- We like...Fine cabin; good to drive
- We don't...Rattly diesel engine
It dsn't reach showrooms until mid-December - but motors.co.uk has driven one of the first out of the factory If cars were dogs, then the current Astra would be a Labrador. Sturdy, honest and faithful, yes, but never elegant or especially refined. But the car that replaces it has more of a pedigree.
Taking styling ideas from its big bruv, the Insignia, it’s now steeply raked at the front and swoopier all over with a broadness across its rear that echs the current VW Golf. Whether you like its looks depends on you: we weren’t that struck by it at first but, having spent a day with one we found ourselves liking it more, so maybe it’s a grower.
Inside, the dash and wheel bear a similarity, too, to those in the Insignia. That’s no bad thing because that car has one of the most inventive and effectively designed cabins for the money. The Astra's touch and feel isn’t as good as you’d find in a VW Golf, the car that sets the mark in its price and size band. But it’s heaps better than the old car and more than a match for the class average. It’s roomy, too. As often happens in a new model, it is bigger than before and the front and rear pairs of wheels are also further apart. That puts the extra space into the cabin, where those in the back get extra leg and knee-room, although a tunnel mid-way ‘cross the cabin floor forces the mid-seat passengers’ knees closer to his/her elbows.
But what’s it like to drive? Glorious. First you’ll notice its ride, which works the trick of suspending occupants firmly but also sponging away even quite serious road ruts. Noise from outside seldom reaches the cabin at more than a murmur, while bumps from the road rarely transmit as sensation or sound.
The steering, too, has a nice weight and precise feel, so that the already handily-sized car seems to ‘shrink’ around you as you drive. It’ll carry speed so well into bends that, unless you’re careful, you’ll find yourself travelling faster than you thought.
We drove the non-turbo 1.6 petrol model and the 1.7 turbodiesel, both expected top sellers. The first at 114bhp isn’t overly powerful and you’ll drop a gear, perhaps two to climb hills and maintain speed. But it spins easily and quietly, making it a fine companion if you’ve the need to slip across big distances. The 1.7 has 110bhp and more punch to give. While it works well to exploit the car’s fine handling and grip it’s not as hushed as the equivalent engine in a Golf. There’s rumble and clatter, only fading to a hum once at motorway speeds.
In all there’ll be eight engines and five trim levels, starting at ‘S’ and running through Exclusiv, SRi, SE and Elite. All have air conditioning and remote central locking, while the top model, badged Elite, gets leather seats, of which the front pair are heated and electrically adjustable. ‘Big car’ equipment options include built-in satellite navigation, adaptive headlamps and tyre pressure monitoring systems.
Should you buy one? Definitely. It’s nicely made, drives brilliantly and is so good that you question why anyone would ever need a bigger, more expensive car. While for us the Volkswagen Golf edges it – just – for its classier cabin and more mature driving feel, the Astra will delight the many thousands who pick one as a company car or, indeed, their first used car buy.
Let’s not forget, too, that the five-door car, tested here, is built at Ellesmere Port, Britain’s busiest car factory.
To view and buy new and used Vauxhall Astras, go to motors.co.uk
To read the motors.co.uk review of the previous Vauxhall Astra, click here
- Engines1.6 petrol, 1.7 diesel
- Power114bhp, 110bhp
- 0-60 mph10.9sec, 11.8sec
- Economy44.8mpg, 6
- CO2g/km147, 124
- Insurance groups
Motors.co.uk value verdict: