New Honda Civic and new Vauxhall Astra vs Seat Leon: interiors

This trio of family hatchbacks each takes a different approach to maximising efficiency. Let's see which one is the best choice...

New Honda Civic dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

All three cars offer plenty of steering wheel and driver’s seat adjustment, so finding a comfortable seating position should be possible. However, getting things ‘just so’ is trickiest in the Honda Civic because you adjust the angle of the seatback by pulling a lever and shifting your weight back and forth before releasing the lever to lock it in place. The rotary wheel method in the Vauxhall Astra is simpler and more precise, and the electric adjustment in the Seat Leon is even more so.

Each of our cars comes with adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat, but the Leon and Astra are more comfortable on longer journeys; they provide firm padding in all the right places, and plenty of bolstering to keep you upright. The Civic’s seats are only marginally softer, but they don’t feel as supportive.

New Vauxhall Astra dashboard

The Leon gives you the best view down the road, but it and the Astra compromise their over-the-shoulder visibility with chunky rear pillars. Perhaps surprisingly, the Civic’s sloping rear screen gives a slightly better view out. All three come with front and rear parking sensors to help when manoeuvring, though; the Civic adds a rear-view camera, and the Astra provides a 360-degree one that displays a bird’s eye view of the car on the central display.

You’ll find touchscreen infotainment systems in all three of our contenders (see infotainment panels), and the Civic is the only car here without a fully digital instrument panel. Instead, it has a 7.0in digital screen flanked by an analogue speedometer, and it gives you less choice of display set-up options than the other cars.

Otherwise, the Civic’s interior is the best laid out for use on the move, with clearly marked knobs and buttons that are easy to locate by touch. Some of those are for the climate control system, and the Astra also gets ‘physical’ knobs and buttons for this purpose. Sadly, the Leon doesn’t; you have to use voice commands, the touchscreen or the fiddly touch-sensitive pads below, and the latter aren’t illuminated, so they’re next to useless after dark.

Seat Leon dashboard

From a quality standpoint, the Civic impresses, too. There are lots of soft-touch materials and attractive trim finishes, including the full-width honeycomb-patterned air vent grille that divides the dash, plus the knobs and buttons feel reassuringly expensive when you use them.

By contrast, the Leon’s interior is somewhat underwhelming, with plenty of matt grey plastic and unconvincing metal-effect finishers, although there’s still plenty of squidgy and sturdy-feeling plastics on the dashboard. Meanwhile, the Astra feels solid enough, and the padding on the doors, gloss-black trims and red highlights lift the ambience a little, but it’s let down by large panels of grainy, scratchy plastic that make it feel the least upmarket inside.

Infotainment systems

Honda Civic

New Honda Civic infotainment

The Civic’s 9.0in touchscreen system is the smallest but the easiest to use. There’s a useful selection of physical shortcut keys, and while the graphics may not be as eye-catching as the Leon’s, the simple menus are easier to navigate. The wireless Apple CarPlay didn’t always load up during our testing, but the system otherwise works smoothly. The eight-speaker stereo is good, if not as punchy as the Leon’s.

Vauxhall Astra

New Vauxhall Astra infotainment

The Astra’s touchscreen is the same size as the Leon’s, but the icons could be bigger to make use of the available space. The responses could also be quicker, and while the grid layout of the home screen helps you locate functions quickly, the sub menu fonts are tiny. There are physical shortcut keys to menus for the heated seats and steering wheel settings, though. The six-speaker audio system is a bit weedy.

Seat Leon

Seat Leon infotainment

The Leon’s 10in touchscreen has a useful row of shortcuts along the bottom of the screen, but getting to a few of the basic functions (such as the main home screen and heater controls) require too many presses. Some of the icons are too small and difficult to aim for, while the system can be a little laggy to load. As with the others, sat-nav is included. The standard seven-speaker sound system is clear and decently powerful.

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