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Ford, Kia and Seat: Efficient everyday station wagons in the test

Nice that there are still rocks in the surf at a time when mobility is turning and turning. Some completely normal compact station wagons with efficient petrol engines such as the freshly facelifted Ford Focus Tournament, the Kia Ceed Sportswagon and the Seat Leon Sportstourer. They demand no compromises and no adjustments, but fit into life without compromise.

The smallest details often cause the greatest excitement. You'll never forget which was your first car with power windows. Which is the first with central locking or even a crank glass sunroof, to rummage around again with this word that has gone out of fashion. Here we have such details to offer: a loop, a compartment with a flap and a flashing bar. They belong to the Ford Focus Tournament, Kia Ceed SW and Seat Leon ST, which compete here as turbo petrol engines with 150 hp with dual clutch transmission and can also pack up. Everything that real life entails. Here we go.

Ford Focus Tournament: The Hyper-Active

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At Ford, they despair a little of their own customers. According to the press department, 98 percent of the tournament buyers had no idea how many clever variability tricks the developers had built into the station wagon from the start. Therefore, the innovations in this area have now been identified by explanatory notes. The luggage compartment blind can be easily removed using a loop and then lowered under the loading floor. It can be locked upright, which allows the luggage compartment to be divided into two areas - one with a waterproof, removable tray. According to Ford, the entire luggage compartment, right down to the remote-release folding rear seat backrests, is also covered with a carpet that is extremely easy to clean.

Each of these details may seem small compared to the now optionally available matrix LED light or the newly installed infotainment including modernized voice control and a large, well-structured touchscreen to which the climate control is also outsourced. But in everyday life, the optimized variability is one of the most significant improvements to the Focus.

Ford is sending it to the first test as a highly rigged active, which, in addition to an appearance of gentle boldness, gives the driver a seven centimeter higher seating position. Another advantage of this version is that it is easy to get started. The other driving mode for slippery surfaces is already in the area of ​​juggling. And the suspension tuning of the Active with an increased center of gravity further unbalances the Focus.

Yes, continue, the facelift hasn't changed that. The comfortable set-up still copes well with rough bumps, but not with the speed of the steering.It is precise and as eager for feedback as in the lower Focus models, but also responds just as sharply, even precipitously. This causes the Active, with its softer set-up and higher center of gravity, to stumble. With a significant body roll, he curves in bends, giving himself up to understeer. With which everything would still be half as wild. But when the load changes, he turns his back. What in the tighter normal focus in a gentler expression even increases a banal country road tour to a pleasure, tilts here into the uncomfortable. The ESP intervenes even at a gentle pace because the tires are running out of grip. They also lack bite when braking: with up to 6.4 m longer deceleration distances from 130 km/h than with the Kia, the Ford slows itself down in the race for victory.

What a pity (does this expression exist? If not, we need it now), because the Focus is otherwise such a pleasant combination. In addition to the assiduous suspension, the comfortable seating at the front and rear, the generous amount of space and the low noise level contribute to the good level of comfort. Although a three-cylinder and 999 cubic small, the engine has good manners in addition to 155 hp, 190 Nm and lively revving. Ford couples the turbo petrol engine, which is mildly hybridized with an integrated belt starter, to a seven-speed box. It switches softly and hastily into the higher gear ratios, which usually works. If not, however, the lively hustle and bustle of the transmission can be influenced neither by a manual gate nor by shift paddles, but only by a sensitive/determined foot on the accelerator or the L position of the selector lever. From about 1982 we hadn't dared hope for a recurrence of the low stage until it unexpectedly reappeared in Ford's Puma and Mustang Mach-E. Despite the mild hybrid boost, the engine cannot drive the Focus to the most urgent temperament, but it does achieve the second-best efficiency - with 7.1 l/100 km in the test and 5.2 l on the Eco lap, it is just above the Leon with an even more complex drive combination . The focus is just behind at the end. Which doesn't mean that there couldn't be a surprise winner after all.

Ceed good for Kia

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So you think that would have to be the Ceed? We'll see. During the facelift last year, Kia brought the assistance to a higher level with active lane and speed guidance, lane change assistant with brake intervention and exit warning. It is true that these systems sometimes react somewhat prematurely and sensitively. But lagging behind and ignorance do not go hand in hand with the sense of safety devices.

