Twin Test: eco-friendly petrol family cars

  • We pit two family car favourites against each other
  • Driving, practicality and costs all explored
  • It’s a close call but one comes out on top

If you don’t want a diesel car, but still fancy saving money, then the news that petrol engines are more efficient than ever should be a welcome one. Here we pit two family cars boasting small capacity petrol units that marry eager performance with low running costs.

Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Edge (2011-) vs SEAT Leon 1.2TSI SE (2013-)


Focus: The Ford Focus has always set the dynamic benchmark in the class and this latest model is no different. With its characterful 1-litre three-cylinder engine you’ve got a properly entertaining package. There’s just 99bhp on offer (you can have a 123bhp model) so 0-62mph takes 11.3 seconds though.

Leon: Almost as sharp to drive as it is to look at, the Leon benefits from an excellent four-cylinder 1.2-litre turbocharged engine with 103bhp. That means 0-62mph takes 10 seconds, but thanks to a generous 175Nm of torque it always feels far more willing in reality, while the sharp chassis makes it fun to drive.


Focus: From the inside the Ford feels slightly larger than the SEAT, especially in the rear, though in reality the differences are minimal. It’s a close run thing when it comes to bootspace too, though the Focus is only able to offer 363 litres with the seats in use but another 95 litres over the Leon when folded flat. There’s plenty of helpful storage spaces dotted around the cabin too.

Leon: The cabin in the Leon is spacious and well-built with plenty of room for four adults and their luggage. In fact the 380-litre boot is larger than almost all others in the class, though access is hampered slightly by a load lip. Still, fold the seats down and that grows to 1,210 litres, though the otherwise ample glovebox is mostly filled with the CD player.


Focus: Officially the Ford can achieve 60mpg on the combined cycle, but such is the free-revving nature of the three-cylinder engine you’ll typically find yourself enjoying it too much to care about economy. In fact 40mpg is more likely. Still, with lower CO2 emissions than the SEAT it’ll be cheaper to tax.

Leon: With CO2 emissions of just 114g/km the Leon won’t cost much in annual road tax, though the Ford will be cheaper as it sits one band below the Spanish car. Like the Focus though it promises close to 60mpg on the combined cycle, though we’ve found it hard to get close to its official figure in real life compared to its rival.



Ford Focus



1-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo

1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo

Fuel capacity

55 litres

50 litres

Road tax

Band B – £20pa

Band C – £30pa




Insurance group




12.1 seconds

9.9 seconds

Boot space

316 litres

380 litres




CO2 emissions



The winner – SEAT Leon

A close run thing, and in many ways the Focus may be the better buy for some. However, the Leon feels like a more modern product, and the overall experience is helped by the more willing four-cylinder petrol engine that’s more likely to achieve closer to its combined economy figure.

Click here to read our full review of the Ford Focus

Click here to read our full review of the SEAT Leon