no rev counter 108mph/3,100rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 50.4/37.2/9.2m 52.6/38.9/9.4m 48.2/35.1/9.0m
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 46.9/10.4/361 miles 43.0/9.5/331 miles 34.6/7.7/342 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 56.5/78.5/68.9mpg 62.8/83.1/74.3mpg 37.7/57.6/48.7mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 12.4/17.2/15.1mpl 12.4/17.2/15.1mpl 8.2/12.7/10.7 mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 139/95g/km/12% 152/88g/km/11% 189/136g/km/20%
Airbags/Isofix/stability control Four/yes/yes Six/yes/yes Six/yes/yes
Elec mirrors/height adj driver’s seat Yes/yes No/yes Yes/yes
Metallic paint/park sensors/alloys £490/£310/yes £495/no/no £395/no/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth Yes/no/no/yes No/yes/yes/yes No/yes/yes/yes
Split/fold rear seat/air-con Yes/yes Yes/yes Yes/yes
Auto Express 1,342
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