Vauxhall Astra sharpens its looks and drives up appeal
PUBLISHED: 16:33 04 November 2015 | UPDATED: 16:33 04 November 2015
Vauxhall’s smart new Astra is a well-rounded hatchback with some equally smart new features and qualities, says Matt Kimberley.
The Vauxhall Astra is an under-rated, but evergreen, compact family hatchback, as happy taking the kids on a short break away as it is cutting a path through the city. There’s no radical departure for the seventh-generation model although the sharp-eyed will notice a nip here and a tuck there adding to the smart look.
There’s an excellent new colour touch-screen that’s standard across the range. It gives the whole product a lift and helps it make a better first impression.
Price: Vauxhall Astra 1.0i Turbo £15,995 to £20,015 (range £15,295 to £23,520)
Engine: 1.0-litre, 103bhp, three-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual driving front wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 10.5 seconds; top speed 124mph
MPG: 67.3 combined
C02 emissions: 96g/km
Looks and image
It’s a sharp-looking thing, if a bit conservative. Being built in Britain won’t do its appeal any harm here, either. Whichever model you choose you end up with a pleasantly stylish car you won’t object to having it on your drive.
It’s quite sensitive to trim grades, though, so whereas the fantastic top-spec cars with all the interior trimmings look like they’ve come straight from the top drawer, low-end versions look cheap by comparison.
Space and practicality
Smaller on the outside, the new Astra has more space inside with an extra 35mm of legroom in the back. Front-seat occupants will be happy enough, especially with the uncommonly well-shaped seat backs that give superb lumbar support. The glove box is shed-spacious but the door pocket shapes and cupholder designs could be better thought out.
The handy boot is more than big enough for most tasks but if you’re toting babies you’ll struggle to get much more than a chunky pushchair into it without putting the conveniently split rear seats down.
Behind the wheel
Under the bonnet here is a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine and, if gentle, you’ll see fuel economy you’d struggle to better in an eco-diesel. I found it no problem to hover around 60mpg in relatively traffic-free driving – you need to put some effort in, but the potential is there.
The dinky engine is perfect for urban routes. It’s impressively linear once the turbo kicks in, making it smooth, forgiving and easy to get used to.
It warms up fast so is ideal for no-fuss short trips. The five-speed gearbox is light and precise, with tall gearing that partly offsets the lack of a sixth, but this version isn’t meant to cover serious motorway mileage.
With petrol and diesel engines ranging from 100 to 200PS, other highlights are an all-new 145PS 1.4-litre Ecotec Direct Injection Turbo petrol and a 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel’ with outputs from 110 to 160PS.
The new Astra is also a nice steer, responding quite keenly to tugs at the wheel and scampering along winding roads with gusto, also helped by it being up to 200kg – and 130kg on average – lighter.
The Astra is the first new Vauxhall available with personal connectivity and service assistant OnStar from launch.
Offering a broad range of safety, roadside assistance and comfort services, customers can reach an OnStar advisor 24/7 and 365 days a year whether they need roadside assistance or any other service.
A new generation IntelliLink infotainment system is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Astra is also the first Vauxhall to be fitted with glare-free IntelliLux LED matrix headlights which adapt the length and distribution of the beam.
Value for money
There’s no denying that the Astra is a solid car.
You know what you’re getting and, although some of the materials on base models look and feel bargain basement, at the very least the car does a good job of providing straight-down-the-line mid-size transport for people who don’t want to spend the extra on a slightly more spacious compact crossover or sport utility vehicle.
Who would buy one?
This is a car for ordinary people who want a well-rounded car to give them transport, enough space and, crucially, the ability to cope with everything from taking the in-laws to Sunday lunch to taking the kids to the seaside.