Buying used: Ford Fiesta vs Renault Clio vs Hyundai i20

Buying used: Ford Fiesta vs Renault Clio vs Hyundai i20
Buying used: Ford Fiesta vs Renault Clio vs Hyundai i20

With the new Fiesta getting five stars, it’s time to remember just how good the outgoing car is as well. It’s this country’s best seller for a reason, and that reason covers the last eight years. But small cars with diesel engines isn’t always a marriage made anywhere nice, so we’ve stacked the Fiesta up against two fierce competitors, the Hyundai i20 and Renault Clio, all with diesels, to see how they cope. If you do lots of miles, and need to watch the budget, do these used diesels make financial and practical sense?

Buying a diesel sounds a sensible thing to do, but the Renault Clio allows you to do something apparently sensible while at the same time you’re getting a stylish, chic little hatchback. It’s also the quietest here in operation, with just a hint of wind and road noise.

The Fiesta is a bit noisier with that dreaded diesel clatter when you put your foot down – the right foot, obviously. This is a shame as the lack of low-down thrust means you end up giving the engine some grief on a regular basis. However, that sounds as smooth as glass compared to the Hyundai, whose three-pot engine shakes, rattles and rolls and, thanks to close gearing, it also tends to be revving higher at any given moment.

When it comes to handling, guess what? Correct, you forgive the Fiesta quite a lot as it feels so agile and accomplished. Steering is sharp, handling exceptional and even the ride is smooth. It’s a class act the Clio can’t quite match but it still does a decent job, even if the ride is a touch fidgety. The i20 fidgets about too with real ants in your pants jostling, and it rolls around in the corners rather a lot. Add in oddly weighted steering at different speeds and you’re not in the most relaxing of cars.

Inside there are at least some reasons to settle back in the Hyundai, as it has a clearly laid out dashboard with decent-sized buttons and controls. The materials don’t feel great, but at least the i20 offers decent space front and rear, with no transmission tunnel for a central rear passenger to straddle.

The Renault depends on trim, with the Expression+ example we have here having a rather basic dashboard and fiddly controls. It may be stylish but the Clio doesn’t feel very high-rent inside, although the front seats are pretty comfortable – whereas they’re actively uncomfortable in the i20.

The Ford’s cabin is a bit of a mess of buttons all over the shop, but at least the general sense of quality is there, with soft-touch materials on display. As a driver you’ll be more comfy in the Fiesta than the other two over extended miles, but all three have about the same amount of rear and boot space, with little to choose between them.

Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi 95 Econetic Style 5dr (2008-2017)

List price when new £15,195 – price now £6500

Hyundai i20 1.1 CRDi 75 Active 5dr (2009-2015)

List price when new £12,740 – price £5000

Renault Clio 1.5 dCi 90 Expression+ (2012-present)

List price when new £14,095 – price now £7000

Price now based on a 2013 model with average mileage and full service history

Bearing in mind we’re looking at used cars, there is quite a gap between the values. At one end we have the Hyundai i20, that’ll be the bottom end, and at the top end we have the Renault Clio which isn’t quite as common and so has some relative rarity value making it more attractive.

Running costs are clearly important if you are looking at a diesel, and on paper the Ford is the most frugal with 85.6mpg, followed by the Renault on 78.5mpg and the Hyundai on 74.3mpg. However, out here in the real world, you’ll probably find the Hyundai gets closer to its claimed figure than the others.

With emissions of 99g/km none of these three will cost anything to tax, with only small bills for servicing. The Ford should be the most reliable, with the Hyundai being the worst, but you may still have some of that seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty to call on if it does go wrong.

If budget is your only yardstick, then it’s a win for the Hyundai i20. It’s cheap to buy, cheap to run and you may have some warranty to call on. However, that would be overlooking the rough engine, poor ride, steering, seating and more.

It’s not that great a car to drive, unlike the Ford Fiesta. That’s just great to drive, yet it’s also practical, cheap to run and repair and should be the most reliable. However, we’re really not sold on the Fiesta with a diesel engine, particularly one that sounds so rough and which needs revving so much.

Unlike the Renault Clio, which has the smoothest, quietest diesel, yet that engine also has some punch to go with the style. The car looks great, has a solid list of equipment, has a good reputation for safety and works as a small hatch with a diesel. It’s also the most expensive of the trio but, if you could find the budget, we reckon it’s worth the extra.

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