Peugeot 208 hatchback

£11,695 - £18,245

The Peugeot 208 is a supermini that goes head-to-head with established rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. It's available as a three or five-door hatchback and is a lot more stylish than the competition. A recent minor facelift added some even more economical engines (the outgoing ones were cheap to run as it was) and extra options to the already extensive equipment list.

Apart from the flagship Peugeot 208 GTi hot hatchback (reviewed separately), the 208 isn’t much fun to drive. Its handling isn’t particularly inspiring and the steering provides little in the way of feedback. On the plus side, the 208 is a lot more mature and classier than previous Peugeot superminis, mainly because of its smart cabin – although you could also say the same about rivals such as the Hyundai i20 and VW Polo.

The interior is well built and the dashboard is made from very plush materials, especially on higher-spec models. The cabin is rather quirky and different to your average supermini inside – the small steering wheel sits below the instrument binnacle, the thinking being that you look at the dials over the top of the wheel, rather than through it. It's an interesting idea and it works for the most part, but drivers of a certain height may find the top of the wheel just gets in the way.

There's a large range of engines available for the 208, including small three-cylinder petrols that are ideal for low-mileage drivers. There are 1.0 and 1.2-litre versions, each of which exceeds 60mpg fuel economy and has sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, so they’ll cost no more than £20 a year to tax.

There's no shortage of diesel engines, either. Peugeot's 1.6-litre BlueHDi is available in three different power outputs (74, 99 and 118bhp) all of which emit less than 100g/km of CO2, which means they’re free to tax and are very economical. They may be more expensive to buy, but the more powerful diesels are more suitable for higher-mileage or motorway drivers.

The 74bhp 1.6 BlueHDi is the cheapest 208 of all to run. Go for the version with Peugeot's S&S stop-start system and CO2 emissions drop to 79g/km, while fuel economy reaches a staggering 94.2mpg according to the official figures.

Since launch, Peugeot has updated the 208's trim levels to make things more straightforward. The five-door is available in the standard trim levels, running from Access A/C to GT Line, while the three-door can be specified as all of those and as the high-performance GTi.

Peugeot has largely shed its old reputation for poor reliability, as the brand finished 10th out of 32 manufacturers in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. The 208 itself was 73rd, putting it comfortably in the top half of the 200 models looked at in the survey. It also scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash-testing, but that was in 2012 and safety standards have since become even more stringent.