Vauxhall Astra vs Ford Focus

27 Dec, 2012 10:00am

They're two of the best-selling new cars in the UK, but which is better - the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra?

The Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus are two of the most popular family hatchbacks on the market, and the latest Focus has the edge on styling. It was introduced in 2011 – the latest Astra arrived in 2009 – and stands out with a neater, more modern shape. Critics aren’t keen on some of the clumsy detailing, but overall the Ford stands out more. That’s not to say the Astra is an ugly car. It shares a family resemblance with the larger Insignia, and looks smart enough, but just doesn’t catch the eye like the Focus.

The two cars are closely matched in terms of interior quality, with a similarly solid materials and construction. Neither can match the VW Golf in this respect, but they should hold up well to the strains of family life. Again, the Focus will turn more heads inside with its cool blue lighting, while the switchgear has a slightly higher-quality feel. The trouble is, there’s more of it – the centre console is a little button heavy. The Astra interior is a bit easier to use, and all models come with air-con and electric front windows. But you have to choose a mid-spec Tech Line to get Bluetooth as standard; in the Focus, this is standard on all but the entry-level Studio version. Plus, Ford offers a wider range of hi-tech options, including autobrake, self-parking, lane departure warning and road sign recognition.

This hi-tech feel continues under the bonnet, as the Focus is available with the new range of small-capacity three-cylinder petrol turbo engines. These 1.0-litre EcoBoost models combine punchy performance with strong efficiency and low emissions. More potent 1.6 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines power higher-performance versions of the Focus, with the 2.0-litre ST one of the best hot hatches on sale. There are also strong 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDCi diesels – more of which qualify for free road tax than the equivalent Astras – while a super-efficient 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic model delivers ultra-low 88g/km emissions and 83.1mpg fuel consumption.

Vauxhall doesn’t have a green Astra to match. The ecoFLEX model is the cleanest, with 99g/km emissions and 76.3mpg economy. More powerful versions of this car’s 1.7-litre CDTI diesel are available, alongside 1.3 and 2.0-litre CDTI engines, while petrol buyers can choose from 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines. And although the 2.0-litre petrol engine in the Astra VXR hot hatch has more power than the 2.0-litre in the Focus ST, the flagship is no match for handling fun. This is reflected across the range, with the Ford delivering more accurate steering and stronger agility in corners. The Vauxhall is smooth and composed, but simply not as entertaining to drive.

It has the edge on boot size, though, with its 351-litre capacity expanding to 1,216 litres with the rear seats folded. The Focus doesn’t make such good use of its dimensions, and can only manage 316 and 1,101 litres respectively. Both cars have achieved five-star ratings in Euro NCAP crash tests, and ESP is standard across both ranges, although the Ford is offered with more advanced optional safety kit.

Focus owners are clearly happier with their cars than those who drive an Astra, too, as the Ford finished 19th to the Vauxhall’s 39th in the Driver Power 2012 reliability and satisfaction survey. Neither of these family hatchbacks is a bad choice, though, and they are closely matched on price. So it comes down to whether you can compromise on space in favour of the better driving and tech of the Ford, or prefer the more practical interior and focus on comfort provided by the Astra.

Vauxhall Astra Exclusiv 1.7 CDTI ecoFLEX Start/Stop Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115PS Zetec
Price: £19,400 £18,895
Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl turbodiesel 1.6-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
Power: 108bhp 113bhp
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-60mph: 11.6 seconds 10.9 seconds
Top speed: 106mph 102mph
Economy: 67.3mpg 67.3mpg
CO2: 110g/km 109g/km
Equipment: Stop-start, air-con, cruise control, MP3 connectivity, ESP, electric front windows Stop-start, air-con, Bluetooth, MP3 connectivity, ESP, electric front windows, alloy wheels
Boot capacity (seats up/down): 351/1,216 litres 316/1,101 litres
Insurance group: 13 15
Road tax: £30 £20
Warranty: Lifetime/100,000 miles 3yrs/60,000 miles
Driver Power rating: 39th 19th

Disqus - noscript

From an unbiased point of view (I dislike these cars equally), the Focus is more stylish, despite 'clumsy' design features? The Astra, while quite bland is more stylish as it DOESN'T have any clumsy design features.

Also, where is the mention of Vauxhall's far superior warranty? And... implying the focus is more efficient is also unfair, as there is so little in emissions between the two on test here it wouldn't sway buyers one way or another.

It's articles like these I wonder why Auto Express bother even publishing, because of course they would pick the Ford - they are forever preaching about it being second only to the Golf VII. You can't fairly compare these two (dull as ditch water) bestselling hatchbacks on the Focus' pre-determined strong points!

Now that indeed is a titanic clash. Two of the best selling models in the UK face-to-face. In terms of looks, although Autoexpress chose Astra, I'll probably prefer Vauxhall Astra over Ford Focus. Astra's smoother contours give it a less offensive look while Focus is styled sharp as a razor blade.
Where Astra really suffers is the engine line-up. Vauxhall has shown us no new engines in the last few years other than fitting a bi-turbo to its diesel unit which brings a healthy dose of pace to the class. Focus has the one-up with its multi-award winning and rather innovative 3-cylinder petrol unit. Overall pretty neck-to-neck.

Vauxhall engines are just awful. How do they think they can be in it for the long term if they just won't invest any cash they have into new engines.

In these economic circumstances the efficiency of an engine is one of the most important aspects of a car, alongside price.

But, in all fairness - Vauxhall have proved they can near enough match Ford's much newer PSA 1.6 diesel. But 110hp from a 1.7l engine is way underpowered these days. Should easily be looking at 130-140hp.

Hired both recently.

Focus - Awful styling, crap tinny doors, cheap feel, ergonomics not for me, stupid step under clutch pedal.

Astra - smooth unobtrusive styling, quality feel, ergonomics good, can't find anything wrong with it other than 1.6 petrol a bit weedy, smooth enough though.

Can't see what all the reviewers see in the new Focus. It's as crap as it looks.

I have recently driven both cars on hire. No competition - The Astra engine is crap compared to the focus - The focus handling is much more engaging - Sure some of the focus interior is fragile but overall no comparison - If you like driving the Focus is superb the Astra is mediocre.

Buyers of both want something that is comfortable, cheap to run, looks okay and is reliable. Both should deliver. AE always promote Ford so do Fords selling job for them - no surprises! I have driven both anf the Focus doesn't feel solid or robust compared to the Astra. As for handling and road ability - both about the same for a daily rental hack. I suspect that if you want up spec, you pay for it and if you do. it won't be worth it, so buy a Skoda version of a VW and save money OR bite the bullet and buy a VW or BMW 3 series!

One issue you notice with the current Astra, what idea allowed the front indicators to be positioned that low?

Well I can tell you that my Astra 2.0 CDTI 165 Sports Tourer simply destroys 140bhp VAG units in real life driving. I've given plenty of 520d owners a few frights too. Oh and it returns a TANK average of 50mpg on commute. Very refined at motorway speeds and have done 35k miles in 1.5 years with ZERO faults.

I'm not a Volkswagen group of fan either, but you should perhaps compare your engine to their TDi 17, engine as it's a much closer match.

While I think that the, heir 2.0 CDTi engines are probably their best, I was referring more to their older tech 1.6's and lower in the Astra and Corsa - which are in comparison with rivals, a bit behind the times.

But at least Vauxhall's are generally honest cars where you know what you're getting (bar the Adam) unlike some rivals.

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