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The Vauxhall Astravan is essentially a van for people who need a commercial vehicle but don’t really want to drive one. It is exactly what it says on the tin – a Vauxhall Astra estate that has had the rear seats removed and the side windows blanked out to make a cargo area. The Astravan was based on the fourth generation Astra car. Petrol, diesel and LPG dual fuel versions with gross vehicle weights of around 1,100kg were on offer and Envoy, LS and Sportive levels of trim were the three choices. Despite the fact that all other true car-derived vans in this sector have now been consigned to history, the Astravan still sells well and has become a firm favourite with retail buyers who want something a bit more stylish and comfortable than the Vauxhall Combo.
Many vans of this period were pretty spartan affairs, which is one reason why the Astravan sold well – it is as upmarket as its car brother. Those used to high-cube vans may find things a little cramped behind the wheel, but the seats are extremely comfortable. Later models had an improved suspension system combined with electro-hydraulic power steering that made them even better to drive.
With the underpinnings of the Vauxhall Astra car on board, there is nothing that can touch this van in terms of ride and handling. It behaves superbly on the road and will tackle fast bends with aplomb. Sportive models add extra go-faster goodies such as 15in alloy wheels, low profile tyres, roof rails, foglights, body-coloured mirrors and metallic paint, together with optional spoilers and side sills. The 1.6 Twinport petrol models offer a lusty 105bhp and 111lb-ft of torque and is smoother than the 1.7 DTi and 2.0DTi units. Power here is 75bhp and 82bhp respectively while torque is 122lb-ft and 137lb-ft. The new 1.7CDTi is an exciting development. The diesel is a smooth common rail unit which lacks the rattliness of the old engines and offers 80bhp and 125lb-ft of torque.