The Fiesta is Britain’s best-selling car, so if the Peugeot 208
wants to trouble the top of the sales charts, it needs to steal a few customers from the popular Ford. As our current supermini champion has reigned supreme since making its debut in 2008, the Peugeot certainly has its work cut out.
It may be the oldest car here, but the Fiesta still has plenty of visual impact. The sharp front end, rising waistline and taut proportions mean it looks great, while our Zetec-trim test car benefited from chrome exterior treatment and 15-inch alloys.
Inside, the Ford faces a tougher battle. Its distinctive dashboard and robust build quality still impress, but it doesn’t feel as upmarket as the 208’s smart cabin. The Kia’s generously equipped and well laid-out interior scores highly, too.
Still, the spacious Ford provides more than enough room for passengers in the back, while the 295-litre boot is fractionally larger than its rivals’ with the rear seats in place.
The Fiesta is comfortable, too. The seating position is spot-on, while the controls are perfectly weighted and offer plenty of feedback. All this ensures the Ford’s considerable dynamic ability and fun factor are obvious right from the moment you set off.
While the 208 is more accomplished than the car it replaces, it still can’t match the beautifully judged ride and handling of the Fiesta. The Ford is far more engaging than its newer rivals, so it doesn’t need gimmicks like a small steering wheel to feel responsive.
The beautifully weighted, precise steering responds to every input and lets you know exactly what the front wheels are doing.
Plus, the five-speed gearbox has a lovely shift action, while the ride is supple and body control is excellent. Zetec models get standard stability control, but with more grip than the 208, the Ford doesn’t rely on electronics as much as the Peugeot in normal cornering.
It’s not all good news, though. Despite closely matched horsepower, the Fiesta has the lowest torque output here – at 114Nm – so it trails the spirited 208 for in-gear response. Plus, its 1.2-litre Zetec engine emits a hefty 124g/km of CO2 and our 36mpg average was the worst on test.
Standard equipment includes a Quickclear windscreen, a knee airbag, ambient lighting, air-con and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, but Bluetooth and curtain airbags are on the options list. This is disappointing, as the Ford is the most expensive car here.
It also has the weakest residuals and is the priciest company car choice. Insurance costs are in line with rivals, though, and Ford dealers perform better than Peugeot’s in our Driver Power survey.
So while the Fiesta remains on top form, it demands financial compromises from its owner. Will that be enough to knock it from its dominant position in this class?
Chart position: 2WHY: A brilliant all-rounder, the Fiesta is as popular as ever, and it’s easy to see why. This is the car the 208 has to beat.