The Vauxhall Astra has always been a strong seller, but never garnered much in the way of praise. This state of affairs is probably what led to Vauxhall to take a long hard look at the model. The result is the current Astra.
Viewed separately, new and old Astra look fairly similar, but seen together it’s clear the latest car is leaner and lighter on its feet. The changes continue under the metal, with more efficient engines and a nice chassis that puts the model on an equal footing with the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf for driving pleasure.
In terms of value and comfort, it gives no quarter to the Renault Megane, SEAT Leon, Hyundai i30 or Kia Cee’d, either. There’s more space inside than ever before, too. Its lighter appearance is no illusion – the latest Astra is actually 200kg lighter than the old model, contributing to dramatic improvements in fuel economy.
The engine range is wide and features five petrols and four diesels. As is increasingly the practice, all but one – an ageing, entry-level 98bhp 1.4-litre petrol – are turbocharged, for greater power and economy. The smallest turbo petrol is the 104bhp 1.0-litre, a modern and efficient engine that can do 64.2mpg yet take the Astra from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds. It emits 102g/km of CO2 and so attracts a low BiK rate for company-car drivers of 19%.
It’s followed by two more powerful 1.4-litre turbo petrols, one producing 124bhp and the other 148bhp. Both can return slightly more than 50mpg. The 148bhp engine is also available in automatic form, but fortunately, economy is unaffected.
For performance lovers, the most powerful petrol engine is the 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo, available only in sporty SRi trim and its variants. It’s capable of taking the Astra from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, but the price is a fall in fuel economy to a still-reasonable 45.6mpg and a rise in CO2 emissions to 142g/km, giving a BiK rating of 27%.
Naturally, the diesels have the best economy and emissions figures, but they’re all pretty sprightly, too. Even the least powerful, economy-orientated 109bhp 1.6-litre CDTi can do 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds, yet returns up to 85.6mpg. It emits 88g/km of CO2 and so has a very attractive BiK rating of 20%. At the other extreme, the 158bhp 1.6-litre CDTi twin-turbo can whisk the Astra from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, but still manages to return 68.9mpg.
The quality of some interior materials might not topple the VW Golf, but the Astra’s dashboard feels much more contemporary and logical than the previous model and the standard ‘IntelliLink’ infotainment system gives in-car technology a real boost, with far fewer fiddly buttons than in previous Astras. There’s plenty of interior space, too; boot capacity is only 10 litres shy of the VW Golf.