Vauxhall Astra’s new star quality shines

PUBLISHED: 07:22 14 January 2016

New Vauxhall Astra gets a more athletic look which is backed up by the way it drives.

New Vauxhall Astra gets a more athletic look which is backed up by the way it drives.


Vauxhall has raised the Astra image – it looks leaner, drives meaner and is loaded with technology. Motoring editor Andy Russell is impressed.

Pleased to meet you

Imagine meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for a while. They’ve lost weight, toned up and had a makeover - you can’t help but feel good for them.

That old friend is the new Vauxhall Astra – around three million have been sold in the UK since first launched 36 years ago and one in four British motorists have either owned or driven one.

Vauxhall Astra

Price: Vauxhall Astra SRi Nav 1.4i Turbo 150PS £19,595 (hatchback range £15,295 to £23,520)

Engine: 1,399cc, 150PS, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-60mph 7.8 seconds; top speed 134mpg

MPG: Urban 38.7; extra urban 62.8; combined 51.4

CO2 emissions: 128g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 20%

Insurance group: 17E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,370mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,042mm; H 1,485mm

Looking good

The new model is clearly an Astra but the bold lines and contours, inspired by the Monza Concept, really bring out the latest Vauxhall ‘blade’ curved design cues with its new athletic lean look.

And, cleverly, while the new Astra appears lower, longer and wider, it’s actually smaller on the outside but bigger inside.

Driving experience

So, visually, the new Astra talks the talk but does it walk the walk when it comes to driving it?

The Astra has always played second fiddle to the more dynamic, entertaining Ford Focus but this Vauxhall has been transformed and is by far the best Astra I’ve driven.

With a new chassis and the tried-and-tested suspension fine-tuned and enhanced, the new Astra was developed on UK roads with steering, ride, grip and control benchmarked against key rivals. Keeping the car’s weight to a minimum – the new Astra is up to 200kg lighter – has also help make it more rewarding to drive.

You appreciate the sharper, more agile handling with good feedback from the well-weighted steering. But it hasn’t been at the expense of ride quality and the sporty SRi test car was composed and comfortable, and the way it soaked up grotty road surfaces made it feel like a much bigger car.

New heart

Part of the Astra’s appeal is its range of efficient engines with 1.0-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre turbo petrol, ranging from 105 to 200PS, and 110 and 136PS 1.6-litre turbo and 160PS BiTurbo diesel.

Diesel will appeal to high-milers but the new 150PS 1.4-litre turbo petrol is a cracking proposition for both on-road and environmental performance.

It’s smooth, refined and flexible, with strong pick-up from 2,000rpm but revs happily when kept on the boil with the snappy six-speed manual gearbox. Put it in sport mode and everything feels sharper and more responsive for even more fun.

Even with some spirited driving I got 42mpg overall and nudged 50mpg on a run.

Space and comfort

For a mid-sized family hatchback, there’s no shortage of space with decent leg and headroom in the back for adults.

The large, deep 370-litre boot is well shaped so can take a good load of luggage. Rear seat backs split 60/40, freeing up 1,210 litres of space, but don’t lay totally flat and step up from the boot floor.

At the wheel

Vauxhall interiors are so much better than they used to be for both look and feel with tactile, high quality materials and interesting sculpted curves. Easy to find your way around, thanks to clear dials and well-sited controls, the whole fascia has a very cohesive feel. Switchgear has been reduced to the minimum, unfortunately even in size when it comes to some for heating and ventilation.

Full marks for the high-level touchscreen for the IntelliLink system, the centrepiece of the dashboard, which is intuitive and at the core of the Astra’s connectivity. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility opens up access to maps and message reading and additional, third party apps such as Stitcher, Podcast, Spotify and Umano.

Help at hand

The Astra also debuts Vauxhall’s OnStar’s ground-breaking connectivity, turning it into a 4G wi-fi hotspot for up to seven devices and is also alerted if an airbag goes off, with an advisor contacting the vehicle to see if help is needed. It also offers a 24/7, 365 days a year UK contact centre for roadside assistance or any other service and the advisor can even send a desired destination, such as a restaurant or the closest filling station, directly to sat-nav.


The new Astra features a host of new safety features, including systems to automatically brake to avoid collisions and stop you straying over white lines, but one of the brightest is the glare-free IntelliLux LED Matrix lighting. It’s not cheap as a £995 option but worth considering if you do a lot of night driving. Each headlight has eight LED segments which constantly adapt the length and distribution of the light beam to give maximum visibility without dazzling other road-users.

Final say

The popularity of the Astra has made it a familiar sight, so much so that it is easy to take it for granted. This latest model takes the Astra to a new level, yet costs up to £2,200 less, and deserves to win it the attention and new customers it merits.

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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