Vauxhall Astra vs Ford Focus vs SEAT Leon

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In October 2015, Auto Categorical printed a bunch take a look at pitting the then brand-new Vauxhall Astra in opposition to two of probably the most spectacular vehicles in its class: the Ford Focus and the SEAT Leon.  

The Astra broke new floor then, however lots has modified within the 4 years since. Now that there’s a facelifted model of the Astra accessible, we thought it was excessive time to deliver them again collectively to see which is finest in 2019. The Astra’s facelift this 12 months brings new engines and tech, and just like the Leon’s replace in 2017, it’s a minor refresh to deliver the automotive updated. 

Finest hatchbacks to purchase 2019

The Ford got here third in 2015 (with the Astra first and the Leon second), nevertheless it’s the one to observe right here, as a result of it’s a very completely different automotive to the one which competed final time, and a stronger contender than ever.

Right here we’ll discover out if the brand new Astra can beat its long-running rivals within the fiercely aggressive compact hatchback class.

Vauxhall Astra

Mannequin: Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo 145 Elite Nav
Value: £23,955
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl petrol, 143bhp 
Zero-60mph: 9.Four seconds
Take a look at financial system: 46.4mpg/10.2mpl 
CO2: 99g/km  
Annual street tax: £145

The Vauxhall Astra was a class-leading automotive when it arrived in 2015, however with revisions and updates to rivals, it fell behind. Right here we’ll see if this refreshed mannequin can put it again on prime. We’re testing an Elite Nav mannequin with the brand new 143bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, which prices £23,955.

Design & engineering

Whereas the Astra is just like the Focus and doesn’t share its structure with different makers’ fashions, all three vehicles right here share the identical suspension format. There are MacPherson struts up entrance and a torsion beam on the rear, which Vauxhall calls its ‘Compound Crank’ set-up. 

It is a cost-effective system, and these three fashions show it doesn’t compromise dealing with or consolation. The primary engineering change for this model of the Astra is its engine vary. All fashions now have three-cylinder engines, together with the diesels, and our take a look at automotive incorporates a 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit and six-speed handbook gearbox. This engine has 143bhp and 225Nm of torque, so it’s probably the most highly effective right here. 

Together with some minor exterior adjustments the Astra’s inside has additionally had a small refresh. It’s not a complete lot completely different to the mannequin that got here earlier than, although, and the issues we had with the outdated automotive stay right here. Whereas it’s useful and sturdy, the Astra’s cabin is uninteresting and options onerous supplies that make it seems to be and really feel low-cost. Nonetheless, there are a couple of soft-touch plastics. 

The eight-inch infotainment display is okay, however the person interface is a bit behind the curve; it’s simple to make use of, although, and there’s a brand new digital show within the instrument cluster, nevertheless it’s not a full digital sprint.

The Astra has all the time been about providing nice worth for cash, and also you actually get lots to your money right here, as a result of this top-spec Elite Nav has numerous package. That infotainment display has sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto performance as customary, whereas the automotive additionally options 17-inch alloys, heated leather-based seats entrance and rear, cruise management, USB sockets within the entrance and rear, LED lights and AEB.

Driving

The brand new 1.2-litre engine on this Astra is an efficient unit and there’s a welcome chunk of additional energy over the earlier mannequin’s 1.Zero-litre engine.  

A 143bhp output places the Astra fairly a bit forward of the 123bhp Focus and 128bhp Leon, however this energy benefit solely confirmed itself at larger speeds in our straight-line assessments. The Vauxhall was the quickest from Zero-60mph, however its time of 9.Four seconds wasn’t that far forward of the Focus, at 9.9 seconds, and the Leon, at 9.7 seconds. The Vauxhall and SEAT each took Eight.Eight seconds to go from 30-70mph although the gears, beating the Focus’ 10.2-second time in that take a look at, whereas the Astra solely managed to drag forward of its rivals in our in-gear assessments in fifth and sixth gear from 50-70mph, the place its 225Nm of torque (25Nm greater than each rivals) helped lots.

The Astra’s lengthy gearing is the rationale why it’s so carefully matched to its much less highly effective rivals. There’s a flat spot under 2,000rpm the place it feels gutless, and the lengthy ratios imply it takes longer to construct revs and due to this fact energy. It is a disgrace, as a result of the gearbox feels slicker than its predecessor in any other case: the shift is lighter, extra exact and nice to make use of. It’s roughly on par with the Leon’s, and barely behind the Ford’s candy shift.

The Astra nonetheless excels in different areas of the driving expertise simply because it did earlier than. The steering is nicely weighted and direct, and the chassis has a vigorous edge to it, so the automotive is nice enjoyable to hustle down a twisty street. It’s not as agile because the Ford however extra enjoyable than the SEAT. It’s comfy and composed too.

The suspension soaks up potholes and bumps nicely, so not solely is it extra enjoyable than the Spanish mannequin, it’s smoother as nicely. The quiet engine makes it enjoyable on the motorway, too.

Practicality

With a boot capability of 370 litres with the rear seats in place, the Astra has a decent stage of load quantity, whereas a comparability between them exhibits that the Vauxhall is extra sensible than the Leon. 

Solely 10 litres separate the 2 vehicles (the SEAT is the most important, at 380 litres), however the Astra’s decrease lip provides it a bonus when loading and unloading massive objects. The ridges within the boot ground are additionally claimed to assist cease objects sliding round.

There’s loads of area within the again seats for passengers, with sufficient leg and headroom for adults within the outer seats (that are heated on this Elite Nav mannequin). It’s darker inside than its rivals, although.

Possession

Vauxhall scored poorly in our 2019 Driver Energy buyer satisfaction survey, ending in 29th place. Ford got here in 23rd, whereas SEAT was 14th total.

All three fashions acquired a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test score, and Elite Nav Astras get Vauxhall’s Driving Help Pack One as customary. This provides autonomous braking, ahead collision alert, traffic-sign recognition and lane-keep help. It’s a disgrace that entrance and rear parking sensors are an costly £480 possibility, although.

Operating prices

The 1.2-litre engine isn’t a prime performer by way of driveability, however some consumers will settle for that compromise given its advantages in gasoline financial system. 

At 46.4mpg, the Vauxhall was probably the most environment friendly automotive on take a look at, which works out at £1,508 a 12 months (12,000 miles) in gasoline prices. The SEAT was subsequent, at 43.1mpg, whereas the Focus did 37.5mpg. These fashions will price £1,625 and £1,866 respectively to run over the identical distance.

Testers’ notes

“Vauxhall used to supply a free concierge service known as OnStar, however this not exists, which is a disgrace. Our automotive was fitted with Emergency Name, though this prices £415 additional.”

Ford Focus

Mannequin: Ford Focus 1.Zero EcoBoost 125 Titanium X
Value: £23,395
Engine: 1.Zero-litre 3cyl petrol, 123bhp 
Zero-60mph: 9.9 seconds
Take a look at financial system: 37.5mpg/Eight.3mpl 
CO2: 107g/km 
Annual street tax: £145 

The unique Ford Focus proved household automotive could possibly be enjoyable and useful, and this Mk4 continues that custom. We’re testing a 123bhp 1.Zero-litre EcoBoost mannequin in Titanium X trim, which prices £23,395 (though our photos are of a 2.Zero diesel).

Design & engineering

Ford’s newest C2 platform underpins the Focus, and like its rivals right here, this model makes use of MacPherson struts for the entrance suspension and a rear torsion beam. A extra complicated multi-link rear set-up is offered on some Focus fashions, and whereas 1.Zero-litre 125 fashions make do with the cheaper set-up, this isn’t a problem. 

The 1.Zero-litre engine is the smallest on take a look at, and with 123bhp it’s additionally the least highly effective, however its 200Nm of torque matches the 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit within the Leon. Like each rivals, the Focus makes use of a slick six-speed handbook gearbox and is front-wheel drive solely.

The Ford’s inside is a robust level, as a result of it has a higher-quality really feel than its rivals. There are fewer onerous plastics and extra soft-touch supplies in key locations, whereas the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system is the most effective right here. The design of the dashboard isn’t fairly as neat and tidy because the Leon’s, nevertheless it’s simply as simple to make use of – all three have bodily local weather controls, quite than being built-in right into a display, which is nice information. 

