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Car group tests

Volkswagen Polo vs Peugeot 208

The latest eco Volkswagen Polo is now petrol-powered, but is it a better fuel-sipping supermini than the diesel Peugeot 208?

With fuel prices staying surprisingly low, the diesel versus petrol debate continues to rumble on. In the past, buyers looking to save on their motoring bills would go for a diesel-powered model, but the latest generation of frugal unleaded cars is just as easy on your wallet.

Most economical cars to buy right now

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One of the most recent petrol arrivals is the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion. The first two generations of this car were diesel only, but this new model has switched allegiances. Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that combines with weight-saving and aerodynamic tweaks to deliver CO2 emissions of just 94g/km and claimed 68.9mpg economy. Yet this efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of quality and everyday usability, because in every other regard, the BlueMotion is just as comfortable, refined and well equipped as the standard car.

However, if you want a supermini with headline-grabbing efficiency figures, the Peugeot 208 takes some beating. Fitted with the brand’s entry-level 1.6-litre HDi diesel, the recently facelifted model combines 90g/km CO2 emissions with claimed 80.7mpg economy. The neat style, bold interior and personalisation options only add to the 208’s appeal.

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Diesel vs petrol: Mazda 3 vs Volkswagen Golf

So which of our fuel-sipping superminis makes more sense? Read on to find out.

Head-to-head

Engines

Our contenders take different approaches under the bonnet. The Polo’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol uses direct injection and turbocharging to deliver 94bhp and emissions of just 94g/km.

Peugeot has actually made its entry-level diesel bigger, as this detuned version of its familiar 1.6-litre HDi engine replaces the old 1.4-litre unit.

Design

Peugeot proves that you don’t have to sacrifice style to save fuel. Not only is there a greater choice of brighter colours than on the Volkswagen, you can also add a number of personalisation packs that bring bright trim inserts to the interior and exterior.

Options

The Polo can’t be customised in the same way as the 208, but it can be fitted with more big-car features. Adaptive cruise control (£395), xenon headlamps (£795) and heated seats (£360) can all be added. These items aren’t even available on the Peugeot.

Verdict

First place: Volkswagen Polo

The switch from diesel to petrol power has given the Polo BlueMotion a new lease of life. Smooth, responsive and frugal, the three-cylinder unit delivers money-saving efficiency with no compromises on the drive. Like all Polo models, the newcomer is also well built and boasts a cabin that’s a cut above when it comes to quality. The only cause for concern is the below-par residuals.

Second place: Peugeot 208

Recent changes have helped keep the stylish 208 in contention, while this entry-level diesel engine delivers enough performance and strong economy. However, the Peugeot isn’t as refined as the petrol Polo, plus it doesn’t feel as grown-up to drive. And while it looks good, the 208 can’t match the VW’s interior for premium appeal. And crucially, it costs more to run.

Other options for similar money...

New: Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Style ECOnetic

Price: £15,795Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 94bhp

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At this price point, you’re limited to a Fiesta Style, which misses out on alloys and a DAB radio. But sparkling handling and 82g/km CO2 emissions are a bonus. Haggling could get you a Zetec for the same price. 

Used: Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI BlueMotion

Price: £15,490 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

Alternatively, you could stretch to a used VW Golf BlueMotion diesel, which claims 83.1mpg economy. It also offers superb refinement and a more spacious cabin. We found a 4,000-mile 2015 model for £15,490.

Figures

 VW Polo 1.0 TSI BlueMotionPeugeot 208 1.6 BlueHDi 75
On-the-road price/total as tested£15,605/£16,850£15,395/£15,395
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£6,008/38.5%£6,620/43.0%
Depreciation£9,597£8,775
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£404/£809£491/£982
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,145/£1,908£978/£1,629
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost16/£480/A/£015/£363/A/£0
Servicing costs£288 (2yrs/20k)£12.99 p/m (3yrs/35k)
   
Length/wheelbase3,972/2,470mm3,973/2,538mm
Height/width1,453/1,682mm1,460/1,739mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc4cyl in-line/1,560cc
Peak power 94/5,000 bhp/rpm74/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 160/1,500 Nm/rpm230/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel45 litres/foam45 litres/foam
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 280/952 litres285/1,076 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,111/505/500kg1,080/570/840kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.6 metres/N/A10.4 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable (1yr)/22312,500 miles (1yr)/300
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.22nd/30th10th/5th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars90/86/41/71/5 (2009)88/78/61/83/5 (2012)
   
0-60/30-70mph9.6/10.1 secs12.6/13.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.9/7.1 secs5.3/9.1 secs
50-70mph in 5th 11.4 secs12.7 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 119mph/2,500rpm106mph/1,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 49.7/34.6/8.3m43.6/35.7/8.4m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph59/43/63/69dB68/45/63/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range49.2/10.8/487 miles57.9/12.7/573 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined56.5/78.5/68.9mpg67.3/94.2/80.7mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined12.4/17.3/15.2mpl14.8/20.7/17.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket133/94g/km/13%131/90g/km/16%
   
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camFour/yes/£295/£240Six/yes/£270/£470
Air-conditioning/leather/heated seatsYes/no/£360Yes/no/no
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/yesNo/yes/yes
Metallic paint/xenon lights/AEB*£545/£795/£395£495/no/£430
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£700/yes/yes/yes£450/yes/yes/yes
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