Available as a three or five-door hatch or a versatile estate model, the Astra is still a car packed with innovative safety features and technology, along with excellent comfort and performance. The latest seventh generation model introduces class-leading lights and connectivity systems.
The goodGreat looks combined with excellent performance and handling
The badFiercely competitive market
Vauxhall Astra SRi NAV 1.4 Turbo 150PS
It may have been around for almost 40 years now, but whenever you think about popular family hatchbacks one of the first cars that will spring to mind is the Vauxhall Astra.
Ever since the Astra first graced our roads back in 1979 it has been a firm favourite with motorists who demand reliability, practicality, low running costs and great value from their car. And over the years Vauxhall has built on that loyal fan-base.
It is now in its seventh generation and has certainly moved with the times. The latest five-door Astra is much lighter, boasts a choice of highly efficient engines, is packed to bursting with technology and still has a price-tag that will leave you smiling when you view you bank statements.
New Astra is shorter and lower than the outgoing sixth-generation model, yet rather cleverly the Vauxhall designers have managed to create extra space within the car. The rear passengers are treated to an additional 3.5cms room and the storage capacity in the boot has been raised to 370 litres – a limit that is increased to 1,210 litres with the back seats dropped down.
The SRi Nav model supplied for my test drive is at the higher end of the Astra scale and was priced at £20,675 (£22,830 with options). It was powered by a 1.4-litre 150PS turbo petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and could sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 7.8 seconds. It topped out at 134mph and could deliver combined fuel efficiency of 51.4mpg with carbon emissions of 128g/km.
The car is certainly striking in its design and looks far sportier and more aggressive than previous versions. Design features include 17-inch alloys, dark tinted windows, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, a rear spoiler and plenty of smart chrome trim around the windows. The grille housing the company’s iconic Griffin logo flows smoothly into the headlight clusters and the divided C-pillars help to create a floating roof impression.
The interior is clutter-free and very modern in its design and layout with a wealth of techno treats to explore. These include an 8-inch colour touchscreen, sat nav, a six-speaker audio system with DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning and a very practical system called OnStar.
There is a button located near the rearview mirror which, when pressed, connects you to an operator – not an automated voice, but a real person based at a call centre in Luton. They can offer information and directions to local fuel stations, restaurants, hotels, or offer details such as weather and traffic conditions for an area. And if you are lost, you can contact OnStar and ask for directions. After a couple of minutes the route is downloaded directly to your sat nav system.
In addition, OnStar makes the car a hotspot for up to seven mobile devices, it can be used to check safety features such as oil levels and tyre pressures, but possibly most importantly of all it detects if an airbag is deployed in your car following an accident. If the operator cannot contact you or get a response then the emergency services are alerted and given your exact GPS location. The system is free for the first year, after which there is a charge.
Out on the road the Astra was a great all-rounder when it came to driving and performance. On the faster lanes, the acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox was both smooth and responsive with a constant supply of power on tap to overtake if necessary. The steering was precise and the road-holding was ultra-grippy meaning the car could be pushed hard into bends with a degree of confidence.
In busier, congested town centres, the all-round visibility was excellent and the car weaved effortlessly through the crowds. The suspension is a little firm, but it does successfully iron out most of the road’s uneven surfaces along the way. Comfort levels are very high and that extra space will always be appreciated by those in the back.
Vauxhall has kitted out the Astra with a comprehensive range of safety features, including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, hill start assist and six airbags. In addition, the SRi NAV model included a Driving Assistance Pack which added lane departure warning with lane assist, traffic sign recognition, following distance indicator and forward collision alert with automatic city emergency braking.
All in all, the Vauxhall Astra has certainly survived the test of time and just like a fine wine it seems to get better with age. But it definitely needs to be at the top of its game and keep evolving with fierce competition from the likes of the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia to name just a few.
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.6 CDTi 136PS SRI NAV
Manufacturers are very quick to claim they have developed a state-of-the-art piece of kit that will revolutionise the way we think about driving and most of the time they fail miserably, but Vauxhall may just have introduced one of the most impressive systems to emerge for a long time.
For the latest Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer comes with your own personal assistant that can be contacted 24/7 to offer advice and guidance. The system is called OnStar and it offers a wealth of features.