Ford’s SYNC3 system consists of DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as customary, so the one factor it’s lacking subsequent to its rivals is a wi-fi telephone charger, which prices £100. Different package on Titanium X fashions consists of 17-inch alloys, LED lights, heated seats with part-leather trim, keyless entry and go, local weather management and a heated windscreen.

Driving

The 123bhp 1.Zero-litre engine within the Focus is robust in-gear, the place it took Four.Eight and 6.7 seconds to go from 30-50mph in third and fourth gear respectively. It matched the 143bhp Astra in third and beat its 6.Eight-second time in fourth, which is spectacular given the facility deficit. The Leon took Four.9 and 6.Four seconds in these two assessments.

The place the engine’s decrease output is extra apparent is if you’re pushing onerous to extract most efficiency, resembling within the Zero-60mph take a look at: the Focus was the slowest of the three, taking 9.9 seconds. Nonetheless, it’s highly effective sufficient to have enjoyable with, and was solely Zero.2 seconds behind the SEAT and half a second behind the Vauxhall. In regular driving the hole between all three doesn’t really feel large, and their carefully matched instances in our figures are an excellent indication of this. 

The Focus’ three-cylinder motor isn’t as quiet because the Astra’s, nevertheless it’s nicely remoted from the cabin, particularly at idle. Push it onerous and it has an entertaining thrum, so whereas it’s not as clean because the four-cylinder engine within the Leon, it’s extra pleasing.  

There’s a properly weighted, exact motion to the six-speed handbook gearbox which means it’s satisfying to make use of, and the Focus’ fast steering has extra life than its rivals’. These two elements of the driving expertise work along with the superb chassis, and the Focus is numerous enjoyable to drive because of this. It has numerous grip in corners, nevertheless it’s additionally adjustable and vigorous if you’d like it to be. Just like the Astra, the Ford is comfy over tough roads, and even mid-corner bumps don’t upset the automotive’s composure. 

Potholes are noticeable however not uncomfortable, and persistently bumpy tarmac is usually smoothed out. The Focus is just a little louder inside at motorway speeds than its rivals, nevertheless it additionally provides a properly judged and higher executed trip and dealing with steadiness.

Practicality

The Focus has 1,320 litres of area when the rear bench is down (relying on the spare wheel and B&O improve), making it the biggest automotive right here. The Astra and Leon supply 1,210 litres, however the Focus is the smallest with the seats up. 

All three vehicles are spacious sufficient for adults to take a seat extra comfortably than you may think of their again seats, and the Focus is lighter inside than the Astra, if not as ethereal because the Leon – although they’re all very carefully matched for inside area.

Within the entrance of the Focus there’s a customisable cup-holder and storage space behind the gearlever, and there’s additionally area for a cell phone by the USB port used for telephone integration. 

Possession

Ford completed in 23rd place out of all the main producers in our Driver Energy 2019 survey, which was behind SEAT’s middling 14th place, however nonetheless forward of a poor 29th place for Vauxhall.

AEB together with pedestrian and bike owner detection is customary, in addition to lane-keep help and parking sensors. You possibly can add blind-spot warning (for £400), and when you purchase the £500 Comfort Pack, you get a reversing digicam. Sensors price £480 on the Astra, however a digicam isn’t supplied on Elite Nav. And whereas the Leon does include a digicam as customary, blind-spot help isn’t accessible on the SEAT in any respect.

Operating prices

Firm automotive tax is a robust level for these three, as a result of their small petrol engines have comparatively low ranges of CO2. The Focus emits 107g/km and sits within the 25 per cent bracket, which implies standard-rate earners pays £1,160 a 12 months in tax, whereas the Leon emits 112g/km and sits within the 26 per cent bracket, which works out at £1,266 in tax. The Astra is the winner right here, nonetheless, as a result of its 99g/km CO2 score places it within the 23 per cent bracket; it’ll price £1,093 a 12 months to tax. 

The Vauxhall additionally returned the most effective financial system on take a look at, so it’s an economical possibility. Nonetheless, when you’re a personal purchaser, then the Ford’s higher residuals might imply it saves you extra money in the long run.

