The launch of French city cars is a pretty big deal in Europe, and this year we saw all-new generations of the most important models from Peugeot and Renault. The Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio are both all-new, even though in the case of the former you can certainly tell, whereas the latter just looks like the a facelift for the previous-generation model.

Renault played it safe with the Clio, clearly stating that its exterior look is merely evolutionary, but once you step inside you will notice the radically different (and better) interior. Believe it or not, the Clio rides on a new platform that, for the first time ever, gives Renault the chance to also offer it in hybrid form.

Peugeot has done one better, though. Its 208 looks striking and fresh both inside and out, borrowing design cues from the larger 508. Overall, therefore, it nudges in front of the Clio in terms of the way it looks and, on top of this, Peugeot will offer it in full EV guise under the name e-208. To make matters even better the e-208 is apparently going to have excellent range too.

However, Peugeot’s flamboyant approach to the design and styling of the 208 might put some people off completely, so even if on paper it may already sound like the winner in this company, the fact of the matter is there’s a lot more to it, and they need to be analyzed side by side.

Generation changes

Renault clearly didn’t want to veer off-course from its tried and tested formula for success which is why the new Clio looks like the old one, but with design features from the newer Megane. If you do look more closely at the Renault, though, you do notice there is more sophistication in its design, a very good example of how the “less is more” philosophy can work wonders in the world of car design.

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Peugeot is having none of that, though, with its dramatic 208, a car that looks nothing like the model it replaces.

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The only other car it really resembles is the sexy 508, but I actually think this design is even more successful than that, although one does have to consider the fact that Peugeot only showed the sporty GT and GT Line models at the 2019 Geneva motor show, so lesser trim levels won’t look this good or bold.

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio Exterior Wallpaper quality
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2018 Peugeot 508

Exterior

In terms of style, the 208 and Clio couldn’t be more different - the Peugeot is a sharp, chiseled hunk of city car, while the Renault is much more subtle and subdued with no sharp creases and a flowing design. It’s a bit like comparing an Audi to a Mercedes.

Front

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Comparing the two from the front, you can really notice just how different a styling approach they have. The Clio has a more wrap-around design, with its light clusters that curve around the corners of the front, its grille is smaller and, for lack of a better comparison, it looks like an angry high-level Pokemon that’s about to pounce - you don’t know if it’s friendly or whether it wants to bite.

But it’s certainly a characterful and unique face, and it could only really be a Renault - it certainly has individuality, even though some may accuse it of looking like a scaled down Megane. It really doesn’t, though, because apart from the shape of the headlights, the rest of the design is unique and it gives the Clio plenty of presence.

The 208 is more angular, but it doesn’t look like a Pokemon at all (or maybe it does, but one of those more robotic ones).

Its big grille dominates the front visually, and it looks a bit like an evil smile - the smaller lower grille is its double chin showing. Also striking is the design of the headlights, with their three-bar daytime running light design and the ridiculous strip of LEDs that continues down the bumper.

Said LED strip probably won’t come as standard on all 208s, so not all will have the three-bar daytime running light design - I’m curious just how much this will change the aesthetic of the front end (probably a lot) and if it will be as striking to look at. Lower trim grades will most likely come with boring halogen headlights, and the LED strip will be replaced by plain plastic trim (that may or may not be finished in faux chrome, like on the larger 508).

What I especially love about looking at both cars from the front, dead on is the shape of their hoods. Both are quite bold, with a nice flowing design and sporty swoops and bulges, but just like the rest of the car, the Clio has a more restrained hood, whereas the 208’s looks considerably edgier. The 208 also feels just that little bit more exclusive and upmarket just by having the “208” script on its nose. The 508 also has this, and it does the trick on both models.

Side

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There’s far less drama from the side when comparing the two, though; the 2019 Peugeot 208 is far more interesting to look at. It continues the bold front design with doors that have quite a deep indent and wide haunches in the back. They make the car look sporty, surefooted, and like it’s glued to the road. Then there’s also the model designation present in the indent made in the C-pillar specifically for it - the all-electric 208, for instance, has a blue “e” logo there, while in the case of the GT Line model, it says “GT Line” in that space. It’s safe to assume that it’s the place where the future 208 GTi’s badges will go.