For example, at the press of a button you are connected to a ‘real-life’ person not an automated machine at a centre in Luton. From there, the list of options and services available is plentiful. For example, if you want directions, the operator will have that downloaded direct to the car’s sat nav system. They can even recommend restaurants, drive-thru take-aways, museums and other places of interest etc. To be honest this is just a fraction of the range of services.
The system also enables the car as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices and that means on long journeys, there will never be any squabbling over what film the youngsters watch in the back – they can all use their very own individual devices.
Then there is the OnStar app and this can help you find where you parked your car – you can get it to flash the headlights and sound the horn. It can be used to lock and unlock the vehicle’s doors and also display key diagnostic information such as tyre pressure readings along with fuel and oil levels.
It monitors your car’s health so as to avoid unexpected repairs, it can locate the nearest service station if necessary and of course, send the directions to your sat nav system.
In addition the OnStar GPS system can help police locate your car if it is stolen and, perhaps most importantly, if you have an accident and cannot call the emergency services yourself, OnStar does it for you. The second that the airbag inflates a direct line is opened to an OnStar advisor who will speak to you in your chosen language even if travelling through Europe. A message is sent to the Service Centre including the car’s location, colour, direction of travel and the extent of the damage. And if the report warrants it, then the emergency services will immediately attend the scene of the accident.
During my week-long loan, I had great fun checking out the system and the service was really effective and super-efficient. One of the great benefits is that you can speak to the operator while you are driving and the directions are downloaded without having to break stride, so to speak. This is so much more convenient than finding somewhere safe to pull over and programming the sat nav manually. I appreciate many models come with voice activated guidance systems, but I have found this to be very hit and miss – one car’s less than helpful guidance wanted to take me to Bournemouth rather than Brecon no matter how clearly I repeated the name of the destination!
The OnStar technology comes free of charge for the first year on the SRI NAV model that I tested, and any grades above. Then after the first year there is a subscription fee which is yet to be announced, but according to Vauxhall it will be very reasonably priced. Models below the SRI NAV can upgrade and be fitted with all the kit for £329 and that entitles the owner to a year’s free service and then once again the subscription fee would apply after twelve months.
So, on to the car itself. The latest generation Astra Sports Tourer has been receiving outstanding praise and it’s well deserved. The car is very modern in appearance with dynamic streamlining, 17-inch alloys, silver-effect roof rails, body-coloured bumpers, a rear spoiler, front fog lights, LED daytime running lights and tinted rear windows.
The interior is bright, modern, clutter-free and spacious with ample room for five adults to travel in comfort. There is a wealth of techno treats and creature comforts to be explored such as the pitch perfect six-speaker sound system, cruise control, air conditioning, sports style front seats with heat settings and all the connectivity options you could wish for.
The test car was powered by a 1.6-litre 136PS diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It can sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 9.5 seconds, maxes out at 127mph, has combined fuel economy of 72.4mpg and carbon emissions of 104g/km.
Whilst it’s not the fastest kid on the block, the Astra Sports Tourer is a vehicle that will be used to clock up thousands of motorway miles year after year and that’s where it truly excels as this is a car that cruises effortlessly at motorway speeds.
I did find the ride a little firm at times and you can expect to feel the occasional bump from an unexpected pothole or two, but they were my only slight gripes.
The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility and the storage options are also thorough with a boot capacity of 540 litres that is increased to 1,630 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. The boot also has very practical and adjustable cargo nets that are easy to operate and help to keep fragile items from rolling around.
Safety specifications on the car are comprehensive with the likes of anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, hill start assist, lane departure warning and numerous airbags to protect all occupants.
All in all, the Astra Sports Tourer which is priced at £22,770 (£24,415 with options fitted) is a fabulous piece of kit with plenty of all-round appeal. It is generously equipped, offers impressive driving dynamics, good economy and even comes with your very own personal assistant too.
Vauxhall Astra (2015) – first drive
With UK sales figures topping the three million mark and 36 years of history under its belt, there’s no denying the iconic status the Vauxhall Astra has earned for itself.
And now the introduction of the all-new seventh generation model that has secured more than 2,000 jobs at the Ellesmere Port manufacturing plant in Cheshire, aims to take that success story and develop it even further.
Priced from £15,295, the new Astra features a range of new economical powertrains and is packed with state-of-the-art technology including the company’s impressive OnStar system which makes the car a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices.