Finally, there's revamped infotainment with a 10.25-inch split-screen. Like everything else on the Ceed, this is easy to use – with a catchy typing structure here and the right buttons there. That's all the better, since the driver and voice assistant often talk past each other.

Now a few words about variability: The rear seat backrest folds in three parts and is remotely unlocked. There are separate compartments for the loading roller blind and partition net in compartments under the loading floor. Also good: The Ceed packs away most of the luggage. Not so good: the low payload. Actually good: the space despite the tight fund, but at least he creates the shortest external dimensions.

Remarkable dimensions, so we turn to the driving characteristics, does not assume the handling of the Ceed. The limitations in comfort that the firm chassis brings with it are offset by, well, nice handling. Sure he gets the curve, with proper precision and unobtrusive feedback in the steering. If he is in too much of a hurry, he shoves into understeer, from which he cannot be torn even with load changes. So it may not drive like a high-performance station wagon, but - more importantly - it brakes like one. At over 11 m/s², it stops at the level of an Audi S6 Avant.

The Kia with the 160 hp turbo petrol engine is denied its level of urgency. Kia combines the unhybridized 1500 with the seamless, but not overzealous seven-speed double coupler for a combination of appropriate temperament and acceptable economy (7.4 l/100 km in the test).

So the Ceed is by no means weak even in ratings in which it is not strong, it never falls far behind if it gives up the lead. He wins with the best cost record. Which surprises no one more than a habit winner.

Will this be tough for Seat Leon?

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With that, Leon ST enters the stage – who now lacks certainty of victory. The fact that this only happens at the end and because of the higher costs and tighter guarantees doesn't make it any better, after all Seat is more active in the price-performance than in the premium operation - and in the case of the Leon with success. This is explained by the amount of space, with the opulence of the Spaniard clearly surpassing the Ceed and the Focus. In addition, they carefully concede it, with comfortable seats, solid materials and the well-laid, but not quite as extensive assistance ensemble. The star here: the exit warning, where the light bar in the door panel flashes if you open the door when a car approaches from behind.

But the rivals have improved in many areas and thus caught up or overtaken. Above all, Ceed/Focus have always/now organize the operation much better than the Leon manages via the VW group system. It is still so intricately constructed that one soon wonders whether inability, defiance or ignorance is the reason why it is not being improved.

Best of all, however, is the driving itself. As an FR, the Leon comes with a sports suspension. But in the test car, the chassis with adaptive dampers takes care of assiduous comfort - in addition, the damper characteristics can be configured even harder and softer in the individual menu beyond the "Sport" and "Comfort" poles.In Comfort mode, the Leon responds more harshly to bumps than the Ford, but absorbs long waves without swinging back and has body movements tightly under control.

So you don't even have to switch to the harsher sport mode for fun on the country road. Since the Leon steers its variably translated, not too feedback-sensitive progressive steering precisely through curves, in which he keeps the understeering of the front wheels longer than the others. And from which it accelerates more firmly with the differential lock simulated by braking intervention - with the power of its 1.5-liter turbo petrol engine, which is assisted by a 48-volt mild hybrid system. This brings the Leon not only the most eager driving performance and the cheapest fuel consumption (6.9 l/100 km) but also quite a bit of unrest.

Because all of this first has to be orchestrated appropriately: switching off cylinders two and three under gentle load or even the entire engine shortly after the seven-speed gearbox has double-clutched to idle. Whereby the controller often wants to have recognized an opportunity for recuperation right away - i.e. put it back into gear and delay it by energy recovery. Especially in the city, the back and forth is exhausting, since you never know whether the Leon will roll freely downhill or whether it will motor brake or whether it is in the mood first for one, then for the other or first for the other, then again for one stands. The brakes could also muster a little more determination, which are already good at decelerating, but just not as excellent as those of the Ceed.

A few meters, a bit of unrest, a handful of euros - little things cost the Seat victory and bring it to the Kia. But the Ceed has what is important: down to the last detail.

Conclusion

1. Kia Ceed Sportswagon 604 points

The spacious, easy-to-use and cleverly variable Ceed slows down the rivals - first with excellent deceleration values, in the end with low costs. He springs hard.

2. Seat Leon Sports Tourer 598 points

The solid, agile and efficiently powered Leon gets tangled up in operation and brakes less violently. He fritters away the victory with higher costs and a stingy guarantee.

3rd Ford Focus Tournament 587 points

The comfortable, practical Focus slows itself down - with weak deceleration and the high-rigged active set-up that unbalances its handling.

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