£15,915 - £24,140 Price range
46 - 85 MPG
It’s no exaggeration to say that the launch of the seventh-generation Vauxhall Astra could be the most important this year – Vauxhall says one in four Brits have owned or driven an Astra, with three million cars sold over the past 36 years. It’s with great pleasure, then, that we can report that the new Astra is going to make future owners very happy.
Not only is it smart looking, it drives well, has a better built (and more spacious) interior than the old model and an excellent range of engines. In fact, we would argue that it now has the skills to match (and in some respects beat) class leaders such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia.
The new Astra’s bodywork is 77kg lighter than the old model’s and total weight is down by as much as 200kg. That not only helps in the efficiency stakes, but also gives the Vauxhall new-found agility in corners.
Buyers can choose from 1.0, 1.4 and 1.6-litre turbocharged petrols and a 1.6-litre diesel in three different states of tune. In its most efficient variant, the latter can return fuel economy of more than 90mpg and is free to tax.
Inside, there’s some clear Vauxhall DNA thanks to a centre console that is well defined from the rest of the dashboard and the tall air vents that sit on either side of the car’s infotainment screen. Material quality is, on the whole, very good – a match for the Ford Focus, if not quite hitting the giddy heights of the Volkswagen Golf.
The car’s Intellink touchscreen infotainment system can be had in either seven or eight-inch variants and means that the confusing sea of buttons that plagued the old model have been replaced. The newer, simpler layout is both pleasing on the eye and easy to navigate.
The Vauxhall’s OnStar infotainment system is all new and can upload pre-planned routes to the optional sat-nav, allows for remote control of the car’s systems via your smartphone, produces its own Wi-Fi hotspot, locates the vehicle if it is stolen and can even call the emergency services in the event of an accident.
Vauxhall Astra passenger space
There’s plenty of space in the car’s front seats and a wide enough range of adjustment to ensure most people can get comfortable. The only complaint is a speedometer that rises in 20mph increments, meaning it doesn’t numerically highlight the UK’s 30 and 70mph speed limits making them harder to spot at a glance.
It’s in the back where you notice the biggest change compared to the old model. Kneeroom has increased by 35mm and there’s loads of headroom, too. A 6’2″ adult can sit behind someone of the same size in comfort, although a third adult sitting in the middle rear seat will feel a little perched and the transmission tunnel (that runs down the centre of the floor) also eats in to foot space.
Vauxhall Astra boot space
The Astra’s hatchback body style means there’s a large boot opening to the car’s load bay, although there’s quite a tall load lip unless you specify the car with a space-saver spare wheel. A capacity of 370 litres (down 10 litres on the VW Golf, but 46 litres up on the Ford Focus) is unchanged compared to the old car, while maximum boot space with the seats folded sits between 1,210 and 1,235 litres depending on model.
Pull away in the new Astra and the first thing you’ll notice is its firm ride. For now all models share the same suspension setup but, while it appears stiff at first, it’s well-damped and never uncomfortable.
On the Welsh tarmac of the car’s launch the setup really pays off. Even on fast country roads, body control is excellent – goading you to test the car’s accomplished chassis to the full. The steering, meanwhile, might not be particularly quick, but is consistently weighted and accurate making it easy to judge corners. After a day of hard driving, the Astra never once felt out of its depth and, to our mind, is now a better driver’s car than the once class-leading Ford Focus.
All cars come fitted with a six speed manual geabox as standard and, while we are no great fans of the clumpy gear knob, the gearbox itself is easy to use and slick, if missing out on any great mechanical feel.
Slotting into sixth and pulling onto the motorway perhaps provides a more relevant test of the car’s abilities for most potential buyers and here it performs well. The car’s flat floor helps it achieve a drag co-efficient of 0.285 Cd (down from 0.325 in the old model), so there’s little wind noise and the up-to-date-engines are quiet, too, leaving a little road roar to account for the biggest single distraction to passengers.
The Astra is available with six engines from launch and, so far, we’ve sampled two – the 134hp 1.6-litre ‘Whisper’ diesel and the 1.4-litre 148hp turbo petrol.
Vauxhall Astra diesel engines
Given it’s been christened the Whisper diesel; it should come as no surprise that it’s impressively quiet. Even on start up, you’ll have to concentrate to notice a characteristic clatter and, once up to speed, it sounds almost petrol-like in its operation. In fact, it makes for a quieter motorway cruiser than the 1.4-litre petrol.
With 236Ib ft of torque available from 2000rpm, the Astra has plenty of go from low engine speeds – enough to get the car from 0-62mph in nine seconds, 0.7 seconds quicker than the old model. But that figure fails to take into account the engine’s flexibility, which means you don’t have to constantly change gear to summon up a decent turn of pace.