By utilising an ultra-lightweight architecture, Vauxhall has managed to reduce the weight of the Astra by up to 200kg and that, in conjunction with a range of highly efficient engines, means fuel economy and carbon emission figures have been improved significantly. There is an Astra models that can deliver fuel economy of up to 91.2mpg with emissions of just 82g/km.
On the design front, the Astra is somehow smaller on the outside, yet bigger inside. In fact it is 5cms shorter, 2.5cms lower, the wheelbase has been reduced by 2cms, but back seat passengers are treated to an addi-tional 3.5cms of room and the boot capacity has been increased slightly to 370 litres (1,210 with the rear seats dropped flat).
The car boasts a more dynamic appearance with the grille flowing neatly into the headlight clusters and the distinctive Griffin logo plus the characteristic blade rising to the rear of the vehicle making the car instantly recognisable as a Vauxhall. But the most significant change is the divided C-pillar which now helps to create the impression of a floating roofline.
Move inside and it’s good to see a clutter-free, yet feature-rich interior. The newly designed seats are smaller and 10kg lighter thanks to very clever packaging methods and the introduction of ultra-high strength steels that are built in under the robust seat upholstery.
Buyers can select from five trim levels – Design, Tech Line, Energy, SRi and Elite (there are also Nav options for both SRi and Elite grades). All models are well equipped, but the real stand-out feature that is standard on SRi and Elite versions and available as an option on other trims is the OnStar system.
By pressing a button located near to the rearview mirror you are instantly connected with an operator – a real person! They ask what they can do to help and from there you simply make your request for information on local restaurants, nearest filling stations, services etc. And if you are lost in unfamiliar territory, simply call up OnStar and ask for directions – wait a couple of minutes and then watch in admiration as the route is downloaded directly to your sat nav system.
OnStar also makes the car a hotspot for up to seven devices, it can be used to check safety features such as tyre pressures and oil levels, but possibly most importantly of all it detects if an airbag is deployed follow-ing an accident. If the operator cannot contact you or get a response then the emergency services are alerted and given your exact GPS location.
The system is free for first year, then there is an annual subscription of £79 but that does include full AA membership. There will also be a data allowance charge but according to Vauxhall, this will be very competitively priced and costings will be announced a little later down the line.
There is another very impressive advancement for the Astra which is a first for any C-Class vehicle and that is the glare-free LED Matrix head-lights which provide outstanding night-time illumination. There are 16 LED segments (eight each side of the car) and the matrix system auto-matically adapts the length and distribution of the light beam according to the traffic situation. It works in conjunction with a front camera that detects other vehicles and then switches off the individual LED segments so as to avoid dazzling other motorists yet still maximising the light from your vehicle. There are numerous beam patterns that deal with varying conditions such as town light, tight bends, motorway light, country light and even tourist mode to alter the beam direction when travelling in Europe on the right hand side of the road.
We tested out this new headlight system during a night-time drive and they were really effective, especially when travelling along dark lanes. The main beam was left on the entire time and the lights illuminated the road beautifully. And then when a car approached the LEDs beam became masked so as not to dazzle anyone. In a whole hour’s driving not once were we flashed because our lights were too bright yet the road was always very clearly lit ahead and to the sides.
We also tested two Astra models during lengthier daytime routes that in-corporated mountain roads, motorways and busy town centres and both proved up to the challenge.
First up was the Astra Elite Nav 1.4 150PS turbo petrol version priced at £20,315 (£21,875 with options). This car can reach 60mph from a stand-ing start in 7.8 seconds, has a maximum speed of 134mph, combined fuel economy of 51.4mpg and carbon emissions of 128g/km.
In busy, built-up traffic the car cruised along effortlessly, then when the open road presented itself the acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox was swift and beautifully smooth with a constant supply of power on tap. The road-holding was excellent and there was very little wind, engine or road surface noise – an area that Vauxhall designers have been working hard to address. Comfort levels were high and visibility was also impressive.
Next up was the Astra SRi Nav 1.6 CDTi 136PS diesel model with six-speed manual transmission priced at £21,480 (£22,870 with extras add-ed). This car can reach from 0-60mph in 9.0 seconds, tops out at 127mph, has combined fuel efficiency of 72.4mpg with carbon emissions of 103g/km.
Once again the Astra was up to any challenge that we threw at it. The acceleration was swift, the steering nicely precise and the suspension also quite good although some of the roads in North Wales did cause the occasional unexpected bump and dip along the way.
