Peugeot 208 vs DS3

12 Nov, 2012 12:30pm

The turbocharged Peugeot 208 hints at the potential of next year’s 208 GTi. We test it against our current top warm hatch, the Citroen DS3

The French have long had a flair for fast hatchbacks, with Citroen and Peugeot masters of the art. The upmarket Citroen DS3 has been a long-time favourite of ours, while the Peugeot name has been synonymous with hot hatches for decades. So will hot versions of the smart new 208 supermini still put a smile on our faces?

The standard 208 saw off the talented Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio in our previous test, thanks to its clean petrol engine and modern cabin. So can it pull off the same trick again?

It’s been fitted with the same BMW-sourced 1.6-litre engine as the Citroen DS3 and, like its rival, is only available as a stylish three-door. Trim is the high-spec Feline.

The DS3 continues to be a hit for Citroen, which has gone hand-in-hand with its recent domination of the World Rally Championship. This DSport model remains our pick of the range, and we prefer it to warm hatches from SEAT and even MINI – so the 208 faces a stern test.


As they start with such similar mechanical ingredients, we were expecting these cars to be tough to separate. However, in the end, the 208 fell some way short of overhauling its extrovert cousin.

Peugeot must have been expecting some of the DS3’s magic to rub off on its stylish new supermini, but despite very similar performance figures at the track, the sharper Citroen felt a more natural hot hatch on the road. While we loved the zippy character and admirable efficiency of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder 208 that scooped our Supermini of the Year title, the light, over-assisted steering robs you of the confidence to drive this quicker model with intent.

The crisp and modern interior is good value when compared with less premium competition, but at this price the quality is simply not up to the same standard as similar rivals from MINI and Audi.

The DS3 has a similar problem with materials, but features a more traditional, easier-to-use layout, and the conventional dials and large steering wheel work better than the Peugeot’s miniaturised versions.

Neither car is perfect, but faced with a choice we’d pick the DS3 over the 208 every time. It feels like it was designed for keen drivers from the start, where too often the Peugeot resorts to style over substance. Fingers crossed the GTi will turn that around.

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The DS3 appears quite dated externally compared to the 208.....

It's all a matter of opinion of course but to me the reverse is true!
As to the old "problem with materials" piece of received opinion in the original review, a few minutes with "The Getawayer" website will give people cause for thought. This is run by a German (there is an English version) petrol head who is a patently honest and straightforward judge of rapid cars. He has stern criticism of Mini materials and rates the handling as inferior to the A1. and especially, wait for it, the DS3. In Germany one is allowed to drive faster, legally, than in the UK and he considers the Mini inferior at such speeds.

Both french, both will fall apart as soon as driven from the dealer.

Here we go again! The only vehicle I know for certain this happened to was a VW Golf which belonged to the son of a colleague and which suffered a catastrophic engine failure. Let's get away from the stereotypes.

They are really good for urban cars. Probably the best ones in the world !

VW recently ranked many places lower than Peugeot in a well respected reliability survey. Nothing more to say really. The 208 has a BMW contact-developed engine and well proven suspension....

Is that what your mate's big brother told you?

Ok so their engines may be slightly more reliable, but have you guys seen the interior of one of these?! I had a 2002 5 series and a 1997 328i with vastly better quality interiors than any new Peugeot/Citroën/Renaul. They have more cheap plastic than a doll factory!

Funny you should day that, I have reviewed the following for a week each;

3008 (Sport & Hybrid4)
RCZ (THP200 & HDi 163)
5008 (Allure & Sport
508 (Saloon/SW/Hybrid4)
Partner Tepee

The only ones I would say didn't have great interior quality was the 107 and Tepee (which anyone would guess). The rest are very well built of good quality materials. I have a Focus 1.0T EcoBoost on test this week and the interior may look better than a 308 for example but the depth of quality just isn't there.

Which Peugeot's are you referring to in particular? The 206 was the last Peugeot that was poorly built in my eyes.

The best in the range that's worth a look is the 508 which is seriously premium.

One would hope that Rolls-Royce/Bentley would have a better interior than a BMW as well. As RobMcSorley would say "which anyone would guess". The worst car interior I have experienced recently was a Skoda Octavia which also had a coarse and vibratory diesel engine. Peugeot/Citroen interiors are far better and their diesels infinitely more civilised.

Well having tried a Skoda Octavia and a Peugeot 3008, I chose the Skoda because the Quality, fit, finish and driving experience, not to mention the looks and awards won for reliability etc, all swung in the Octavias favour. Never ever had a bad Skoda, but have had a fair few problems with Citroens and Peugeots in the past.

Afraid Skodas have too much of the hair shirt about them for me. Anecdotal evidence (from the experience of acquaintances) does suggest they are better screwed together than their VW relatives. Mighty dull in appearance though.

The DS3 is a great car, we owned one for two years which we have now replaced with a DS4. We drove 38525 miles in less than two years without the single problem, 100% satisfaction and so pleasant to drive. In my opinion a much better car than most german cars who tend to be overrated and too pricey (with
similar equipment). The DS3 was much better equipped than my A5 and it looks great.
Citroen's results in WRC (won the title 9 years in a row) and the great performance from Renault in F1 racing for so many years (last 3 years consecutive 1st place) shows how capable the french car makers are. But there will always be clowns without much knowledge about cars that take such a pleasure to spit around ...
The 208 will prove to be an excellent car as well. It has already received high notes from numerous experts.

Are u having a laugh? A 2002 5 series interior looks dated now....the Citroen interior is more classy

I have had one truly useless car in the last decade, a diesel Skoda Yeti. This was a nasty, noisy piece of junk with a tenth-rate interior and the worst engine to date.

A 2002 anything is going to look like a museum piece now. Nice if you like living in a museum.

Latest Audis and BMWs are full of pointless bling and dangerous add-ons that distract the driver. Of course, the marketing department only has to issue a press-release about how high quality these "premium" vehicles are and the sheep follow with the received opinion.

I've just spent two weeks and 1500 miles with a new A3 diesel Sport. The interior was plain horrible, the seats were terrible and the engine belonged in a tractor.