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Car group tests

Renault Megane vs Vauxhall Astra vs Peugeot 308

The Renault Megane comes with a new small-capacity petrol engine, but can it beat the downsized Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308?

Downsized petrol engines are all the rage these days, as they aim to deliver big-chested performance without the big bills. So it’s no surprise to find Renault has recently fitted a 1.2-litre turbo under the bonnet of its latest Megane.

When combined with the racy GT Line trim, this new unit promises fun and frugality in a practical and well equipped package. The 128bhp four-cylinder isn’t short of firepower, while racy additions inside and out give sporty kerb appeal.

Yet it’s not the only family-friendly five-door that’s had a warm hatch makeover. In SRi guise, the Vauxhall Astra gets just enough design cues to stand out. And under the skin you’ll find Vauxhall’s latest 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, which is very refined and punches well above its weight.

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Completing our welcoming committee for the Renault is the Peugeot 308. With its gutsy turbo, classy looks and long kit list, it represents a stern test for the Megane. So which of our trio offers the most fun for the smallest impact on our wallet? 

Head-to-head 

Engines

Each manufacturer has taken a slightly different downsizing route. All the engines are turbocharged, but Renault’s 128bhp 1.2-litre unit is the only one with four cylinders. The 308’s powerplant is the same size, but has less power at 108bhp. The Astra’s 1.0-litre is the smallest, but shorter gearing helps it punch above its weight. 

Infotainment

Our Megane was fitted with the upgraded £300 R-Link 2 system, featuring an 8.7-inch portrait screen. It’s easy to use, with crisp graphics. Vauxhall’s IntelliLink set-up comes with the brand’s OnStar service and 4G Internet that turns the Astra into a Wi-Fi hotspot. 

Driving modes

The Renault’s Multisense system allows you to choose between Neutral, Eco, Comfort and Sport driving modes. By contrast, the Astra just gets the option of Normal and Sport settings, while the Peugeot’s similar system is a £370 option.

Verdict

First place: Vauxhall Astra

The Vauxhall takes the victory here. This 1.0-litre SRi model is arguably the pick of the line-up, thanks to its blend of gutsy performance, agile handling, sharp looks and a generous amount of standard equipment. It’s not as comfortable nor as spacious as the Renault, but as an affordable and fun family hatchback the Astra makes a fine choice. 

Second place: Renault Megane

The Megane is still one of our favourite family hatchbacks, but this 1.2-litre GT Line version does not play to the car’s many strengths. While the Renault looks sporty, it drives no differently to standard models, and the engine needs to be worked hard. On the plus side, it's well equipped, spacious, comfortable and is available with some tempting finance deals. 

Third place: Peugeot 308

Third place is no disgrace for the Peugeot. Handsome, well finished and good to drive, the 308 is a classy and capable hatchback. Allure trim also comes with all the essential kit, plus desirable additions such as LED headlamps. However, it’s hobbled in this encounter by a high price, weak residuals and an infotainment system that lags behind the best in the class. 

Other options for similar money...

New: Ford Focus 1.0T ST-Line

Ford Focus ST-Line - Goodwood FoS

Price: £20,845Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 123bhp

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Ford led the downsizing charge with its powerful 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, while new ST-Line trim adds racy appeal to the Focus. The evergreen hatchback can’t match rivals for space or upmarket appeal, but it’s still a blast to drive.

Used: SEAT Leon Cupra 280

SEAT Leon Cupra 280 front tracking

Price: £20,000Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 276bhp

A new Leon has just been revealed, but a low-mileage, year-old example of the current flagship Cupra offers scorching pace and handling if you’re not so worried about fuel and tax bills. And under the racy looks is a regular Leon, so it’s still practical and easy to live with. 

Figures

 Vauxhall Astra 1.0i Turbo SRi NavRenault Megane 1.2 TCe GT-LinePeugeot 308 1.2 e-THP Allure
On the road price/total as tested£19,915/£21,830£19,950/£22,495£20,808/£21,020
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£8,066/40.5%£7,741/38.8%£6,084/30.3%
Depreciation£11,849£12,209£13,996
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£675/£1,351£836/£1,671£721/£1,442
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,498/£2,497£1,860/£3,101£1,601/£2,668
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost10/£438/B/£2014/£425/C/£3013/£441/B/£20
Servicing costs£569 (3yrs)£299 (3yrs/30k)£12.99p/m (3yrs/35k)
    
Length/wheelbase4,370/2,662mm4,359/2,669mm4,253/2,620mm
Height/width1,485/1,809mm1,447/1,814mm1,457/1,804mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc4cyl in-line/1,198cc3cyl in-line/1,199cc
Peak power/revs 104/5,500 bhp/rpm128/5,500 bhp/rpm108/5,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 170/1,800 Nm/rpm205/2,000 Nm/rpm205/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel48 litres/repair kit47 litres/repair kit53 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity370/1,210 litres434/1,247 litres420/1,228 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,188/592/1,220kg1,340/640/1,300kg1,345/640/1,200kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.1 metres/0.29Cd11.2 metres/N/A10.4 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr4yrs (100,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 miles (1yr)/33818,000 miles (1yr)/15812,500 miles (1yr)/283
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.25th/22nd8th/1st17th/10th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped/assist/stars86/84/83/75/5 (2013)93/86/66/66/5 (2013)92/79/64/81/5 (2013)
    
0-60/30-70mph10.5/10.7 secs10.2/9.7 secs10.6/10.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th5.2/7.6 secs4.4/6.5 secs4.5/7.1 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th12.5 secs/N/A9.6/11.6 secs12.4 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 121mph/2,900rpm122mph/2,400rpm117mph/2,300rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 44.0/34.4/9.7m50.4/41.6/9.4m50.4/36.3/9.7m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph62/51/70/74dB63/52/67/73dB70/51/69/74dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range42.1/9.3/445 miles33.9/7.5/350 miles39.4/8.7/459 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 53.3/70.6/62.8mpg42.2/61.4/52.3mpg48.7/70.6/61.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.7/18.3/13.8mpl9.3/13.5/11.5mpl10.7/18.3/13.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket180/102g/km/17%223/120g/km/21%192/107g/km/18%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£460/£615Six/yes/yes/£400Six/yes/yes/£200
Auto box/stability/cruise ctrl/AEB*No/yes/yes/yes£1,250/y/y/£400^No/yes/yes/£450^
Climate control/leather/heated seats£405/no/£355Yes/no/£1,200**Y/£1,500/£1,500***
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£555/£1,005/£405£545/£500/yes£525/yes/£415
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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