All in all, the new Astra is another great example of British craftsmanship and with sharper styling, improved efficiency and state-of-the-art tech-nology it would seem Vauxhall has yet another success story in its midst.
Vauxhall Astra Tech Line 1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX Start/Stop
Vauxhall’s latest Astra model is powered by the company’s “whisper” diesel engine, but after putting the car through its paces, I can say it’s certainly something to shout about from the rooftops!
That’s because the family hatchback is driven by a 1.6-litre diesel engine delivering 110PS of torque, yet can achieve a highly-impressive 76.3mpg on a combined run. And when you factor in the carbon emissions figure of just 97g/km which brings with it all sorts of tax benefits as well as exemption from congestion charges, you can see why this engine is quite a conversation topic at the moment.
The Astra has been around since the late 70s yet it’s still as striking as ever with 17-inch alloys, daytime running lights, black roof rails, a shark fin aerial, decorative chrome trim and sleek dynamic streamlining.
The interior is clutter-free with all dials and read-outs ideally positioned for driver usability.
And there are plenty of techno treats to be unearthed including satellite navigation with a seven-inch colour display screen, a pitch perfect seven-speaker sound system with a digital radio, CD player and connectivity to all modern media devices, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, a three-spoke multi-function sports steering wheel and plenty more besides.
Comfort levels within the five-door hatchback are very good with ample room for two adults to stretch out in the back (three at a bit of a squeeze) and the generously-sized boot can accommodate a notable 351 litres of luggage which can be increased further thanks to 60:40 split-folding rear seats.
And when it comes to driving dynamics and performance capabilities, the Astra lives up to all the hype.
Admittedly, it’s not the fastest Astra on offer with a 0-60mph sprint time of 11.4 seconds and a top speed of 115mph. But during a week-long test where I clocked up more than 500 miles, the car never lacked any power.
It coped perfectly with busy congested city centre traffic, faster-moving motorways and also long steep inclines where there was a constant supply of power on tap as the car moved smoothly through the six-speed manual transmission.
There is a little-start-up noise from the “whisper” diesel engine and you can expect a little audio drone from the road-surface when pushed particularly hard, but that aside the car was an absolute pleasure to drive.
The ride is nice and sure-footed with precise steering input which means tight bends can be attacked and conquered with confidence.
And then there is that amazing fuel efficiency.
At one point I actually tapped the dial to check it was still working – it really is that impressive and I was seeing an average of 66.8mpg.
Of course Vauxhall has kitted out the Astra with a comprehensive list of safety specifications and with an attractive price-tag of £18,910 it really is the complete all-round package.
Vauxhall Astra VXR
With incredible performance stats and dazzling driving dynamics Vauxhall has certainly turned up the heat in the hot hatch market launching by its powerful new Astra VXR model.
Boasting a mighty 2.0-litre turbo engine this beauty can soar from a standing start to 60mph in just 5.9 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph.
And when you have that sort of power at your disposal, control is vital. That’s why Vauxhall has introduced some very clever chassis tweaks including a limited slip differential. Without getting too technical, this means the car behaves in a much more civilised way at higher speeds, unlike some of its predecessors.
The VXR looks fantastic from any angle with its sweeping lines, smart light clusters, 19-inch five-spoke alloys, LED tail lights, daytime running lights, tinted windows and rear spoiler. And it’s just as impressive once you take your seat behind the multi-function, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel complete with striking VXR logo.
The sports seats offer excellent support and there’s a whole host of technical specifications at your disposal.
Creature comforts include air con, a CD player and digital radio with USB and iPod connectivity, cruise control, electric front windows, rain-sensitive wipers, automatic headlights, electric parking brake and plenty more besides.
There is a real sense of quality to the car’s build with its soft-touch dashboard and neat interior colour scheme.
The black leather seats feature white stitching and the metal pedals add a real sense of sportiness.
Back seat passengers have a limited amount of space and the small rear windows makes that area a little claustrophobic, but in fairness to Vauxhall, this really is standard across the hot hatch range of vehicles.
Elsewhere, the boot is fairly well sized and there are a number of smaller storage options throughout the car.
But, in reality looks and features aside, this car is all about performance and boy, it loves to perform. Acceleration through the manual six-speed gearbox is rapid and the power at your disposal is truly awesome.
