In the chocolate box of UK motoring there are always a few cars that we have a sweet spot for, and one of the most regularly selected is the Vauxhall Astra. Our motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay, has taken a closer look at Vauxhall’s latest Astra to find out why the model is so compelling.
The Astra has been a massive success since first appearing in Britain in 1980, but it has never been as talented as it is now with the advent of the latest, and seventh, incarnation.
Made at Ellesmere Port, the fresh Vauxhall Astra profits from a significantly lighter structure and has more resourceful and potent engines. On top of engineering enhancements there is also the attention-grabbing contemporary design; the highlight being the arresting division between the roof line and the car’s body behind the rear doors. The all-new Vauxhall Astra comes with five different trim levels; Design, Tech Line, Energy, SRi and Elite. The Griffin-badged company has also cut the starting price-tag, with the Vauxhall Astra line-up now starting at £15,445.
I put two new power units to the test; first up was the 1.6-litre BiTurbo whisper diesel. It guarantees an excellent meld of economy and performance, supping at fuel as it touches 62mph in little more than eight seconds. The cited power output is 160PS, but it feels more powerful in the real-world, thanks to the strong hauling sensation produced by the engine’s 350Nm of torque. It might not be lip-bitingly fast, but it’s got all the clout the average person will want from a Vauxhall Astra.
With 200PS, the 1.6-litre turbo petrol unit provides the sort of hot-hatch muscle that doesn’t naturally feel at home inside the easy-going and comfortable Vauxhall Astra. What it does do, though, is thrust you to 60mph in a very stirring 6.6 seconds, and as the all-new Vauxhall Astra is much lighter on its feet than the last generation car, this means you can cover ground extremely quickly.
You feel the sprightlier construction really paying off in the bends where the Vauxhall Astra feels far livelier than before, and Vauxhall’s engineers must be commended for not making the suspension excessively stiff in an effort to encourage performance. Because of this, you get a superbly comfortable and sophisticated ride when taking it calmly, and a nimble hatchback with a real bite to its bark when you’re in the mood for pressing on.
Inside the cabin, the all-new Astra has really raised its game and now presents an interior that is on a level with any of its opponents. A profusion of soft to the touch materials can be found, and the seating comes with lots of adjustment, as does the steering wheel.
A brand new streamlined layout around the centre console is a response to feedback from owners of the last Astra, showing that Vauxhall really does listen to the voices of its customers. On the whole it’s a huge improvement inside and the entire car feels just that bit better than before; a higher quality than you might truly expect from a Vauxhall Astra.
An expansion in inner space for occupants and loading is saluted, bearing in mind the Astra is materially smaller than the last creation. In the boot there is 370-litres of space – more than enough for routine family requirements, such as shopping bags or pushchairs.
All Astra models get Vauxhall’s Intellilink touchscreen system factory-fitted, but SRi and Elite trims also get OnStar. This is really quite the luxury item, not only giving the Vauxhall Astra a Wi-Fi hot-spot but also offering access to a 24/7 concierge service, so you can contact the OnStar service team at any time to request information. It also acts as a health and safety check system for the Astra, identifying errors and even communicating with the emergency services if it needs to.
There’s an assortment of engines offered with the all-new Vauxhall Astra, but the BiTurbo diesel model I tested certainly delivers the best of both worlds when it comes to economy. A theoretically possible 67mpg means you can expect few and far between visits trips to the fuel pumps, and with minimal CO2 emissions, the twelve-monthly road tax bill will be only £30.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol tested may have more welly, but its running costs will be steeper. £145 a year will have to be handed over to the government for road tax, due to its 141g/km of CO2. And with average fuel consumption of 46mpg, the car is significantly less economical than the BiTurbo diesel model.
Lighter and roomier, the all-new Vauxhall Astra is far more superior than before. The ushering in of new technology, improved driving characteristics and notable new engines all tot up to make it a first-class family car.
Fast Facts: New Vauxhall Astra hatchback (1.6 BiTurbo Diesel)
- Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder two-stage turbo
- Price: From £21,395
- Power: 160 PS
- Torque: 350 Nm
- 0-60mph: 8.1 seconds
- Top speed: 137mph
- Fuel economy: 67.3mpg
- CO2 emissions: 111g/km
Fast Facts: New Vauxhall Astra hatchback (1.6 turbo petrol 200PS)
- Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo
- Price: From £20,435
- Power: 200 PS
- Torque: 300 Nm
- 0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
- Top speed: 146mph
- Fuel economy: 46.3mpg
- CO2 emissions: 141g/km
Why not pop into your local Perrys Vauxhall dealership and see what the fuss is all about!