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Used test: Audi A1 vs Mini 5dr vs Peugeot 208 interiors

You can save around £5000 on these classy hatchbacks by buying nearly new, but which should you spend your money on?...

Audi A1 dashboard - white 19-plate car

Interiors

Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality

As with bigger Peugeot models, the driving position in the 208 is controversial. You’re supposed to view its digital instruments by looking over, rather than through, the steering wheel – something the manufacturer has tried to make easier by shrinking the steering wheel to the size of a dinner plate.

If you happen to be long in the body, or you sit close to the steering wheel with the seat jacked up, you’ll probably think the whole arrangement is great. But just as many people will find that the wheel completely blocks their view of the instruments and will have to resort to moving the wheel or seat to an unnatural position so they know what speed they’re doing. We’d strongly advise taking a test drive before buying.

Mini 5dr dashboard - black 69-plate car

The 208’s ‘3D’ instruments are also a case of style over substance as they're trickier to read at a glance than their equivalents in the A1.

But what about infotainment? Well, out of the three, our test Mini with the Navigation Plus Pack – a £2000 optional extra when new – has the best system. It’s very intuitive and one of the best in its class. The A1’s system isn’t too far behind, and is clear and responsive.

Our 208 came with a 10in infotainment screen (some cars will have a smaller 7in one), and that’s easy to use, although the fact that you need to use the screen to adjust the air-con is both annoying and distracting. 

Peugeot 208 dashboard - blue 69-plate car

The A1’s conventional driving position works for a greater range of shapes and sizes. While its seat doesn’t hold you in place quite as well around corners, the fact that it has adjustable lumbar support – available only on cars that had the optional £1400 leather upgrade fitted from new on the 208 – makes it comfier on longer journeys.

The Mini got leather seats as standard, as well as adjustable lumbar support to stop you slouching. Although you get old-school analogue dials, they’re actually pretty easy to read. Our only minor complaint is that the pedals are offset to the right of the steering wheel, forcing you to sit at a slightly skewed angle.

You can’t fault the Mini’s interior quality, though. It feels a cut above its rivals, with materials that look upmarket and feel the part when you prod them. The A1 feels equally well screwed together, but there are far fewer soft-touch materials, and areas you touch regularly, such as the door tops, feel less than premium.

Mini 5dr rear seats - black 69-plate car

Perhaps surprisingly, the 208’s interior cuts the mustard in this company. Its dashboard feels squidgy, the leather on the steering wheel is suitably fine-grained and there are fewer hard plastics than in the A1. That said, there are some fairly large interior panel gaps in places and the front centre armrest feels wobbly compared with the equivalents in the A1 and Mini as specified here.

These are small cars, but even by class standards they're not all that roomy in the back. If you regularly need to carry around more than one other lofty adult, you’d do well to consider a Polo or Seat Ibiza.

The Mini has the most head room to allow six-footers to sit up straight, but its narrow rear seat area makes squeezing three adults in the back an almost comical experience. It’s also the hardest to get in and out of due to its tiny rear door apertures.

Peugeot 208 boot - blue 69-plate car

The A1 and 208 are better for those occasions when you need to carry four passengers, but head room is less plentiful and tall people will need to cower to fit. With the optional panoramic glass roof – a £500 optional extra from new – the height of the 208’s ceiling drops even lower, but if you avoid examples with that feature fitted, the 208 is fractionally the most accommodating in the back.

Its boot is the biggest, too, accepting five carry-on suitcases – the same as the A1 – but with more space left over. The Mini can hold only four cases, although the optional Comfort Pack added to our test car includes a height-adjustable boot floor, something you also get with the A1 but which isn’t available on the 208.