Testers’ notes

“As with the Astra’s 1.2-litre engine, the Ford’s 1.Zero-litre unit feels much less grunty than the Leon’s at low revs, earlier than the enhance in energy from the turbo kicks in. On enhance, there’s good torque within the mid-range.”

SEAT Leon

Mannequin: SEAT Leon 1.5 TSI EVO 130 Xcellence
Value: £24,565
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl petrol, 128bhp 
Zero-60mph: 9.7 seconds
Take a look at financial system: 43.1mpg/9.5mpl 
CO2: 112g/km  
Annual street tax: £145

The SEAT Leon was as soon as a class-leader, and it’s been some time since we final examined one – so does it nonetheless have what it takes on this aggressive class? 

To search out out, we’re testing the most recent 128bhp 1.5-litre petrol in Xcellence trim (though the automotive in our photos is an FR). It prices £24,565.

Design & engineering 

The Leon was one of many first vehicles to make use of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, which now underpins a variety of different fashions, together with class rivals the VW Golf and Skoda Octavia. Within the Leon it permits the usage of MacPherson struts on the entrance and a torsion beam on the again, matching the Astra and Focus’ suspension set-ups.

Its 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine produces 128bhp and a most of 200Nm of torque, and in contrast to the opposite vehicles right here, it’s a four-cylinder motor. The additional cylinder helps with smoothness, however in apply this engine performs equally to its rivals’.

At 1,239kg, the Leon sits within the center for weight; the Astra is the lightest, at 1,205kg, and the Focus is a bit heavier, at 1,322kg. In contrast with most trendy vehicles, although, all three have comparatively low kerbweights, which provides them an excellent base for being environment friendly and good to drive. 

Regardless of its age, the Leon’s inside design continues to be clear and fashionable, and has aged comparatively nicely. It helps the automotive to really feel upmarket, however materials high quality can’t match the newer Focus’. Some areas, such because the doorways, really feel low-cost. And though the eight-inch infotainment show was probably the greatest techniques round when it was launched – and it’s nonetheless good now – it’s beginning to look comparatively outdated.

The display consists of sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto performance, so it doesn’t miss out on package. There’s additionally a wi-fi telephone charger on Xcellence fashions, plus a reversing digicam, parking sensors, AEB, heated seats and even metallic paint included, so it matches each the Astra and Focus for package.

Driving

Automobiles on the MQB platform are inclined to share dealing with traits, which is an efficient factor within the Leon’s case. For instance, the steering is direct and correct, nevertheless it’s lighter and slower than the racks on its rivals right here. It means the SEAT is very easy to position on the street, however there’s not as a lot involvement for the driving force.

One other shared trait is its light-but-slick gearshift, which is satisfying to make use of, whereas the 1.5-litre engine is clean and doesn’t endure from the relative low-rev dip in energy that the Vauxhall and Ford engines have. The SEAT took Eight.Eight seconds to go from 30-70mph via the gears, matching the extra highly effective Astra in that take a look at. It was additionally sooner than each rivals from 30-50mph in fourth gear, taking 6.Four seconds the place the Vauxhall took 6.Eight seconds and the Ford 6.7 seconds. 

It was a match for the Ford in prime gear, too; each took 12.7 seconds to go from 50-70mph in sixth. The Astra was a second faster in that take a look at, although. Its 1.5-litre engine isn’t as a lot enjoyable to make use of as its three- cylinder rivals, however the Leon does have a grown-up really feel. 

The SEAT’s managed and grippy stance via corners is another excuse you get that sense of maturity within the Leon, however eager drivers will choose the extra agile Astra and Focus. Any driver will respect that the Leon’s rivals trip extra easily, although. The SEAT isn’t uncomfortable, nevertheless it suffers from extra fixed actions over tough roads, and potholes jerk into the cabin extra readily than within the others right here. Refinement is nice at motorway speeds, though there have been a couple of creaks from cabin trim audible round city in our take a look at automotive.

Practicality

The Leon could be very spacious inside and there’s numerous head and legroom within the rear. Its doorways open vast, so entry is fairly good, and the SEAT’s inside feels extra gentle and ethereal than the cabins of its rivals, significantly in comparison with the Astra. 

