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Alfa Romeo Giulietta vs SEAT Leon vs Kia Cee'd

We see if Alfa's revised Giulietta has what it takes to top the family hatch class as it meets Kia and SEAT rivals

In the six years since its launch, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta has only had one round of minor changes, in 2014. In that time we’ve seen all-new versions of the SEAT Leon and Kia Cee’d appear, with the latter even receiving a mid-life facelift.

So a thorough going over for the Alfa is long overdue, prompted by the arrival of the new Giulia saloon. Along with the forthcoming Stelvio SUV, that model will be key to relaunching the brand in the US. 

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Best hatchbacks to buy

But Europe and the UK in particular still love their hatchbacks, so the facelifted Giulietta is an important car in Alfa’s quest to reach 400,000 sales per year by 2018.

As a result, the Giulietta looks more like its new saloon cousin, but don’t expect a complete overhaul – instead, the styling tweaks are minor, while the main highlight is that the 1.6-litre diesel engine is now available with Alfa’s TCT twin-clutch transmission.

Best automatic cars

It’s that model we’ve lined up here, but the Giulietta faces a tough challenge as it meets the Leon, plus the Cee’d diesel with a twin-clutch auto. Has the refresh given the ageing Alfa a new lease of life?

Head to head

Design

These are three of the most style-led family hatches on sale, and in these specs there are lots of design features to like. Despite its age, the Giulietta still looks different, while GT-Line spec gives the Cee’d a sporty appearance (although it’s actually a 4 model in our pictures). Sharp creases and bold lines help the SEAT stand out from the crowd.

Efficiency

These 1.6 diesels are all about efficiency, and while the SEAT is the most frugal choice, the Alfa will help cut business costs with its 99g/km emissions. Still, go for the cheaper DSG auto Leon and although it emits 3g/km more CO2, you’ll pay £62 less in tax per year, or £162 less for the manual.

Price

The manual Alfa (£21,150) and Cee’d (£20,795) are pricier to buy than a DSG Leon (£20,650). The automatic SEAT is the best of the bunch, so while you need to spend a bit on extras to match up, the SE Dynamic Technology DSG still represents good value.

Verdict

First place: SEAT Leon

The Leon has lost ground to cars like the all-new Renault Mégane, but it’s still a class act. It steers and handles brilliantly for a family hatch, and while it doesn’t deliver as much performance, it makes up for this with its practicality, low running costs and more affordable price. Spend the money you’ll save on a few more options and you’ll have a brilliant family five-door.

Second place: Kia Cee'd

A punchy engine and fairly agile handling mean the Kia lives up to its looks in GT-Line trim. It’s well equipped, too, while material quality is fair. However, the ride is too firm for an everyday hatch, plus its higher price and the worst efficiency on paper put it at a disadvantage. Decent practicality and that warranty still make it a dependable workhorse with a few neat flourishes. 

Third place: Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Time hasn’t changed the Giulietta’s striking design, but its rivals have moved on massively when it comes to driving and ride quality. The 1.6 diesel is efficient, but its high price rules it out as a company car, and while performance is good, it doesn’t ride and handle with enough comfort or composure to trouble the SEAT. Extras like the steep £1,050sat-nav confirm the Alfa’s undoing.

Also consider...

Renault Mégane 1.5 dCi 110 Dyna. S Nav EDC

Price: £21,600 
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Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

Fresher styling inside and out, more tech and plenty of practicality make Renault’s new Mégane our favourite family hatch. Its sleek looks match the Alfa’s, as do its 98g/km CO2 emissions and price tag.

Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi SRi Nav Auto

Vauxhall Astra 1.6 turbo - front
Price: £22,950 
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 134bhp

The Astra has power to match the Kia for similar money, and offers decent performance. It’s relatively well equipped in racy SRi Nav trim, but 119g/km emissions for the below-par auto put it out of contention in terms of running costs.

Facts and figures

 SEAT Leon 1.6 TDIKia Cee’d 1.6 CRDiAlfa Romeo 1.6 JTDm2
On the road price/total as tested£19,400/£19,800£22,230/£22,230£22,550/£24,790
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£6,559/33.8%£8,074/36.3%£10,199/45.2%
Depreciation£12,841£14,156£12,351
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£774/£1,548£931/£1,863£855/£1,710
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,303/£2,172£1,529/£2,549£1,427/£2,378
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost15/£715/B/£2014/£724/B/£2017/£805/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£498 (3yrs/30,000)£329 (3yrs)£199/£299/£199
    
Length/wheelbase4,263/2,636mm4,310/2,650mm4,351/2,634mm
Height/width1,459/1,816mm1,470/1,780mm1,465/1,798mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,582cc4cyl in-line/1,598cc
Peak power/revs 108/3,250 bhp/rpm134/4,000 bhp/rpm118/3,750 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 250/1,750 Nm/rpm300/1,750 Nm/rpm320/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd7-spd DCT auto/fwd6-spd TCT auto/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/£10553 litres/space saver60 litres/space saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down)380/1,210 litres380/1,318 litres350/1,045 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,260/550/1,500kg1,391/549/1,500kg1,320/505/1,310kg
Turning circle10.1 metres10.6 metres10.9 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/2yrs7yrs (100,000)/1yr3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers10,000 miles (1yr)/12820,000 miles (1yr)/18721,000 miles (1yr)/55
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.18th/31st14th/9th23rd/5th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars94/92/70/71/589/88/61/86/597/85/63/86/5 (2010)
    
0-60/30-70mph10.4/9.8 secs9.3/9.1 secs9.4/9.6 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.4/8.2 secs3.3/4.2 secs3.7/4.7 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th10.5 secs/N/A/N/A6.4/8.3/12.6 secs6.7/7.9 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 121mph/2,100rpm124mph/1,900rpm121mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 48.4/34.6/9.3m47.8/34.1/10.0m51.2/37.4/12.0m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph67/49/61/70dB68/48/62/70dBN/A/N/A/59/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range47.3/10.4/520 miles40.3/8.9/470 miles43.2/9.5/570 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 60.1/74.3/70.6mpg61.4/72.4/67.3mpg60.1/88.3/74.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 13.2/16.3/15.5mpl13.5/15.9/14.8mpl13.2/19.4/16.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket160/103g/km/20%188/109g/km/21%175/99g/km/19%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/y/£275/£500*Six/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/yes/no
Automatic box/stability/cruise control£1,250/yes/yesYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seats£360/no/£360^Yes/no/noYes/£1,550/£260
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£575/LED/no£530/no/yes£525/£720/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes£1,050/yes/yes/yes
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