Vauxhall has taken the wraps off the latest Astra. The family hatch is totally new from the ground up and is taking aim at the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3. To help you see what’s new on the latest version, we’re comparing it to its predecessor.
The new Astra pulls off the clever trick of being both smaller and lighter than the outgoing model, but at the same time delivering more interior space. It’s shorter and lower than the one it replaces, and gets more standard equipment and lower list prices when you compare model against model.
Newer, lighter engines, cutting-edge materials and other clever design touches have brought about weight savings over the current car of between 120kg and 200kg.
With the latest model, you need to be a committed Astra enthusiast to tell them apart without seeing them side by side. At the front, the new car gets sharper headlights that blend into the wider grille and deeper creases on the bonnet emphasise its muscular appearance.
The sides are now more sculpted and the back pillar has been blacked out to make the roof look like it’s floating. Thinner rear taillights are now mounted lower down to make the car look more squat and planted.
The interior of the new Astra is a massive leap forward from the previous generation. It looks more stylish and, although there’s no more boot space than before, there’s more room for passengers. Crucially, the swathe of buttons in the old car has been replaced with a much more cohesive dashboard.
Giant strides have been made in terms of the standard and optional equipment available. The new Astra gets features such as an eight-inch touchscreen sitting flush with the top of the dash, Vauxhall’s ‘OnStar’ road assistance connectivity, a 4G mobile data hotspot, and an infotainment system.
Diesel engines are carried over from the outgoing model, but they’ve been tweaked to offer even lower CO2 emissions. The standout unit is likely to the 1.6-litre though – available in 109, 134 and 158hp guises. The 109hp unit returns 91mpg on average and emits just 82g/km of CO2 – making it free to tax.
The basic petrol engine is now a 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated unit putting out 99hp. Next up is the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo borrowed from the smaller Corsa. It’s the cleanest petrol on offer with emissions as low as 94g/km.
A new 1.4-litre turbo can be had in either 124 or 148hp versions, both of which are available with a choice between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic gearbox. There’s also a 1.6-litre turbo producing 197hp – but that won’t arrive until the new year, along with a 158bhp biturbo diesel.
Reviewers who’ve driven prototypes say the new car feels as light as it is. It stays superbly balanced through the bends and corners, with quick and precise steering that adds to the car’s new-found feeling of agility.
Although it has a sportier feel to it, comfort hasn’t been sacrificed to achieve it. The ride is smooth and comfortable with only the most stubborn bumps being a cause for concern.
The outgoing model isn’t bad to drive – having outstanding levels of grip at higher speeds – but that extra weight takes its toll. The new car is like-for-like noticeably faster and more efficient.
The new Astra appears to be better in every way than the model it replaces. If you’re in the market for an Astra, keep your clicking finger poised for late 2015 when the car goes on sale.
If you have to have an Astra now, you can get a fantastic deal on outgoing models and those on dealers’ stock lists but act quickly – once they’re gone, they’re gone.