Vauxhall Astra vs SEAT Leon & Ford Focus
We see if Vauxhall’s new Astra can lead the way in the family hatch class as it meets rivals from SEAT and Ford
Vauxhall has given the model a thorough overhaul, with cleaner yet more powerful engines, a new platform and plenty of weight saving under the skin.
So how does the new Astra measure up against its rivals? We’ve lined up two tough contenders for its first test.
First up is the SEAT Leon. It’s our reigning compact hatchback champ and has seen off some talented opposition to hold on to its crown. But can the Astra finally topple it?
We’ve also pitched the Vauxhall against its arch-rival for fleet sales: the Ford Focus.
We’re testing diesel versions of all three, so the Astra, with 1.6 CDTi power, will need to overcome the Focus in 1.5 TDCi guise, as well as the Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive.
The question is, does it have enough talent to shine through?
Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which popular hatch wins this test...
Compact hatchbacks need to accommodate growing families, so space is important. With its small boot and more cramped cabin, the Focus trails its rivals. The Astra and Leon are closely matched, as the former gets more rear legroom but a boot that’s 10 litres smaller. It also has a false boot floor when ordered with a space-saver spare wheel.
All three cars get user-friendly infotainment touchscreens as standard. Sat-nav is included in the Astra and Leon and a good-value £250 upgrade on the Ford. Only the Vauxhall is available with the Apple CarPlay set-up (above), which mirrors your iPhone’s screen and apps.
The Astra led the way at the track, but we were shocked by how big its advantage was over its rivals. Not only was it quicker than its 1.6-litre competition, it showed a clean pair of heels to a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI Leon we also had on test.
1st place: Vauxhall Astra
It was a close one, but the Astra just takes the spoils. With its blend of style, space, low running costs and hi-tech kit, the newcomer covers all the family car bases. It’s also better to drive than ever, while its 1.6-litre diesel delivers extremely punchy performance. And in SRi trim, the car comes with loads of safety kit. It’s been a long time coming, but Vauxhall is back on top.
2nd place: SEAT Leon
Although this is the Leon’s first defeat, it’s still an excellent compact family hatch. Sharp design and engaging driving dynamics make it a fine choice, plus Ecomotive models are cheap to run. Yet it can’t match the Astra’s performance, refinement and long list of valuable safety kit. And in a class this close, that’s enough to see it knocked off top spot.
3rd place: Ford Focus
If you value driving fun above all else, then the Focus is still in a league of its own. With its agile, engaging handling and eager 1.5-litre TDCi engine, the Ford is a car that always puts a smile on your face. Plus, it’s attractively priced and well equipped in Zetec guise. Yet the cracks are starting to show in the five-year-old design, as it’s not as spacious or refined as its rivals here.
Other options in this category
Kia Cee’d 1.6 CRDi 3
Price: £20,495 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 126bhp
Recently facelifted Cee’d looks smart, comes with loads of kit and is backed by a seven-year warranty. The 1.6-litre isn’t the best performer, but it emits just 100g/km of CO2.
Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi Allure
Price: £21,045 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 118bhp
Handsome and refined 308 matches class leaders for comfort and quality. It’s also good to drive, while smooth 1.6 HDi punches above its weight and delivers decent economy.
|Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi SRi Nav||SEAT Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive SE Tech Pack||Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi Zetec|
|On-the-road price/total as tested||£21,480/£23,465||£21,475/21,475||£19,795/£21,420|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)||£8,850/41.2%||£8,850/41.2%||£8,801/44.5%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£771/£1,543||£685/£1,371||£671/£1,342|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,124/£1,873||£1,035/£1,724||£1,215/£2,025|
|Insurance group/road tax band/cost||16/B/£20||14/A/£0||16/A/£0|
|Servicing costs||£570 (3yrs)||£480 (3yrs/30k)||£570(3yrs)|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,598cc||4cyl in-line/1,598cc||4cyl in-line/1,499cc|
|Peak power||134/3,500 bhp/rpm||108/3,250 bhp/rpm||118/3,600 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque||320/2,000 Nm/rpm||250/1,750 Nm/rpm||270/1,750 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||48 litres/£95||50 litres/£105||53 litres/£100|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||370/1,210 litres||380/1,210 litres||316/1,215 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||11.1 metres/0.29Cd||10.2 metres/N/A||11.0 metres/N/A|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/1yr||3yrs (60,000)/2yrs||3yrs (60,000)/1yr|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||20,000 (1yr)/404||10,000 (1yr)/128||12,500 (1yr)/781|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||30th/19th||15th/27th||25th/26th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||N/A||94/92/70/5 (2012)||92/82/72/5 (2012)|
|0-60/30-70mph||8.7/8.3 seconds||9.9/9.6 seconds||9.8/9.5 seconds|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||3.1/4.5 seconds||4.6/7.4 seconds||3.7/5.5 seconds|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||5.9/7.5 seconds||9.0/12.4 seconds||6.9/8.4 seconds|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||127mph/2,100rpm||124mph/1,900rpm||120mph/2,100rpm|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||65/44/61/70dB||67/49/61/69dB||67/49/61/69dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||53.4/11.7/564 miles||58.0/12.8/638 miles||49.4/10.9/576 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||142/103g/km/18%||131/87g/km/16%||153/98g/km/17%|
|Automatic box/stability/cruise control||£1,320/yes/yes||No/yes/yes||£1,250/yes/£250|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||£395/no/£345||£360/no/£360||No/no/no|
|Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go||£545/£995/£395||£575/yes/no||£525/no/no|