Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon 1.7 VCDI 130 LT
List price when new £18,925
Price today £3500
Available from 2012-2015
Heavy depreciation has made the Chevrolet Cruze Station Wagon an absolute steal, but is that enough to give this underdog the edge?
Ford Focus Estate 1.6 TDCI Zetec
List price when new £19,895
Price today £6500
Available from 2011-present
The Ford Focus Estate was our preferred option of these three when it was new. As a used car, it's just as enticing.
Kia Cee’d Sportswagon 1.6 CRDI 2
List price when new £19,295
Price today £6000
Available from 2012-present
The hatchback Kia Cee’d is one of the best used small family cars, but can it impress us in estate form?
Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
We’ve often given much praise to the Ford Focus and, sometimes, we even made it the winner of the group tests it’s entered. And it seems the nation is also in agreement, as it has been a top seller for much of its life and remains one of the best-selling used cars. What's more, even in estate form, as here, the Focus looks like a bargain next to some of its rivals.
But on that front, it has stiff competition from the likes of the Kia Cee’d SW, which gave the Focus a bit of a headache when new. It has the largest boot on paper, is economical and has a reputation for strong reliability – backed up by the longest manufacturer's warranty in the business.
Let’s not discount the Chevrolet Cruze, though. It might have an American badge on it, but it’s based on the Vauxhall Astra, a car known for being good in all areas while offering exceptional value. Indeed, the Cruze's prices look pretty astonishing on paper, undercutting both of its more mainstream rivals. So what's the catch?
What are they like to drive?
The Cruze has more power and torque than its rivals, and is generally quickest whether you’re accelerating through the gears or relying on the engine’s low-rev muscle. It’s only when you let the revs drop really low – say, below 1200rpm – that it starts to struggle.
The Cee’d and Focus can also keep up with the flow of traffic without the help of frequent gearshifts. However, the Focus’s power comes and goes quickest, which means there’s no benefit from revving the engine – it’s ultimately the slowest car.
Refinement, by contrast, is a Focus strength. Its engine stays smooth and quiet when you put your foot down, whereas the Cee’d’s gets a bit coarse. Still, at least the Cee'd’s engine is refined when you’re just cruising; the Cruze’s continues to rattle like an old-school diesel.
To make matters worse, wind, road and suspension noise can all be heard in the Cruze at motorway speeds. The Focus and Cee’d are significantly quieter, with the latter particularly impressive, although our test car was helped by the fact that it was fitted with Continental tyres. Some Cee’ds came on Hankooks, which generate a lot more road noise.
Comfort is a Cee’d strength; it’s good at soaking up bumps at all speeds. Body lean is also reasonably well controlled, but the steering weights up excessively in turns without offering much feedback.
The Cruze has steering that’s lighter but just as vague, and its ride tends to fidget and crash over scruffy surfaces.
Instead, it’s the Focus that’s most impressive, with responsive steering, tight body control and bags of grip. True, the ride is a little firmer than the Cee’d’s in town, but it smooths out at speed.
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