Vauxhall Astra Review
The Vauxhall Astra is a sensible small family car that looks pretty stylish and is even quite good fun to drive, but alternatives are roomier and feel posher inside.
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If you’re looking for a practical, well-equipped family car that looks smart and is even pretty good fun to drive, the Vauxhall Astra is well worth a look.
Sure it might not have the wow-factor of the more expensive Mercedes A-Class or come with an exciting-looking sporty variant like the Ford Focus, but from every angle, the latest Vauxhall Astra is a far cry from the generic jelly-mould shapes of previous models.
It looks pretty classy inside, too. Although, if you were hoping for some Star-Trek-style infotainment in the same vein as the Mercedes A-Class, you’ll be a bit disappointed. You do get a decent touchscreen infotainment system as standard though, and top-spec cars come with a digital instrument display like the one you can get in a VW Golf as standard.
There are a few bits of the Vauxhall Astra’s interior that don’t feel quite as posh as those in a VW Golf, but at least you won’t have any trouble getting comfortable thanks to the Astra’s specially designed seats approved by – of all things – the German campaign for healthy backs.
Speaking of backs, those in the Vauxhall Astra’s rear seats have a decent amount of space to stretch out – if not quite as comfortably as in a Ford Focus – and there are plenty of handy cubby holes dotted about the place to help you keep everything looking neat and tidy.
The Vauxhall Astra is an excellent jack-of-all-trades; it’s comfortable, good to drive, comes with a decent amount of standard kit and doesn’t cost a great deal to run.
Space for bigger items in the boot isn’t quite so praiseworthy, but you’ll still be able to throw in a few suitcases with the back seats up and a bike will fit with them folded away.
The Vauxhall Astra doesn’t just cover all the practical bases well, it’s also good fun to drive. Sure, a Ford Focus feels more like a sports car wearing a humble hatchback coat, but the Vauxhall Astra will put a bigger smile on your face than most small family cars.
Thankfully, this nimble nature on a twisty country road doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. The Vauxhall Astra can cruise over most bumps and potholes without sending an unpleasant jolt up your spine and it’s quiet and relaxing to travel in on motorways.
Speaking of motorways, if you do plenty of long journeys you’ll want to pick a diesel-powered Astra for its reduced running costs, but if you spend more time pottering about in town, one of the petrol engines will be a better choice.
You’ll find the Vauxhall Astra could do with larger rear windows to make it easier to park, but you do at least get a decent amount of safety kit and even entry-level cars come with cruise control as standard.
That said, the likes of the more expensive VW Golf and Mercedes A-Class come with more advanced driver assistance systems, but the jack-of-all-trades Vauxhall Astra still makes an excellent family hatchback that’s economical, fairly practical and even good fun to drive.
Read on for our in-depth interior, practicality and driving sections or head over to our Vauxhall Astra deals pages to see how much you can save.
The Vauxhall Astra’s cabin is roomy enough for tall adults to get comfy in the back, but some less swoopy-looking hatchbacks have roomier boots.
You can get the Vauxhall Astra with some special seats that have been specifically shaped to help prevent back pain – ideal if you regularly spend hours and hours behind the wheel.
The Vauxhall Astra’s cabin is easily spacious enough for you to get comfortable in the front seats. The steering wheel comes with height and reach adjustment as standard and you can adjust the height of the driver’s seat to make sure you get a good view out.
Sportier SRi and SRi Nav models come with some extra padding on the seats to hold you in place in tight corners and most Astra models (besides SE, Business Edition Nav and Elite Nav models) come with specially designed seats that have been approved by the German campaign for healthy backs – just the thing if you do lots of long journeys.
The Vauxhall Astra’s back seats aren’t adjustable, but there’s still plenty of space for six-foot passengers to sit behind an equally lofty driver. Their heads won’t touch the ceiling and there’s space for them to slide their feet under the front seats, even if they’re in their lowest position.
There isn’t a great deal of space to carry three adults side-by-side in the back – the Ford Focus and VW Golf have more shoulder room to go round – but three kids will have more than enough space to stretch out. They don’t get a particularly good view out through the Astra’s rather slim rear windows, however.
If you’ll be carrying even younger passengers, you’ll find it’s easy to lift a bulky rear-facing child seat through the back doors and lock it into place using the easy-to-access Isofix anchor points.
You won’t have any trouble keeping the Vauxhall Astra’s cabin looking factory-fresh thanks to the numerous storage bins and cubby holes. The front door bins are large enough to hold two one-litre bottles each, the glovebox is a good size and there’s space under the front armrest (standard in all but entry-level SE cars) for a few drinks cans.