The Astra VXR hugged the road for fun and even long tight bends proved easy to conquer at speed.
Visibility is okay, but not brilliant and there is a dual-tone horn to warn others of your presence.
Vauxhall has piled a comprehensive list of safety specifications into the car such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme and numerous airbags.
And, of course, it does feature the company’s incredible lifetime warranty too.
All in all, the Astra VXR is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who love the purity of performance driving, it’s one to look out for.
For more details visit www.localvauxhall.co.uk
Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.4 Turbo Sri Start/Stop 140PS
Vauxhall is laying down the gauntlet with the launch of its Astra GTC which boasts blistering pace, dramatic dynamic design and a competitive price-tag.
Replacing the Astra Sports Hatch, the three-door GTC coupe looks amazing, is packed with wizardry and handles incredibly well.
This car immediately grabs your attention with its beautiful streamlining, chrome door trims, dark tinted windows, 18-inch seven-spoke alloys, daytime running lights and a grille that seems to be grinning at you – and in all honesty, it has every reason to feel pleased with itself!
The interior is equally as impressive with a whole host of creature comforts and technical gadgetry at your disposal.
All the dials, controls and read-outs are ideally positioned for driver usability.
The sports seats are exceptionally comfortable and designed in cloth and leather with neat stitching and elsewhere the flashes of silver combine neatly with the black dashboard and door panels.
On-board features include cruise control, a brilliant sat nav and audio system complete with seven speakers and shark fin aerial (£855 extra), air conditioning, a dual-tone horn, rain-sensitive wipers, automatic headlights and plenty more besides.
But in reality, looks and equipment levels aside, this car is all about performance and delivering an awesome driving experience. And it certainly enjoys to show off!
The 1.4 petrol driven engine delivers plenty of power and acceleration and although cabin noise is not the quietest, that kind of adds to the car’s appeal.
The six-speed manual transmission proved very responsive and there always seemed to be that bit of extra power as and when it was called for.
The ride was a little bouncy, but road-holding was superb even on a cold and icy morning.
Back seat passengers rather sink into their seats and there is limited leg space, but storage options are pretty impressive with a generously-sized boot and 60:40 split folding rear seats too.
The driver is treated to good all-round visibility which is another bonus and the overall handling of the GTC cannot fail to impress even the fussiest of drivers.
Vauxhall has packed a comprehensive list of safety specifications into the car, such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, six airbags, hill start assist and lots more.
And when you take into consideration the price tag of £20,345 (without any optional extras) and Vauxhall’s lifetime/100,000 mile warranty, the GTC is very big on all-round value too.
For more details visit www.localvauxhall.co.uk
Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi SE
It seems to have been around since the invention of the wheel, but somehow every time I test a Vauxhall Astra the quality of build and equipment level leaves a lasting impression.
Boasting coupe-like streamlining there is a real touch of elegance to the latest model as it takes compact motoring to new levels.
Slightly longer than its predecessors, the Astra still has all the familiarity that we have come to respect and admire in Vauxhall, but this time round there seems to be a little bit more.
The 1.7-litre diesel driven engine certainly delivered plenty of power and the acceleration through the manual six-speed gearbox was extremely efficient, but for me it was the level of luxury and multitude of creature comforts crammed into the vehicle that really impressed.
Boasting sports seats and a sporty ride, you would be forgiven for expecting quite a bumpy experience, but that’s not the case. Even on our weather-beaten road surfaces, the Astra delivered a smooth and quiet ride with exceptional road-holding on tighter bends.
The driver and all occupants are treated to a plethora of features throughout the cabin and there are plenty of useful storage compartments along with the generously-sized boot.
The trim includes air conditioning, cruise control, a multi-function trip computer, rain-sensitive wipers, automatic headlights with tunnel detection and a whole lot more.
Additional extras on the test model added another £2.5k to the £21,290 asking price but included a sat nav system, a lighting pack, the super sports seats and an extra stability system.
But even without those extras, the Astra still has plenty to offer.
It really has everything from eye-catching good looks, a great spec list and a drive that cannot fail to impress.
And as one would expect, the Astra is fitted with a comprehensive safety package too which includes anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, plenty of airbags plus plenty more.
I know that there are more luxurious models on the market and better performers too, but when it comes to value for money, the Astra is certainly a class-leader.
For more details visit www.localvauxhall.co.uk