Is the Peugeot 208 better than the Fiesta?

We’re talking about the Ford Fiesta, the UK’s best-selling car of 2012 and 2011 and the clear leader in terms of popularity with new car buyers.

But the new Peugeot 208 threatens to give new car buyers pause for thought after it arrived this year to shake up the small car market.

It is a big ask to take on the Fiesta. It is widely recognised to be the best-handling car in its class – and we can confirm the grip and responsiveness is second to none – and it boasts a simple, ergonomical interior with plenty of kit for such a small car.

The Vauxhall Corsa, a stylish car aimed at younger buyers and with a superb choice of engines including the road tax-free Ecoflex model, is the natural rival to the Ford Fiesta, but has it been leapfrogged by the new Peugeot 208.

The new Peugeot 208 certainly looks the part. A sleek new design on the outside perfectly complements a superb interior built with high quality materials. It is a move upmarket for Peugeot and could help the brand, which is famed for its excellent small cars, get back on top.

The Peugeot 205 is the benchmark for Peugeot and the Peugeot 208 is closer than ever to the car that took the UK by storm decades ago.

Inside and out, it tops the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa and when you compare Peugeot 208 prices with those of its rivals, there is very little difference.

Expect to pay around £10,000 for a Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208 in the most basic trim, rising to around £15,000 for a top-level model.

Under the bonnet the Peugeot can compete as well with a selection of impressive engines including a road tax-free three-cylinder petrol offing sub-100g/km emissions.

Vauxhall cannot offer a petrol engine that does this but Ford is expected to introduce its own three-cylinder unit to the Fiesta range in future.

In terms of diesels, all offer sub-100g/km engines with stop-start technology although once again Peugeot has the edge with up to 83.1mpg of fuel economy – slightly more than its rivals.

Better looks and better engines bode well for the Peugeot 208 as the new 62 plates approach. The Ford Fiesta may be the king of the road in terms of handling, but buyers could be swayed by Peugeot’s grown-up offering.

But which would you choose?