Compared to the daring 208, the 2019 Renault Clio looks positively conservative.

Its doors lack the 3D effect of the Peugeot’s, although it does have a bit of trim and a design detail along the lower part of the doors that is very well integrated, and it certainly adds to the look. It definitely would have looked bland without it. But being a bit conservative isn’t bad, and there’s still a lot to like about the Clio’s side profile.

Firstly, the shape is easier on the eye than the Peugeot’s, with fewer details to catch your eye as you inspect it. I really like the hidden rear door handle and how the window line kinks upward toward the rear. Its short overhangs and clean, swooping shapes help turn it into quite a pretty city car. Do keep in mind, though, that without the dashing orange paint finish, the big wheels, and the LED headlights, it (like the Peugeot) will not look as good - if you want a Clio that looks like the cars at the 2019 Geneva motor show stand, then you need to go for a top spec example.

Unlike the 208, and its C-pillar badge placement, the Clio looks like it could have some sort of badge placed in the design detail created by the crease that starts close to the top rear part of the front fender. It looks like it’s the perfect shape to house a RenaultSport RS badge in there, but don’t expect to see the new Clio RS debut for another two years.

Rear

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The 208, at least in GT Line trim, already looks like a hot hatch from the back. Thanks to the blacked out central lower part of the rear bumper and the (real) twin exhaust, it definitely looks sporty. Then there are its wide, muscular looking flanks that give it a very nice stance, plus the glossy black part that joins the rear light clusters and houses the “Peugeot” script further adds to the visual width of the car. The design of the rear light clusters mirrors what you saw on the front, with the three-bar design.

Looking at the all-new 2019 Clio’s rear end, it’s really no less pretty than that of the 208, but unlike that car, it doesn’t already look like a hot hatch.

It looks like a posh, well-designed city car that is sportier than the model it replaces thanks to the same visual trick pulled by the Peugeot 208’s designers. They made the rear window a bit narrow, with the body wrapping around it to give the impression that the car’s flanks are bulging. I like this design trick a lot, and it certainly makes these two hatchbacks look very grown up and planted.

Of the two, the rear end of the Peugeot certainly has more going on, and it might seem more interesting at first glance. However, the Renault’s more sculptural design certainly grows on you, and it’s really hard to pick which of these two back ends looks best.

Interior

2019 Renault Clio

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Renault made it plainly clear that the 2019 Clio was evolutionary on the outside but revolutionary on the inside, and it needed to be. Nobody complained about how the previous-gen Clio looked, yet its interior didn’t really win it any fans. Now, though, Renault has set out to change that with the completely new and reimagined interior, an interior that’s sober, spacious, and assembled to a higher standard of quality than ever before. The Clio’s interior apparently has the most soft-touch surfaces of all non-premium cars in the segment.

There’s not a lot to distract your eye while driving; the cabin is dominated (in top of the range examples) by the 9.3-inch portrait infotainment display.

It runs Renault’s latest version of R-Link and, thankfully, you no longer have to operate it in order to change climate controls - it has physical rotary dials to adjust fan speed, temperature, and direction of the air.

2019 Renault Clio's smart, upmarket looking interior revealed
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Renault is adamant that there is a lot of attention to detail in the new Clio, like the all-new window switches that have a metal-like edge, or the new short and stubby gear lever (that hopefully feels better and firmer than on previous Renault Clios whose shifter feel was not great). What I really don’t like inside the Clio is the use of faux carbon fiber material all across the dash and even on the door cards.

The seats in the Clio are said to be similar to what you might see in a car from the next class up that not only provide good lateral support and comfort levels, but also maximize the use of space and improve rear passenger legroom.

And, you can radically alter the ambiance inside the Clio by going for one of the eight customization packs that will be available from the start.

2019 Peugeot 208

Sadly, the Peugeot has even more of the stuff, and it’s even more prominent. However, with its crazy dash layout, minute steering wheel that is all things but certainly not round, and the mad looking selector for the automatic gearbox, it certainly pulls it off better. Plus, in both cases, you can probably opt for a different material for those pieces of trim. After all, customization will be a big selling point with these cars, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who loathes fake carbon fiber - especially the excessive use of it on surfaces it has no place to be on (like soft-touch surfaces, or as a pattern for faux leather seats).

