Renault Megane vs SEAT Leon vs Vauxhall Astra

The new Renault Megane is aiming for the top in the compact family hatch class as it faces the Vauxhall Astra and SEAT Leon

The compact family hatch class is as popular as ever, despite fashionable crossovers and small premium cars vying for buyers' attention. So it's no surprise Renault has pulled out all the stops with its latest Megane.

Best family cars

This new MK4 car is aiming for the top of the sales charts with a blend of style, technology and low running costs. One of its highlights is a cabin that mixes cutting-edge connectivity with an upmarket finish. There's even a version with four-wheel steering - a first for this class.

However, here we test a model that's likely to be a big hit with private buyers and business users alike - the 1.5 dCi diesel in Dynamique S Nav spec. And we've lined it up against two fierce rivals. First up is our current favourite in this class, the Vauxhall Astra, which we test here for the first time in frugal CDTi 110 guise.

Renault Megane GT review

Our final contender is the sleek SEAT Leon, which still represents a stern test for any new arrival. So which of our family car stars takes the spoils in this bruising encounter?

Head to head

Business case

All three cars emit less than 100g/km of CO2, but the Leon Ecomotive and Astra ecoFLEX's outputs are low enough for tax to be rated at 18 per cent; that's one per cent lower than the Megane. Even so, there's just £2 a month between the cheapest and most expensive choices in this test for lower-rate earners.

Boot space

The Vauxhall and SEAT have clearly been closely benchmarked, as there is just 10 litres seperating their respective boot capacities. The Megane offers a much bigger load area, at 434 litres, but there aren't any extra storage touches.

Infotainment

The Leon shows its age here, as its 6.8-inch screen is smaller than its rivals', plus the latest apps are only options. Vauxhall gets Apple CarPlay, while Renault's R-Link can be ordered with loads of apps. Also, the Megane's large screen and layout work best.

Verdict

First place: Renault Megane

Compact hatchback group tests often throw up close results, and this one is no exception. In the final reckoning, the Megane does just enough to take victory. Not only does it look good with a classy cabin, it sets new standards for comfort and refinement. This Dynamique S model also features one of the best infotainment systems in the business, plus it comes loaded with kit.

Second place: Vauxhall Astra

The Astra tastes defeat for the first time, but it's still a brilliant family hatchback. The excellent ride and handling balance makes it a top choice for keen drivers, while the OnStar concierge service is unrivalled in this class. In addition, the Vauxhall is practical, frugal, and sharply styled, plus its 1.6-litre diesel is a punchy performer. It just can't match the Renault for kit, comfort or refinement.

Third place: SEAT Leon

Time is starting to catch up with the Leon. Make no mistake, it's still a stylish, practical and cost-effective hatchback, but it can't compete with the Renault for refinement and kit, and its sat-nav and infotainment system systems look and feel a generation behind. While it's still one of our favourites, the fast pace of change in this competitive sector means it's no longer top dog.

Also consider...

Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI Match Edition

VW Golf Match
Price: £22,350
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

You can't consider your next compact hatch without taking a look at a Golf. The latest car is solid and versatile, while Match Edition adds decent kit. High price and emissions make it a costly business choice.

Peugeot 308 1.6 BlueHDI 120 Active

Peugeot 308 - front
Price: £20,345
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 118bhp

The latest 308 majors on space and style, thanks to its roomy and slickly designed interior. Active trim gets all the essentials, while the punchy 1.6-litre diesel is smooth and frugal. Just check you're comfortable with the i-Cockpit driving position.

Figures

 Renault Mégane 1.5 dCi Dynamique S NavVauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 ecoFLEX SRi NavSEAT Leon 1.6 TDI SE Ecomotive Technology Pack
On-the-road price/total as tested£20,400/£21,925£20,945/£20,945£20,735/£20,735
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£8,078/39.6%£9,300/44.4%£8,626/41.6%
Depreciation£12,322£11,645£12,109
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£773/£1,546£752/1,504£744/£1,489
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,219/£2,031£1,010/£1,684£1,059/£1,765
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost15/TBC/A/£012/£438/A/£015/£354/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£499 (4yrs/40k)£570 (3yrs/30k)£498 (3yrs/30k)
    
Length/wheelbase4,359/2,669mm4,370/2,662mm4,263/2,636mm
Height/width1,447/1,814mm1,485/1,809mm1,459/1,816mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,461cc4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,598cc
Peak power 108/4,000 bhp/rpm108/3,500 bhp/rpm108/3,250 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 260/1,750 Nm/rpm300/1,750 Nm/rpm250/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel47 litres/foam48 litres/foam50 litres/foam
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 434/1,247 litres370/1,210 litres380/1,210 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,415/690/1,300kg1,275/525/1,500kg1,260/550/1,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.2 metres/N/A11.1 metres/0.29Cd10.1 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery4yrs (100,000)/4yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/2yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers18,000 (1yr)/158 20,000 (1yr)/338Variable/128
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.8th/1st25th/22nd18th/31st
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars88/87/71/5 (2015)86/84/75/5 (2015)94/92/70/5 (2012)
    
0-60/30-70mph10.9/11.8 secs10.3/10.5 secs10.0/9.6 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.6/6.9 secs4.1/7.5 secs4.6/7.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 11.1/13.3 secs8.0/12.8 secs9.3/13.0 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 116mph/2,000rpm124mph/1,800rpm124mph/1,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 47.3/35.1/8.2m45.7/31.7/7.9m51.6/33.6/10.1m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph70/44/60/66dB66/46/63/69dB64/47/62/67dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range50.4/11.1/521 miles60.8/13.4/642 miles58.0/12.7/638 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 68.9/80.7/76.4mpg72.4/88.3/83.1mpg68.9/83.1/78.5mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 15.2/17.8/16.8mpl15.9/19.4/18.3mpl15.2/18.3/17.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket150/96g/km/19%125/91g/km/18%131/94g/km/18%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/£450/£595**Seven/yes/£275/no
Auto box/stability/cruise ctrl/AEB*£1,200/yes/yes/£400^No/yes/yes/yes£1,250/yes/yes/£515^
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,000/no£395/no/£345£360/no/£360
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£525/£500/yes£545/£995/£395£575/yes/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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