Autotrader ad desktop

In partnership with Auto Trader

Used test: Peugeot 208 vs Renault Clio vs Volkswagen Polo

These small yet practical hatchbacks are all much more affordable at two years old, but which is the best buy?...

New Peugeot 208 & Renault Clio vs Volkswagen Polo

The contenders

Peugeot 208 Puretech 100 Allure

List price when new £18,850
Price today £14,000*
Available from 2019-present

Fans of sharp styling and classy interiors will find the 208 very alluring

Renault Clio TCe 100 RS Line

List price when new £17,750
Price today £13,000*
Available from 2019-present

A sporty choice, and the Clio is the cheapest car here

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95 Beats

List price when new £17,750
Price today £14,000*
Available from 2020-present

The Polo is a good all-rounder, but is it better than these rivals?

*Price today is based on a 2020 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Few small cars are as versatile as the VW Polo and it feels every bit as at home when cruising on a motorway as it is in the cut and thrust of urban driving. Think of it as a Swiss Army knife, minus the pointy edges. 

However, simply doing various jobs well isn't always enough, particularly when competition is fierce. And, on the face of it, some of the Polo's rivals could make even better used buys. 

Peugeot 208 driving

First of all, there's the Peugeot 208 which not only looks eye-catching inside and out, but feels impressively upmarket. Or for slightly less money you could have a Renault Clio in range-topping RS Line trim. Let's see which of the three you should you choose

We've gathered together two-year-old examples of these three cars to find a champion. Let battle commence. 


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Each of these hatchbacks has a three-cylinder turbocharged engine with around 100bhp, so you’d expect similar performance across the board. But in reality, the 208 has a noticeable extra spring in its step. This is partly because its engine produces more pull at low revs, but also because, unlike its rivals, it has a six-speed gearbox rather than a five-speeder, allowing you to find the sweet spot in the engine’s rev range more easily.

The Clio and Polo are fairly closely matched for acceleration, although the former’s engine does have a few noticeable flat spots. This just means you can feel the rate of acceleration ebbing and flowing as you get up to speed, whereas in the Polo it’s more consistent. The Clio also does the least impressive job of isolating you from engine vibration, especially at low revs when you’re working the engine hard.

Renault Clio front cornering

Although the Polo’s engine makes itself heard the most under acceleration, it’s a fair bit smoother than the Clio’s. But when it comes to both engine smoothness and quietness, the 208 is king of this triumvirate. 

The Clio proves slightly disappointing in other respects, too, with the notchiest gearbox and by far the most tyre roar on the motorway – the main reason why it posted the highest decibel reading at 70mph in our tests. Despite its longer shift action and slightly numb clutch pedal, the 208’s gearbox is slicker and there’s a lot less road noise to trouble your ears. There’s a fair bit of wind whistle on the motorway, though, leaving the Polo as the quietest cruiser by a small margin. And as a bonus, the Polo has the slickest gearshift and is generally the easiest to drive smoothly. 

Although you'd never describe it as sporty, the Polo inspires plenty of confidence with the way it goes around corners. There’s lots of grip, not too much body lean and the steering, while not as communicative as in a Ford Fiesta gives you a decent sense of connection with the front wheels, letting you place the car just where you want it. The Clio stays even more upright through bends, though, and has quicker, more accurate steering.

Volkswagen Polo driving

And the Peugeot 208? Well, that’s the boulevard cruiser of the trio, with the most body lean through tight twists and turns and slightly vague steering. But it makes up for that by having the cushiest ride, rounding off bumps impressively at all speeds, at least on the 16in wheels of our test car (most UK cars have 17s). The Renault Clio suspension is quite a bit firmer, although it’s sophisticated enough to deal with sharp-edged bumps in one go, so there’s no unpleasant shudder over potholes. 

In comparison with these rivals, the VW Polo ride is slightly more unsettled in most situations, although it’s still one of the more comfortable cars in the wider small hatchback class.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

Page 1 of 4