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Used test: Audi A1 vs Mini 5dr vs Peugeot 208
You can save around £5000 on these classy hatchbacks by buying nearly new, but which should you spend your money on?...
Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI Sport (Plus Pack)
List price when new £21,335
Price today £16,500*
Available from 2018-present
While Audi’s smallest model has plenty in common with the Volkswagen Polo, that’s no bad thing
Mini 5dr Cooper Exclusive (Comfort Pack)
List price when new £21,835
Price today £17,500*
Available from 2014-present
This five-door version of the popular Mini can still turn heads, but is it a good used buy?
Peugeot 208 Puretech 100 GT Line
List price when new £20,700
Price today £16,000*
Available from 2019-present
The 208 was cheaper than its rivals when new, and that remains the case at two years old
*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
The small hatchback class is the most popular in the UK – and it’s easy to see why. The cars within it tend to be compact yet practical, as well as fuel efficient and affordable. And, of course, prices only get more tempting if you buy used.
Take the Peugeot 208. In high-spec GT Line trim it costs almost £21,000 when new, but that price has fallen to £16,000 by the time it's around two years old.
Up your budget just a little, though, and the distinctly premium Audi A1 and Mini 5dr are within reach, without you having to go for an older car or one that's covered more miles. So, which of the three is the best used buy? We have the answer...
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
You’re probably expecting to hear that the Mini is the sporty choice, and when it comes to straight-line performance, it certainly is. With a larger, more powerful engine than its rivals here, it’s the only one you could genuinely describe as nippy, and it can easily beat the other two away from a set of traffic lights.
The A1 comes second in the 0-60mph dash, despite having the smallest engine of our trio, with the 208 bringing up the rear. However, thanks in part to its shorter gearing, the 208 actually picks up speed quickest when you accelerate from low revs in a high gear, something that’s handy on A-roads and motorways.
It’s also easier to drive than the Mini, which has a notchy gearbox and an unnecessarily heavy clutch pedal. Mind you, the 208’s gearshift is a bit woolly compared with the A1’s, so it doesn’t snick from one gear to another as satisfyingly. The A1 also has the most positive and feelsome clutch pedal, which helps when you’re trying to keep things smooth at low speeds.
There’s more bad news for the Mini when it comes to cornering. The British brand may trade on the ‘go-kart feel’ of its cars, but that isn’t always the case in reality. The steering feels artificial and overly heavy, and although it’s certainly very quick (only a tiny movement of the wheel is needed to get the car to change direction), this only serves to make the Mini feel nervous at higher speeds.
The A1 not only has more naturally weighted steering but also feels far more composed during quick changes of direction, plus it has more grip when you need it. As a result, it’s a more enjoyable car to drive at all speeds.
So, where does that leave the 208? Well, although it feels the least eager to change direction and leans the most through bends, we still prefer its more composed, predictable cornering manners to the Mini’s disjointedness. It can’t hold a candle to the A1, though.
The Mini also disappoints for ride comfort – despite our test car coming with adaptive suspension, which was a £600 optional extra when the car was new. Even in its most relaxed setting, you're jostled around too much along scarred urban streets, while at higher speeds it continues to feel a little unsettled.
The A1 is far more easygoing, dealing with all manner of bumps more smoothly and effectively. The 208’s softer suspension means it’s the most comfortable of our trio for much of the time, though, floating over ripples and undulations, and only gently swaying from side to side as it does so. It’s only over a series of sharp-edged impacts that you feel shockwaves through the car.
But surely the 208 can’t compete with its premium-badged peers when it comes to isolating you from the outside world? In fact, it can – it’s actually the quietest at a steady 70mph, with the least tyre noise filtering into the interior. The Mini may have the smoothest and quietest engine, but it’s by far the worst for wind and road noise.
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