You get two cupholders in the front that are sturdy enough to hold a hot drink without any danger of spillages and there’s an extra tray ahead of the gear lever for a set of keys. There’s also a 12V socket and USB port for keeping various devices charged.
There aren’t quite so many storage areas in the back, but you still get a set of drinks-can-sized door bins and, in higher-spec cars, some seat-back pockets and a folding rear armrest. You can also get a pair of USB ports in the back to keep your passengers’ phones charged.
The Vauxhall Astra has 370 litres of boot space. That’s more than you get in a Ford Focus or Mercedes A-Class but not as much as you can carry in the VW Golf, Audi A3 and cavernous Skoda Scala.
The Vauxhall Astra’s wide boot opening and relatively small boot lip mean it’s easy to load heavy luggage, but you don’t get quite as many clever straps and luggage nets as you do in the likes of the Skoda Scala. There are a few tether points and a pair of shopping hook to stop your groceries rolling around on the move, though.
You can’t adjust the height of the Vauxhall Astra’s boot floor like you can in many small hatchbacks, and the block of polystyrene that holds the spare wheel in place means there isn’t enough room to store the parcel shelf under the floor if you need to remove it.
Unlike some hatchbacks that come with three-way folding back seats that let you carry two passengers and some lengthy luggage at once, the Vauxhall Astra’s seats fold down in a two-way 60:40 split. With its back seats flipped forward, the Astra’s boot grows to 1,210 litres – roomy enough to carry a bike with its wheels attached but not quite as spacious as the likes of the boots in the Ford Focus and Skoda Scala.
The latest Vauxhall Astra’s engines are economical, but the entry-level petrol and diesel versions – and those fitted with an automatic gearbox – are pretty sluggish.
It probably won’t surprise you to find that the Vauxhall Astra is pretty economical, but the fact that it’ll put a big grin on your face on a twisty road is rather more unexpected.
You can get the Vauxhall Astra with four petrol and two diesel engines, and with a variety of power outputs and gearboxes.
If you do lots of city driving, you’ll want to pick one of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines. These range in power from a rather sluggish 110hp model to perkier 130hp and 145hp models. None feels particularly spritely but Vauxhall claims they’ll all return more than 51mpg. In normal driving conditions, however, you can expect them to return around 45mpg.
There’s also a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol model with 145hp that comes with a CVT automatic gearbox as standard. It isn’t quite as economical as the 1.2-litre models with a manual gearbox but it’s worth considering if you spend lots of time driving in heavy traffic.
The automatic gearbox itself is pretty smooth when you’re manoeuvring at slow speed, but it causes the engine to rev loudly when you accelerate hard. It’s nowhere near as nice to use as the DSG automatic gearbox you can get in a VW Golf.
If you spend more time on motorways than in town, you’ll want to consider one of the Vauxhall Astra’s 1.5-litre diesel engines instead. The most affordable model is a 105hp, six-speed manual version, but it’s worth upgrading to the more powerful 122hp model with the same gearbox. Both will return close to Vauxhall’s claimed 58.9mpg figure in normal driving conditions.
There’s also a nine-speed automatic version of the 122hp model. It can’t quite match the fuel economy you get from the manual cars, but it’s much nicer to use than the CVT ‘box you get in 1.4-litre petrol models.
The Vauxhall Astra’s light steering and thin windscreen pillars help make it dead easy to drive in town.
Rear visibility isn’t quite as good as in some boxier hatchbacks such as the VW Golf, but the Vauxhall Astra’s comfortable suspension helps make up for this. It soaks up bumps and potholes well at slow speeds and the controls are nicely weighted so even the models with a manual gearbox are pretty easy to drive in traffic.
Head out of town and the Vauxhall Astra copes with tight corners without leaning a great deal, so it feels relatively sporty yet won’t make you passengers feel carsick. A Ford Focus will be more fun to drive on a quiet country road, but the Vauxhall Astra strikes a better balance between comfort and fun than most hatchbacks.
It’s pretty relaxing to drive on motorways, too. You won’t hear much wind noise at speed and unpleasant rumbling from the tyres is mostly muted, too. Sure, you don’t get quite as many driver assistance systems as in the likes of the more expensive Mercedes A-Class, but every Vauxhall Astra comes with cruise control as standard to let you rest your right leg on long drives and all but entry-level SE cars get lane-departure warning as standard.
Top-spec cars also come with automatic Matrix LED headlights, like those you can get in much more expensive Audis. These are much brighter than traditional headlights – just the thing for lengthy night-time drives – and automatically dip when the Astra’s forward-facing camera detects a car coming towards you.
The Vauxhall Astra’s interior comes with a good amount of built-in tech as standard, but you’d never describe its interior as particularly eye-catching.