VW Polo vs Ford Fiesta & Peugeot 208

VW Polo group test
26 Aug, 2014 11:45am

Can revamped VW Polo steal the limelight from Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208?

Superminis are the big earners for car makers, but these days demanding buyers want them to deliver more than just a simple and cost-effective way of getting from A to B.

Not only do they need their car to be practical and easy to drive, they must also have the latest safety technology and entertainment systems. On the road, superminis need to be capable on city streets and they should only cost pennies to run.

One car that has found a winning formula is the Volkswagen Polo. It’s just been updated to add more safety kit and a new line-up of efficient engines. Can these qualities give it an advantage in this hard-fought class? Our current champ is the Ford Fiesta, and its mix of style and entertaining handling is hard to ignore. We test the new entry-level three-cylinder model for the first time. 

Then there’s the Peugeot 208, which delivers a classy cabin and plenty of kit in Style trim. By bringing together petrol versions of all three, we’ll find out which offers the greatest all-round appeal.

Ford Fiesta review

Peugeot 208 review 

Volkswagen Polo review

You can read full individual reviews by clicking the links above, and find out the verdict of this test by scrolling down...

Head-to-head

Design

These three superminis couldn’t look more different. The restrained Polo loses out to its rivals for stylish touches, but then the VW’s classless shape will be attractive to some buyers.

A rakish profile suits the Ford’s sporty character, and the large grille up front is a neat addition. The Peugeot benefits from LED light technology. The tail-lamps in particular add a stylish touch to the rear end.

Safety kit

VW offers advanced kit such as adaptive cruise on the Polo (£500 extra), while post-collision braking is standard across the range. Ford drivers can add Active City Stop, to anticipate low-speed collisions, for £200. There’s no advanced safety equipment on the 208, although all models get a speed limiter.

Fuel economy

The VW and Ford both come with stop-start, and if you do lots of urban driving, the systems will come into their own every time you stop at a set of lights. Peugeot doesn’t offer stop-start in Style trim, but it does feature on EGC auto-equipped versions of the 208 Active and Allure models.

Verdict

1st place: Volkswagen Polo

It’s a close-run thing, but in small-capacity guise, the Polo narrowly edges ahead of the Fiesta in this test. It’s down on power, yet it doesn’t feel much slower than the Ford on the road, while the greater refinement, upmarket feel and grown-up driving manners give the Polo an advantage. Add in a £1,000 lower asking price and reasonable fuel economy, and VW is on to a winner.

2nd place: Ford Fiesta


The Fiesta still has a lot going for it, because it’s a fine-handling supermini that has plenty of space for passengers and luggage. However, the quality of the materials in the cabin are a step behind the VW’s, while the 1.0-litre engine feels pretty breathless, despite its power advantage. If you can afford the extra £500 for the EcoBoost version, we’d highly recommend it.

3rd place: Peugeot 208


The 208 Style is attractive, thanks to its long kit list and the upmarket feel of the interior. Its awkward driving position and touchscreen controls take a lot of getting used to, though, and the 208 isn’t much fun to drive, thanks to its soggy suspension and sloppy controls. While it has much to commend it, both the Polo and Fiesta are stronger all-round packages.

Key specs

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 (60) SE Ford Fiesta 1.0 (80) Zetec Peugeot 208 PureTech 1.2 VTi Style
On the road price/total as tested £12,435/£12,970 £13,445/£13,445 £13,445/£13,940
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £5,950/47.9% £5,225/38.9% £5,550/41.3%
Depreciation £6,485 £8,220 £7,895
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £347/£693 £321/£643 £348/£696
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,849/£3,082 £1,556/£2,593 £1,759/£2,931
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 8/£255/B/£20 6/£259/A/£0 11/£270/B/£20
Servicing costs £288 (2yrs) £550 (3yrs) £16.99 p/m (3yrs)
Length/wheelbase 3,972/2,470mm 3,969/2,489mm 3,962/2,538mm
Height/width 1,462/1,682mm 1,495/1,709mm 1,460/1,739mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/999cc 3cyl in-line/999cc 3cyl in-line/1,199cc
Peak power/revs 59/5,000 bhp/rpm 79/6,300 bhp/rpm 82/5,750 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 95/3,000 Nm/rpm 105/4,100 Nm/rpm 118/2,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd 5-spd man/fwd 5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 45 litres/full size 42 litres/£100 50 litres/full size
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 280/952 litres 290/974 litres 285/1,076 litres
Kerbweight/payload 1,055/427kg 1,045/480kg 960/570kg
Turning circle 11.0 metres 10.1 metres 11.2 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (unlimited)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers 10,000 (1yr)/223 12,500 (1yr)/781 12,500 (1yr)/300
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos 19th/31st 25th/29th 14th/9th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars 90/86/41/5 91/86/65/5 88/78/61/5
0-60/30-70mph 14.0/14.3 secs 12.8/12.3 secs 12.0/11.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 6.8/9.4 secs 6.1/8.8 secs 5.8/8.1 secs
50-70mph in 5th 14.2 secs 13.5 secs 13.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 100mph/3,600rpm 103mph/3,400rpm 109mph/3,300rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 50.7/37.2/10.1m 52.0/37.9/10.4m 52.7/37.3/10.2m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 61/43/59/67dB 62/47/59/69dB 66/44/63/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 38.7/8.5/383 miles 46.0/10.1/425 miles 40.7/9.0/448 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 49.6/68.9/60.1mpg 55.4/74.3/65.7mpg 51.4/72.4/62.8mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 10.9/15.2/13.2mpl 12.2/16.3/14.5mpl 11.3/15.9/13.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 169/106g/km/14% 142/99g/km/12% 160/104g/km/13%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/£290/£240 Seven/y/£300/£250 Six/yes/rear/no
Automatic box/stability/cruise ctrl No/yes/£400 No/yes/no No/yes/yes
Climate ctrl/leather/heated seats £380/£1,245/£360 No/no/£175 No/no/no
Met paint/trip computer/tyre monitor £535/yes/yes £495/yes/yes £495/yes/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth £700/yes/yes/yes £700/yes/no/£200 Yes/yes/yes/yes
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