Running costs are low, thanks to fuel economy (when fitted with engine start-stop) of 76.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km for free road tax. We have yet to drive the potential star of the show – the 109hp EcoFlex diesel – but it lifts fuel economy to 91.1mpg (a Golf BlueMotion gets a stated 88.3mpg) and drops CO2 emissions to just 82g/km.
Vauxhall Astra petrol engines
The 1.4-litre petrol offers a decent slug of performance compared to the diesel we drove. It dispatches the 0-62mph dash in a spritely 7.8 seconds. With maximum pulling power of 180Ib ft coming from just 2,000rpm, it’s not an engine that needs to be worked to deliver decent acceleration and you’d be hard pushed to notice the turbocharger chiming in, almost always it feels more like a larger, non-turbocharged unit.
Being thoughtful with your right foot allows for fuel economy of up to 52.3mpg and road tax of £110 a year (owing to CO2 emissions of 125g/km).
Although we have yet to sample the new 1.0-litre engine in the Astra, it also sees service in the new Vauxhall Corsa, where its three-cylinder configuration emits a pleasing thrum from under the bonnet. Performance of 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds is decent rather than brisk, but no one will complain about fuel economy of 67.3mpg and road-tax-busting CO2 emissions of just 96g/km.
Filling in for the yet-to-be-announced hot VXR model is the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol. With 197hp overtakes should be effortless and a healthy amount of torque means the Vauxhall won’t feel sluggish if overloaded with luggage. A 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds sounds impressive, but according to reviewers, it doesn’t feel as fast as a full-blown performance hatchback from a few years ago, thanks to the quiet cabin and refined nature of the car.
For now it has the lowest fuel consumption in the range at 46.3mpg and highest CO2 emissions at 141g/km for a £145 annual road tax bill.
This latest model of the Astra has yet to be crash tested by safety body Euro NCAP but, as the old model was awarded the full five stars, we would expect the new car to follow suit. All Astras come fitted with stability control, six airbags, a tyre pressure monitor and LED daytime running lights. Add the Driving Assistance Pack (from £565) and you get features such as automatic sign recognition and automatic emergency braking.
Vauxhall offers the Astra in four trim levels – Design, Tech Line, SRi and Elite. Fast GSi and VXR versions will join the range later in the model’s life.
Depending on which version you choose, the Astra’s available with kit that’s so far absent on rivals and also sees the introduction of Vauxhall’s clever OnStar infotainment system. The lack of parking sensors front and rear (they’re a £450 option across the range) is the only blot on a near exemplary copybook in this respect.
Vauxhall Astra Design
Even the basic Vauxhall Astra’s smart looks are boosted by sporty bits including 16-inch alloy wheels, a roof-mounted spoiler and chrome window trim. Inside, there’s a seven-inch touschscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, air conditioning, remote central locking, electric windows all round, plus electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, all in all it’s a kit list that could be found in any rival’s mid-range trim level.
Spec the Energy pack and you also get a heated steering wheel, heated seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Vauxhall Astra Tech Line
Tech Line models are worth going for simply because they get a bigger eight-inch infotainment screen that’s hooked up to a sat-nav system.
Vauxhall Astra SRi
For now, SRi models are the sportiest in the Astra range, but only in looks. They get unique 17-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights, plus auto lights and wipers. Inside, there are sports seats and more powerful speakers. SRi trims are the first to come fitted as standard with Vauxhall’s OnStar service for the infotainment system, and also the only model to get a Sport button that changes the weighting of the steering and increases the sensitivity of the throttle.
Vauxhall Astra Elite
Elite models represent the luxury end of the spectrum adding kit such as heated seats front and rear, a heated steering wheel, as well as an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror.
As with the SRi trim, Elite models are available with LED Matrix headlights – a first in the class. A £995 option, they effectively mean you can use full beam headlights in oncoming traffic thanks to 16 separate LEDs that can be turned on and off individually to cast a shadow on other road users, while illuminating the road surrounding them.
It’s been a long time since the Vauxhall Astra could truly be called a class leader, but the new model is just that.
Gone are the days when the Astra played second fiddle to the Ford Focus in terms of driver enjoyment – in bends it has the measure of the Ford, while its diesel engine offers better fuel economy than even a pricier Golf BlueMotion can muster. It also gets extremely close to the Golf in terms of quality both in the way it looks on the outside and the way it’s put together on the inside.
If you’re one of three-quarters of British car buyers that have yet to have owned an Astra, then there’s never been a better time to pop your cherry.