With its rear seats in place, the SEAT has the biggest boot capability right here, at 380 litres, however that’s solely 10 litres greater than the Vauxhall and the excessive loading lip means it’s really not as helpful. You’ll have a job to get out heavy objects, as a result of you must attain fairly far right down to the boot ground. Drop the seats and the area opens to 1,210 litres, which is similar as within the Astra – it exhibits how shut these fashions are in terms of inside area. 

Possession 

All three fashions scored 5 stars within the respective Euro NCAP crash assessments, and within the Leon’s case its security is helped by standard-fit autonomous emergency braking. 

You possibly can add the Driving Help Pack (£350) to get adaptive cruise management, auto excessive beams, traffic-sign recognition and lane-keep help.

Finest household vehicles 2019

SEAT’s sellers got here in 19th in our 2019 Driver Energy buyer satisfaction survey, which wasn’t an amazing outcome however was nonetheless forward of Ford’s sellers in 23rd and Vauxhall’s in 24th. SEAT fared higher within the producer part of this 12 months’s ballot, coming 14th, however this was a disappointing 12 months for all three of those mainstream automotive makers.

Operating prices

The Leon returned a good 43.1mpg on take a look at, however it will likely be a dearer automotive to run for personal consumers as a consequence of poorer residual values. Our specialists predict that it’ll maintain on to only 33.9 per cent of its worth after three years or 36,000 miles, which is a lack of £16,240 in that point. 

The Astra is prone to fare a bit higher, retaining 40.Eight per cent of its worth and shedding £14,181 after 36 months. The Ford holds its worth finest, with a residual worth of 42.Eight per cent (a lack of £13,382).

Testers’ notes

“The Leon has a most towing capability of 1,700kg, which is fairly good for a automotive with a small engine. Compared, the Ford can solely pull 1,100kg, as a consequence of its 1.Zero-litre engine.”

Verdict 

First place: Ford Focus

The place the Focus pulls forward is with its involving, partaking chassis. It’s the best-handling automotive right here and among the many finest in its class total. However importantly on this sector, it’s additionally composed and comfy, even over potholes and unhealthy tarmac.

The Focus cements victory because of its superior infotainment and inside high quality, and it’s additionally barely extra spacious. Its powertrain is nice sufficient that it’s not a problem.

Second place: Vauxhall Astra

Whereas the Astra’s engine updates have undoubtedly turned it into a greater automotive, the adjustments haven’t addressed the mannequin’s shortcomings. For instance, the hatchback nonetheless provides a pleasing driving steadiness, with enjoyable dealing with and a clean trip, however the inside stays drab and the infotainment isn’t as sharp and responsive because the Ford’s. It’s nicely geared up, sensible and environment friendly, although.

Third place: SEAT Leon

The Leon is feeling its age in 2019, and whereas it’s nonetheless a stable automotive, it’s clear it has fallen behind. Its settled stance on the street means it’s not as enjoyable because the others to drive, and it additionally doesn’t trip as easily. The infotainment system is dated, too. Nonetheless, it’s impressively reasonably priced on finance, the engine is clean and economical, it has a great deal of package and the sunshine controls imply it’s simple to drive.

Additionally take into account…

Skoda Scala

Mannequin: Skoda Scala 1.5 TSI 150 DSG SE L
Value: £20,385
Engine: 1.Zero-litre 3cyl, 148bhp

The Skoda Scala is so reasonably priced that you would be able to get right into a top-spec automotive, with an automated gearbox, for a similar cash as our three rivals right here. The Scala is a superb price range possibility as a result of it’s comfy, good to drive and really spacious, but additionally wonderful worth. 

Kia Ceed

Mannequin: Kia Ceed 1.Four T-GDi GT-Line
Value: £22,640
Engine: 1.Four-litre 4cyl, 136bhp

Don’t overlook the Kia Ceed on this class, as a result of it’s practically pretty much as good to drive because the Astra, if not fairly so comfy. It’s additionally filled with all of the gear you’d need and is sensible sufficient to combine with these rivals. Our price range will get you right into a high-spec GT-Line automotive.

