Peugeot 208 takes on the Ford Fiesta

In a world of designer hatches and posh everything, plain old superminis might seem a bit dreary. But these aren't fillers for cracks in a carmaker's range. For the last 30-odd years, the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 205/6/7 have been two of Britain's best-selling cars, and regular sales-chart-toppers. They're as familiar as Mars bars. And no matter how much advertising drivel is poured over these workaday hatches, there's no hiding what's really underneath: honest, real-world transport. From a teen's first wheels to a gran's last, they have universal pull, which makes their job way more difficult than some low-volume showpiece designed for a specific audience.

We've always preferred the Fiesta here at TopGear. There's something magical about the way it goes down the road, and proof that basic stuff can be just as satisfying to drive as the most lavishly engineered things out there. You have to go back a few generations before feeling similar affection for the Peugeot. All the way to the mid-Eighties and the 205. Sure, it was flimsy, but it was cute and practical and redefined how we viewed small cars. Plus, it spawned the GTI. After that, the 206 felt far too cheap next to pretty much all of its rivals, and the GTI version never reprised the charisma of the quick 205s. And let's be honest: the 207 was a proper gurning fatty.