What are they like inside?
On high-spec Renault Clios, the dashboard is dominated by a colour touch-screen with large, easy-to-hit icons. However, the Expression+ model we’re testing here makes do with a rather fiddly conventional stereo.
Things are no better in the Ford Fiesta, where the dashboard is plastered with buttons that are hard to tell apart at a glance. Instead, it’s the Hyundai i20 that scores best for ease of use, because its switchgear is big and easily labelled.
However, the sense of quality inside the i20 is less impressive because most of the plastics are drab and hard to the touch. The materials in the Clio are barely any classier, but the Fiesta has a dense, soft-touch upper dashboard that helps it feel a cut above its rivals.
The Fiesta also offers the most supportive front seats of the three, and a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment helps drivers of all sizes get comfortable. You won’t want for adjustment in the Clio, either, but its seats could do with more lateral support, and over-the-shoulder vision is compromised by chunky rear pillars.
Only the i20 can cause the driver discomfort on long trips, though. For starters, the seat doesn’t go low enough to suit all tastes, plus its base is too short, and the backrest moves in slightly too large steps.
Switch to the back seats and there’s little between these cars, with each roomy enough to let an average-sized adult sit behind a six-foot driver. That said, the i20 is best for three rear passengers because it has the widest space and is the only one without a raised central tunnel.
Occupants are protected by front, side and curtain airbags in all three cars, but only the Fiesta gets a driver’s knee airbag, while the Clio counters with the best child, pedestrian and safety-assist ratings in Euro NCAP crash tests.
There’s little to choose between the three cars on luggage capacity, with only 10 litres separating the biggest boot (the Clio’s) from the smallest (the Fiesta’s).
Each can swallow a week’s food shopping or a weekend’s baggage. Then, when you need a bigger load space, the rear seats can be folded, although in all three cars there’s a step in the extended load floor.
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