Ford Focus 1.Zero EcoBoost 125 Titanium X Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo 145 Elite Nav SEAT Leon 1.5 TSI EVO 130 Xcellence
On the street value/complete as examined £23,395/£23,395 £23,955/£26,210 £24,565/£24,565
Residual worth (after 3yrs/36,000) £10,Zero13/42.Eight% £9,774/40.Eight% £Eight,325/33.9%
Depreciation £13,382 £14,181 £16,240
Annual tax legal responsibility std/larger price £1,160/£2,319 £1,093/£2,187 £1,266/£2,531
Annual gasoline price (12okay/20okay miles) £1,866/£Three,111 £1,508/£2,514 £1,625/£2,708
Insurance coverage group/quote/street tax price 15/£429/£145 TBC/TBC/£145 16/£427/£145
Servicing prices £390 (2yrs) £19pm (3yrs) £16pm (2yrs)
Size/wheelbase Four,378/2,700mm Four,370/2,662mm Four,282/2,636mm
Top/width 1,471/1,825mm 1,485/1,809mm 1,459/1,816mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/999cc 3cyl in-line/1,199cc 4cyl in-line/1,498cc
Peak energy/revs 123/6,000 bhp/rpm 143/5,500 bhp/rpm 128/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 200/1,400 Nm/rpm 225/2,000 Nm/rpm 200/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd 6-speed man/fwd
Gasoline tank capability/spare wheel 52 litres/restore package 48 litres/restore package 50 litres/restore package
Boot capability (seats up/down) 341/1,320 litres 370/1,210 litres 380/1,210 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,322/533/1,100kg 1,205kg/TBC/TBC 1,239/541/1,700kg
Turning circle 11.Zero metres 11.1 metres 10.Three metres
Fundamental guarantee/restoration 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/2yrs
Driver Energy producer/seller pos 23rd/23rd 29th/24th 14th/19th
NCAP: Grownup/youngster/ped./help/stars 85/87/72/75/5 (’19) 68/84/83/75/5 (’15) 94/92/70/71/5 (’12)
Zero-60/30-70mph 9.9/10.2 secs 9.Four/Eight.Eight secs 9.7/Eight.Eight secs
30-50mph in third/4th Four.Eight/6.7 secs Four.Eight/6.Eight secs Four.9/6.Four secs
50-70mph in fifth/sixth 10.Zero/12.7 secs Eight.6/11.7 secs 9.6/12.7 secs
High velocity/rpm at 70mph 124mph/2,500rpm 137mph/2,100rpm 126mph/2,300rpm
Braking 70-Zero/60-Zero/30-0mph 46.1/34.1/Eight.5m 51.Eight/36.5/10.1m 50.7/35.Three/10.3m
Noise outdoors/idle/30/70mph 72/44/62/72dB 68/43/61/71dB 69/44/64/71dB
Auto Categorical econ. (mpg/mpl)/vary 37.5/Eight.Three/429 miles 46.Four/10.2/490 miles 43.1/9.5/474 miles
WLTP mixed mpg 46.Three-49.6mpg 51.Four-54.3mpg 45.6-46.3mpg
WLTP mixed mpl 10.2-10.9mpl 11.Three-11.9mpl 10.Zero-10.2mpl
Precise/claimed CO2/tax bracket 174/107g/km/25% 141/99g/km/23% 151/112g/km/26%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/digicam Six/sure/sure/£500* Six/sure/£480/no Seven/sure/sure/sure
Auto/lane hold/blind spot/AEB £1,450/sure/£400/sure No/sure/£480*/sure No/£350*/no/sure
Local weather ctrl/cruise/leather-based/warmth. seats Sure/sure/sure/sure Sure/sure/sure/sure Sure/adaptive/sure/sure
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate £550/£750/sure/no £655/sure/sure/sure Sure/sure/sure/no
Sat-nav/digi sprint/DAB/apps Sure/no/sure/sure Sure/no/sure/sure Sure/no/sure/sure
Wi-fi cost/CarPlay/Android Auto £100/sure/sure Sure/sure/sure Sure/sure/sure