Autocar compares the top superminis, with the Volkswagen Polo coming out on top
18 January 2010

This is a test of three of the most appealing superminis available today: the established Ford Fiesta and two relative newcomers, the VW Polo and Citroen C3.

Today's supermini buyer expects of their purchase roughly what a buyer 20 years ago could demand of a small executive saloon: comfort, refinement, safety, ease of use, space for four adults and some fun.

If you needed more proof that times have changed, here's another shocker: the cheapest car in this test is the Volkswagen Polo. Given that its rivals, the new Citroen C3 and the Ford Fiesta, are traditionally bought for value as much as anything else, it shows how much the market has changed.

Pre-haggling, the £13,030 VW Polo will set you back £160 less than the C3 and a staggering £1367 less than the Fiesta.

All of the cars in question have naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engines mated to five-speed manual 'boxes, all have similar mid-range standard spec and equipment, and all of them have MacPherson strut suspension at the front and torsion beam at the rear.

The Fiesta is the slowest of the three, producing 95bhp and 94lb ft of torque. It has a claimed 0-60mph time of 12.2sec, with the VW Polo and Citroen C3 posting 11.9sec and 10.6sec respectively.

And yet, straightline performance or not it is no surprise that the slowest car here is also the most fun. The Fiesta's engine buzzes on the motorway, but the ride always remains perfectly damped and absorbent. Its electrically assisted steering is perfectly judged, whether you're changing lanes on the motorway or parking at the supermarket, and the gearbox has none of the sloppy, rubbery feel that's all too evident in the C3.

That the C3 is the least emotive of the three to drive is no surprise, but that's no bad thing. In fact, this solidifies the C3's ability to offer a relaxing environment in which to travel, rather than an exciting one.

The ride quality is particularly excellent at low speeds around town. Pick up speed and some slight body-shimmering and less well restrained body roll is the compromise you make for that added urban comfort.

Refinement also suffers at higher speeds, when wind noise becomes particularly intrusive.

The new Polo is nothing more or less than perfectly suited to its class. On the motorway it's the most refined car here, and it is comfortable in every circumstance. It's also the only car here with ESP and disc brakes all round as standard, and it is the best value by some margin.

The Polo attracts just one significant complaint, and that's the engine's shortage of mid-range pulling power. Of the three, it is by far the most prone to almost total lack of response when you put your foot down at motorway speeds.

The winner? Had the C3 and Polo arrived a year ago, when the Ford was more reasonably priced, there's no doubt the Blue Oval would have taken victory. But those rises have put this particular Fiesta out of its depth, and have made the effortlessly mature and not unenjoyable Polo seem like outstanding value.

The Citroen? It comes in last, its roomy, airy cabin let down by uncomfortable seats, inconsistent steering and the sense that it could offer more driver reward with with no impact on its benchmark around-town comfort.

 

Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta
Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

The seventh-generation Ford Fiesta is the UK's best selling car, helped by frugal engines, handling verve and a big car feel

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Comments
28

18 January 2010

The Polo and C3 are really good value superminis, especially considering the former will hold on to most of its value, whereas the latter will be offered with the biggest discounts. Ford prices are ridiculous at the moment.

18 January 2010

Short but sweet reveiw and I agree the Polo would be the one I would go for although I would like to try a Citroen as the mark seems to be getting some individuality back. Did not like the Fiesta from day one even before it got silly expensive.

I would also be interested to see these digitally parked over a MK 1 golf for the Polo and a MK 1 escort for the fiesta. Maybe a citroen GS for the citroen? I wonder which would be bigger . Kinda brings a new meaning to super in supermini then.

However not a very mini mini isnt quite as catchy a name is it.

Maybe autocar could start some used reveiws in the new year not like for like but say a 3 year old 3 series against a new hot hatch and see which comes out best . How about a used XJ versus a new Mondeo. Just an idea.

Would be an interesting read when we are watching our pennies dont you think.

18 January 2010

The C3 looks like a downsized Popemobile, especially when driven by tiny people, like your female test driver - under 5 feet?

The Fiesta looks like a plastic child's toy - interesting for five minutes then a nuisance.

The Polo is just an inoffensive, competent all-rounder - which it seems is all that's required to succeed in this 'whacky' sector.

The French really ought to give up on modern car production. The C3 and its 'DS' up-market brand-engineered offshoot was hailed by Autocar(okay Steve Cropley) and others as a real force. Yet again, the French flatter to deceive.

With Renault committing corporate hari-kiri, with their gut-wrenching latest corporate Global Warming/electric car garbage, the French are hoisting the white flag of defeat. Noddy car driving surrender monkeys.

18 January 2010

BigEd,

Sorry to be picky, but Noddy car driving surender monkeys, are strictly speaking Italians in Fiat 500s. The French are cheese eating surrender monkeys, although both make equally bad cars.

18 January 2010

Yes, very true mr. crashbangwallop,

But Perhaps the French should learn from the real surrender monkeys. The ones that lost Jaguar and Austin Martin and Mini and Lotus and Land Rover and Rover and Rolls Royce and (please add remaining items here as I lost count)

Those real losers can show the French how its done, with all the experience and what not.

18 January 2010

[quote matters2much]

Yes, very true mr. crashbangwallop,

But Perhaps the French should learn from the real surrender monkeys. The ones that lost Jaguar and Austin Martin and Mini and Lotus and Land Rover and Rover and Rolls Royce and (please add remaining items here as I lost count)

Those real losers can show the French how its done, with all the experience and what not.

[/quote]

Yes quite right. We British may not surrender, we just give our heritage away for free over time.

British, what the hell does that mean?

SDR

18 January 2010

Generally speaking the people who 'contribute' to these forums only in order to pick at some trivial typo get right up my nose, but for the love of God Autocar, someone proof-read and correct this rubbish a.s.a.p. Did someone type it using their face??

On topic - like the Polo, agree that Ford pricing has become absurd, shame all the 'boxes are one ratio short of a set.

18 January 2010

[quote Lee23404]We British may not surrender, we just give our heritage away for free over time.[/quote]

We're not the only ones- witness Sweden cover it's ears as SAAB screams for mercy.

18 January 2010

Its interest ing how different magazines have totally different views on the same model. Autocar criticise the Polo 1.4 for lack of mid range pulling power, yet What Car? use such adjectives as "strong" and "torquey"..

18 January 2010

[quote BigEd]

The French really ought to give up on modern car production. The C3 and its 'DS' up-market brand-engineered offshoot was hailed by Autocar(okay Steve Cropley) and others as a real force. Yet again, the French flatter to deceive.

With Renault committing corporate hari-kiri, with their gut-wrenching latest corporate Global Warming/electric car garbage, the French are hoisting the white flag of defeat. Noddy car driving surrender monkeys.

[/quote]

Why so tough on the French? Citroen produce some very good cars at the moment, this C3 for one. Renault is rejigging its identity and brand position as this little excerpt from Phil York explains: http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/sectors/autos/article/950097/Marketing-Profile-Phil-York-Renault/

They should be congratulated for being forward-thinking and the way they are going about introducing EVs is commendable for it's lack of piousnes. If your argument is about EVs and 'eco' cars in general, then you should have a pop at GM and Honda too....

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