Fiat Punto v Renault Clio v Peugeot 206

Fiat’s Punto, Renault’s Clio and Peugeot’s 206 all represent great value now they’ve been superseded. Which is best?

Take a trip to your local car dealer and you may notice something strange is going on. Although the Fiat Punto, Peugeot 206 and Renault Clio have been replaced in the past 12 months, all three are still available in new car showrooms.

So, what’s happening? Each is still being sold alongside its successor as the car manufacturers seek to make the most of their massive investments. It takes time and money to close one production line and start another. Selling outgoing models alongside the latest version is nothing new – Renault did this for years with its legendary 5 when Papa and Nicole turned up in the original Clio. However, the makers’ fin­ancial pain is definitely your gain, and this is proven by the little Renault.

The bigger Clio III arrived late last year, but its predecessor survives as the Clio Campus. There’s a simple two-tier range, and features such as air-con are standard. However, new buyers get a limited choice of 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre dCi diesel power. Next of the trio to be replaced was the Punto, and despite the arrival of the prettier and bigger Grande version, the outgoing car is still a spacious supermini and trumps its class rivals in terms of practicality. Trouble is, if you want a new example, only a 1.2-litre petrol engine is offered and there are no optional extras.

Finally, Peugeot unveiled the 207 to replace the 206. The latter has long been a favourite with private buyers, and is still available in Urban, Verve and Sport specifications.

With a variety of bodystyles and four engine options, the 206 remains a key part of the line-up. But while all three of these models are cheaper than ever brand new, they’re real steals second-hand or nearly new! You can now pick up a year-old example of the Clio and Punto with less than 10,000 miles on the clock for under £5,000.

The Fiat is particularly good value for money. We spotted 55-reg 2005 cars priced at £4,995, and we’ve even seen a number of ‘brand new’ old-shape examples with delivery mileage up for grabs at only £5,800!

Alternatively, you could pick the Clio. A one-year-old Sport 16v is likely to set you back no more than £6,500. To get a 206, you will have to pay a bit extra, as this model is more expensive in new showrooms. But even the Peugeot can be found below £6,250 in 1.4 Urban guise – a sig­nificant saving when you consider the list price is nearly £8,495!

Of course, if you choose to follow the second-hand route, you don’t get a full manufacturer’s warranty. However, this is a small price to pay if you’re looking at a potential 40 per cent saving on a Punto or Clio. Nearly new small cars have rarely offered such fantastic value for money – but which of the trio should you go for?

VERDICT 1st Renault Clio Chic image and second-hand prices of less than £5,000 for nearly new examples mean the little Renault is an incredibly popular car. Sport models are equipped with smart alloy wheels, and we prefer the 16-valve 1.2-litre petrol engine over the eight-valve unit. It’s just a shame later cars are offered only in three-door guise; the extra practicality of the five-door means earlier Clios are tempting.

2nd Fiat Punto You can certainly pack plenty of people into the practical Punto, but post-facelift models aren’t as pretty as the slick original. Still, the Fiat is great value for money. The only question marks regard the car’s reliability, as well as the service provided by a dealer network often criticised by owners in Auto Express’s Driver Power satisfaction surveys; in 2006, readers voted Fiat garages 33rd out of 33.

3rd Peugeot 206 Buyers still love the 206 – and this is partly its downfall. With demand so strong, prices for late examples remain high. If you are considering the Peugeot, be sure to take a test drive, as it’s blighted by a poor driving position and a cramped interior. While a common sight on our roads, the 206 still looks good, and should be a safer place for your money in the long-term than the other cars.

Tale of the tape

Renault Clio (1998 to date) The Clio Campus is well equipped, but Sport trim is more desirable. It’s worth looking out for used Sport i-music special editions, which come with a socket for MP3 players.

The 1.2-litre 8v is slow, so go for the 16v. There’s also a 68bhp 1.5 dCi diesel capable of 65mpg, but as it now costs nearly £1,000 more than petrol cars in showrooms, late-plate examples are rare. Check the electric windows work and that the front seats aren’t frayed, plus ensure the timing belt is changed on the dot on the 16v 1.2-litre.

Fiat Punto (1999 to date) The Punto is a distinctive supermini, but 2003’s facelift did it no favours. Early cars can be yours for £1,500, with the des­irable JTD diesel from £3,500. The 130bhp 1.8 HGT is less than £3,000.

The current range is limited to three or five-door Active models with twin airbags, ABS, electric windows and central locking. But air-con isn’t even an option. On older cars, erratic dash warning lights, juddering clutches and faulty internal boot release cables are among an array of reliability issues.

Peugeot 206 (1998 to date) Early cars are available for peanuts, and the looks have barely changed, which explains why the little Lion is a hit with young drivers. Yet while the 20,000-mile service intervals help cut bills, insurance ratings are high; a mid-range 1.4 Verve sits in group 5.

The superb 1.4 HDi diesel returns 60mpg, but is £500 more than the 1.4 petrol. However, the Peugeot’s driving position is flawed; the steering wheel is too low and far away for most people. Flimsy column stalks, water leaks and central locking failures are common.

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