Seat Leon 1.4 EcoTSI 150 FR
List price £20,525
Target Price £18,025
Sweet to drive, well priced and well equipped, this is our favourite five-door Leon.
Vauxhall Astra 1.4 Turbo 150 SRi Nav
List price £20,215
Target Price £18,321
The latest Astra is offers outstanding value, even in this high-spec SRi Nav trim.
The new Vauxhall Astra proved its mettle recently when a diesel version saw off the excellent Skoda Octavia and the fine-handling Ford Focus. However, this time we’re testing the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol version in upmarket SRi Nav trim.
In this form it will strike more of a chord with private buyers, thanks to the competitive finance deals that are available. Plus, it offers potent performance and an impressive list of standard equipment.
The Astra faces competition from the sharp-suited Seat Leon FR, which has long been one of our favourite petrol hatchbacks. Like the Astra, the Leon gets plenty of creature comforts as standard, including satellite navigation. And the two cars are closely matched on price.
What are they like to drive?
These two pump out an identical 148bhp, but it’s the Astra that accelerates up to speed more briskly. Its engine pulls strongly from low revs right up to the redline, and its 0-60mph time of 8.1sec isn’t far behind that of some hot hatchbacks. That said, the Leon is almost as nippy and its engine delivers its power slightly more progressively, which makes it the easier car to drive smoothly.
You can vary the weight of the steering in both cars by pressing a button on the dashboard, but regardless of which setting you choose, the Leon’s offers more feedback. There’s also a bit more bite from the Seat’s front tyres as it turns in to corners, and a little less body lean – all things that make the Leon more rewarding and enjoyable to drive.
Mind you, the Astra is still agile, and doesn’t object to being hustled through a series of corners at a decent pace. It’s just a pity that, even with the steering in its heavier Sport setting, it’s a little too light and the weight doesn’t build quickly or consistently enough when you turn the wheel.
We wouldn’t describe the ride in either car as supple, although neither is uncomfortable, even on badly surfaced roads. The Leon is marginally the more forgiving over ruts and potholes, despite the optional 18in alloys fitted to our test car. It also generates less suspension noise.
Refinement will be a big incentive for choosing these petrol engines over the diesel alternatives. The Astra’s engine is particularly quiet, but both are smooth and hushed, even when they’re worked fairly hard.
Wind noise is better suppressed in the Astra, but the vague clutch and slightly woolly brake response make smooth progress that bit harder than it is in the Leon. The Astra also has a slightly sloppier gearshift, although it is, at least, light and easy to use.
Page 1 of 4