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Renault Clio vs Peugeot Interior shown here

The Peugeot certainly looks like the more futuristic place to sit, by far. There is little to remind of the previous 208, except for the aforementioned small helm and the high-placed instrument cluster. Unlike the Clio, a car whose interior is designed to feel airy and friendly, the 208 looks like it wants to cocoon you more in its midst, but unless it has a low enough driving position, it may end up feeling a bit awkward. We’ll have to check this once we get our hands on one to test drive.

Peugeot doesn’t specifically mention the 208’s seats, in the same manner, that Renault does in the press blurb for the 2019 Clio, but it does ensure potential future buyers that its new 208 has “greater acoustic and thermal comfort on board,” as well as less vibration than before. That’s good because the outgoing 208’s cabin was by no means uncomfortable, poorly built, and ridden with rattles.

Tech

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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Renault is going vertical.

Both cars come with optional fully-digital gauge clusters, large infotainment screens (one portrait, one landscape,) and enough gadgets to keep a 12-year-old entertained for hours.

The 2019 Clio comes standard with a 7-inch digital gauge cluster that can be upgraded to a 10-inch unit at extra cost - the latter allows for the sat-nav map to be displayed right in front of the driver.

The Clio’s standard central infotainment display is a 7-inch landscape-style screen, but the screen you see on cars in the official batch of press phots (as well as our own live shots from the Geneva show) is the larger but optional 9.3-inch portrait-style display.

Renault doesn’t mention any of the safety tech it’s set to offer on the Clio, but since it’s being touted as another proverbial “small car with big car features,” it’s safe to assume it will come with a wide range of active and passive systems on top of the mandatory airbags, antilock brakes and stability, and traction control.

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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Peugeot is going widescreen.

Peugeot says the approach to making the new 208 was inspired by the Fractal concept, a study that looks like it’s from much further in the future than the 208.

It can be had with three sizes of central infotainment screen: 5-, 7- and 10-inch versions.

The automaker doesn’t make it clear in the official information if the digital gauge cluster is standard on the car, but it probably isn’t, and I think having analog dials in a car as futuristic looking as this is not wise. So, if you’re thinking of buying a new 208, get it with the digital dials because they just work in this context.

Unlike Renault, Peugeot mentions the 208 is available with a number of features, including:

  • adaptive cruise control with stop & go function
  • lane departure warning and positioning assistance
  • fully automated parking
  • autonomous emergency braking
  • automatic high beams
  • traffic sign recognition
  • electric parking brake

The automaker also calls the new 208 “ultra-connected” since all models come with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, as well as a place specifically designed to hold your smartphone and also wirelessly charge it at the same time.

Drivetrain

2019 Peugeot 208

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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Peugeot 100% Electric 208.

There is one major difference between the powertrain options available for both cars - the Peugeot is the only one you can have as a full EV, and you will probably be able to order one when the order books for the 208 open, sometime later this year.

The all-electric version, called e-208, is incidentally also the most powerful one available, with a motor capable of delivering 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque.

Peugeot claims the e-208 sprints from naught to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.1 seconds, but no mention of top speed is made. I say it’s probably around 160 km/h (100 mph,) although it could be even lower than that. Its 50-kWh battery pack is quite big for a car its size, and it bestows the e-208 with a claimed range of 350 km (211 miles) according to the new WLTP testing standards. It would have been 450 km (290 miles) according to the older NEDC protocols that are no longer in use.

In regards to charging, the e-208 is pretty convincing. It supports fast chargers of up to 100 kW, and its battery can be topped up to 80 percent in just 30 minutes. But for those still not convinced by the looming and inevitable invasion of electric vehicles, Peugeot offers three gasoline engines and one diesel for those in denial.

