Peugeot 208 hatchback

£12,495 - £15,620

The Peugeot 208 is a compact three or five-door hatchback that competes with cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It's pitched as the stylish alternative to those models and it's certainly a good-looking car inside and out. It's reasonably well equipped, too.

However, with the exception of the range-topping GTi model, the driving experience couldn't be described as fun. Dull handling and steering that doesn't offer much feedback are to blame. The upside is that the 208 feels quite mature and grown-up – rare qualities at this end of the market.

The interior is well screwed together and the materials feel plush, at least on higher-spec versions. The dashboard looks quite novel, too, with the instrument binnacle mounted above the steering wheel. The idea is that you look at the dials over the top of the wheel, rather than through it. It works well enough, but some drivers may find the wheel actually obscures the instruments, which is hardly ideal.

The 208 is offered with a wide range of engines. Small-capacity three-cylinder petrols are all the rage at the moment and Peugeot has made sure the 208 doesn't miss out. There are 1.0 and 1.2-litre versions, capable of 65.7mpg and 62.7mpg economy respectively. Better still, the former costs nothing to tax and the latter just £20.

Peugeot has a reputation for building good diesel engines and the 208 is available with a choice of these, too. The 1.6-litre HDi is our favourite, thanks to its useful pulling power, excellent fuel economy (74.3mpg) and low road tax (a nice round zero). However, if economy really is your number-one priority, the 1.6-litre BlueHDI 75 is the one to buy. It's meant to be the most economical combustion engine in the world to date, producing a frankly stellar 94.2mpg and emits just 79g/km of CO2. It certainly isn't the quickest, though, taking more than 13 seconds to reach 62mph.

The trim range has been streamlined, following a rather confusing layout of models pre-facelfit. The three-door car is available in every spec, from Access A/C up to the 30th Anniversary GTI. The five-door version can is available from the base Access A/C up to the well-equipped Allure spec.

Doubts surrounding Peugeot reliability still linger, but in the 208's case they're unfounded. Its average faring in the 2015 Driver Power survey, coming in at 73rd, may not be the best statistic, but its reliability score was one of the higher scored areas. Safety is also decent: the car earned the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.