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Car group tests

Kia Cee'd vs Vauxhall Astra vs Citroen C4

Kia’s updated Cee’d is late to the three-cylinder engine party, but has it caught up with Vauxhall’s new Astra and Citroen’s C4?

In the past, small-capacity three-cylinder turbo petrol engines would normally have been associated with some rather quirky little Japanese cars. But to meet ever-lower emissions targets, car makers are turning to them to boost efficiency without sacrificing performance. And Kia has just joined the fray.

• Best hatchbacks to buy now

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It has introduced a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo unit with the updated Cee’d range. It comes in two outputs, and it’s the more potent 118bhp version we test here in GT-Line trim.

For this first test, we’ve lined up two very different three-cylinder rivals. The new Vauxhall Astra is our current compact hatch champ, and is now offered with the three-cylinder turbo that debuted in the Corsa last year. A revised pricing structure means the top-spec Elite Nav model is closely matched to the Cee’d GT Line on price.

A car that beats both for value is the Citroen C4. It comes with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder, and the top-spec Flair model is well equipped.

So, does adding a small-capacity turbo to the Cee’d make sense? And more importantly, does it have the measure of its rivals here?

Head to head

Assistance

Vauxhall’s OnStar system puts you in touch with a call centre to assist you. It can unlock your car if you manage to trap your keys inside, and can automatically call the emergency services if you’re involved in an accident.

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Citroen’s SOS system adds an emergency button that you can press to send your car’s location to the emergency services.

Wipers

Both the Astra and C4 have clapperboard-style wipers that sweep from the base of the windscreen and up to either side.

But the Citroen’s leave a large strip of the screen unswept on the driver’s side, which limits visibility. It’s a small niggle, but can be frustrating on wet days.

Emissions

The Cee’d emits 115g/km, compared to 107g/km for the C4 and 102g/km for the Astra. Emissions only drop to 113g/km in the less powerful Cee’d.

For free road tax, go for the 1.6 CRDi Cee’d, which emits 94 or 99g/km, depending on model.

Verdict

First place: Vauxhall Astra

It’s another victory for our class favourite, the Vauxhall Astra. The 1.0 turbo isn’t the fastest engine around, but it’s quick enough, and the lack of a six-speed gearbox isn’t a hindrance to its performance. The Astra handles tidily, is well equipped and is comfortable, too, while Vauxhall’s new pricing strategy pushes the newcomer to the top of the class.

Second place: Kia Cee’d

Kia’s first small-capacity turbo engine is a good effort, and its rev-happy nature suits the sporty character of this GT-Line model well. This version looks smart, is well equipped and is enjoyable to drive in most situations. However, Kia needs to do a bit more to reduce the car’s emissions and engine noise to put this three-cylinder model at the front of the compact hatch pack.

Third place: Citroen C4

The C4 is being left behind by newer and more accomplished rivals, even within Citroen’s own ranks. While the C4 is comfortable, fast and decent value, the driving experience falls well short of the other cars here. Add in poor economy and steep depreciation, and it makes the C4 hard to recommend to even the most dedicated Citroen fan. We’d have a C4 Cactus every time. 

Other options in this category…

SEAT Leon 1.2 TSI SE Technology Pack

Price: £18,785Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

SEAT Leon - front static

SEAT’s Leon is still a class favourite, thanks to its sharp looks, practicality and handling. Its 1.2 four-cylinder is smoother than its rivals here, while the Tech Pack adds LED headlights and sat-nav for £1,200 less than the Astra.

Ford Focus 1.0T EcoBoost (100) Titanium

Price: £20,095Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 98bhp 

Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium front

The lower-powered EcoBoost engine makes do with a five-speed gearbox, but emissions of 105g/km mean the Focus is a better company car choice than the Cee’d. Titanium spec adds lots of kit, and it’s more fun to drive than the Kia.

Figures

 Vauxhall Astra 1.0T (105) Elite NavKia Cee’d 1.0T (118) GT-LineCitroen C4 1.2 PureTech (130) Flair
On-the-road price/total as tested£20,015/£20,015£20,220/£20,220£18,245/£20,945
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£8,707/43.5%£7,320/36.2%£5,346/29.3%
Depreciation£11,308£12,900£12,899
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£599/£1,198£726/£1,452£582/£1,164
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,397/£2,328£1,384/£2,306£1,740/£2,900
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost13/£438/B/£2011/£431/C/£3019/£537/B/£20
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£569 (3yrs)£329 (3yrs)£400 (3yrs/35k)
    
Length/wheelbase4,370/2,662mm4,310/2,650mm4,329/2,608mm
Height/width1,485/1,809mm1,470/1,780mm1,489/1,789mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc3cyl in-line/998cc3cyl in-line/1,199cc
Peak power 104/5,500 bhp/rpm118/6,000 bhp/rpm128/5,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 170/1,800 Nm/rpm171/4,000 Nm/rpm230/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel48 litres/£9553 litres/space saver60 litres/£75
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 370/1,210 litres362/1,300 litres408/1,183 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,188/592/1,220kg1,279/541/1,200kg1,205/585/1,550kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.1 metres10.6 metres10.7 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr7yrs (100,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 miles (1yr)/40410,000 miles (1yr)/17016,000 miles (1yr)/196
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.30th/19th19th/14th20th/9th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points86/84/83/5 (2015)89/88/61/5 (2012)90/85/43/5 (2010)
    
0-60/30-70mph10.7/10.4 secs10.1/9.7 secs9.0/8.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 5.1/7.7 secs4.9/6.9 secs4.0/5.9 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 11.7 secs/N/A10.7/14.5 secs8.1/10.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 124mph/2,600rpm118mph/2,400rpm124mph/2,250rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 44.9/32.7/9.6m44.9/31.6/9.7m46.3/32.5/10.3m
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range42.1/9.3/445 miles42.5/9.3/495 miles33.8/7.4/446 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 54.3/72.4/64.2mpg45.6/67.3/57.6mpg47.9/67.1/58.9mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.9/15.9/14.1mpl10.0/14.8/12.7mpl10.5/14.8/13.0mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket155/102g/km/15%154/115g/km/18%193/107g/km/16%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£450/£595*Six/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/rear/no
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/yesNo/yes/yes£1,200/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/no/noYes/no/no
Met paint/LED headlights/keyless go£545/£1,560/£395£510/no/yes£525/no/£300
Sat-nav/CD changer/MP3 connectivityYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes£950/yes/yes/yes
Sunroof/automatic lights/wipers£500/yes/yesNo/yes/yes£490/yes/yes
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