2019 Peugeot 208
Engines Horsepower
Electric Engine
50 kWh battery 136 HP
Gasoline
PureTEch 75 1.2-liter 73 HP
PureTech 100 1.2-liter 98 HP
PureTech 130 1.2-liter 127 HP
BlueHDi 1.5-liter 98 HP
Peugeot says all these power plants, oil burner included, meet the stringent Euro 6.d emissions standards.

But, the fact of the matter is that the all-electric e-208 is still quicker than all of them, has decent range, and a similar body kit to the spiced up GT Line - it could be the pick of the bunch and a hit in its own right.

2019 Renault Clio

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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Renault bet on good old Hybrid tech.

Renault, on the other hand, has no plans to offer a fully-electric Clio. There are plans to introduce one into the range in the near future, but at launch, it won’t be available for order. It will be the first Diamond-badged car to run the new E-Tech hybrid engine (accompanied by a small, 1.2 kWh battery pack), the first of 22 new electric and electrified Renaults that will be launched by 2022.

The Clio will be available with several small, mostly turbocharged gasoline engines, as well as a couple of diesels.

At the very bottom end of the range will be two non-turbo 1.0-liter three-cylinder engines, dubbed SCe 65 and SCe 75 only available with a manual five-speed. But you probably want to avoid those unless you’re a major corporation buying Clios in bulk because you might be more interested in Renault-Nissan’s new TCe 100, turbocharged, 1.0-liter, three-cylinder.

It makes 98 horsepower and 160 Nm (118 pound-feet of torque) and Renault seems particularly proud of it, mentioning it has plenty of pull from low revs as well as “more spritely pickup” compared to the 0.9-liter engine it replaces. The most powerful gasoline engine will be the TCe 130, a 1.3-liter with 127 horsepower and 240 Nm (177 pound-feet of torque) It is mated exclusively to a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.

The 1.5-liter dCi you can have in the new Clio can trace its roots back to the Romans, but Renault has been steadily updating it over the years and, in spite of its age, it’s a solid diesel choice. For the Clio, both of the higher-powered variants are offered, called Blue dCi 85 and Blue dCi 115. Only a manual six-speed transmission can be specified for these power plants, though. Renault mentions in its press blurb that through the use of the new CMF-B platform, it has significantly improved noise and vibration levels in the cabin, which for this small, rather clattery diesel unit is definitely good news.

Keep in mind that both of these cars will be offered in performance form with more than 200 horsepower in the next two years.

So, if you want a really fast version of them, you might want to hold off buying one for now.

2019 Renault Clio
Engine Horsepower
Gasoline
1.0-liter naturally aspirated 65 HP
1.0-liter naturally aspirated 75 HP
1.0-liter turbocharged 99 HP
1.0-liter turbocharged 129 HP
1.3-liter turbocharged 150 HP
1.8-liter turbocharged 225 HP
Diesel
1.5-liter turbodiesel 84 HP
1.5-liter turbodiesel 114 HP

Is the Peugeot 208 or the Renault Clio Better?

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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The 208 WINS!

This is definitely a very tough choice. Both cars are excellent city cars, and both approaches to creating a city car are perfectly valid, even if they may address slightly different buyers. The Peugeot 208 is certainly a more noticeable, in your face kind of vehicle, and its styling may polarize opinions more, while the smoother, more conservative Renault Clio will have wider appeal. Some people will dismiss it right away due to the awkwardly small steering wheel / high-set dials combo, though. For some drivers, this is a deal breaker because they either can’t get comfortable enough or the wheel is in the way of the dials.

Both cars need to be driven back to back in order to make a final decision (I have a hunch the Clio will be the better of the two around a twisty road) - and you should definitely test drive both before buying. The Clio will certainly be less of a conversation starter as it won’t stand out as much as the Peugeot, so maybe it’s more of an introvert’s car than the 208. It’s really hard to pick faults with new versions of two of the most successful small city cars in Europe, because they’re successful for a reason. They are good, solid cars that have gained quite a reputation in their segments. You’re on your own with this one - whichever you like best, go for it, it will be a good choice.

Further reading

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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Read our full review on the 2019 Peugeot 208.

2019 Peugeot 208 vs 2019 Renault Clio
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Read our full review on the 2019 Renault Clio.

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