Car group tests

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

It’s judgement day for the new Vauxhall Astra. The British-built hatchback is a very important car for the brand, as it aims to finally take the spoils at the top of the class.

Best family hatchbacks 

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.

Best family cars

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?

Vauxhall Astra review

SEAT Leon review

Ford Focus review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which popular hatch wins this test...

Verdict

Space race

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.

Infotainment

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.

Performance

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.

Verdict

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

Peugeot 308 hatchback 2013 front static

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.

Key specs:

 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi SRi NavSEAT Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive SE Tech PackFord 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%
Depreciation£12,630£12,625£10,994
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/cost16/B/£2014/A/£016/A/£0
Servicing costs£570 (3yrs)£480 (3yrs/30k)£570(3yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,370/2,662mm4,263/2,636mm4,360/2,648mm
Height/width1,485/1,809mm1,459/1,816mm1,469/1,823mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,499cc
Peak power134/3,500 bhp/rpm108/3,250 bhp/rpm118/3,600 bhp/rpm
Peak torque320/2,000 Nm/rpm250/1,750 Nm/rpm270/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel48 litres/£9550 litres/£10553 litres/£100
Boot capacity (seats up/down)370/1,210 litres380/1,210 litres316/1,215 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,275/525/1,500kg1,280/600/1,500kg1,343/557/1,200kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.1 metres/0.29Cd10.2 metres/N/A11.0 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/2yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 (1yr)/40410,000 (1yr)/12812,500 (1yr)/781
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.30th/19th15th/27th25th/26th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./starsN/A94/92/70/5 (2012)92/82/72/5 (2012)
    
0-60/30-70mph8.7/8.3 seconds9.9/9.6 seconds9.8/9.5 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.1/4.5 seconds4.6/7.4 seconds3.7/5.5 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th5.9/7.5 seconds9.0/12.4 seconds6.9/8.4 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph127mph/2,100rpm124mph/1,900rpm120mph/2,100rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph46.5/34.0/8.6m50.2/36.4/9.0m49.3/37.5/8.9m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph65/44/61/70dB67/49/61/69dB67/49/61/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range53.4/11.7/564 miles58.0/12.8/638 miles49.4/10.9/576 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined62.8/80.7/72.4mpg72.4/91.1/85.6mpg65.7/83.1/74.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined13.8/17.8/15.9mpl15.9/20.0/18.8mpl14.5/18.3/16.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket142/103g/km/18%131/87g/km/16%153/98g/km/17%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£450/£595Seven/yes/£500/£215Six/yes/£225/£250
Automatic box/stability/cruise control£1,320/yes/yesNo/yes/yes£1,250/yes/£250
Climate control/leather/heated seats£395/no/£345£360/no/£360No/no/no
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£545/£995/£395£575/yes/no£525/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes£250/yes/yes/yes

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