Don’t overlook the unassuming Astra: it’s a fine all-rounder
- Low running costs
- High levels of on-board tech
- Engaging to drive
- Sprightly engine range
- Rivals are more spacious
- Ordinary image
- No all-out performance version
- Styling a little questionable
With a sharper-edged design and lightweight underpinnings, the seventh generation Vauxhall Astra hatchback range has a tough job on its hands with such an array of accomplished rivals in the compact family car market.
Chief among the British-built model’s challengers are the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, but with others such as the SEAT Leon and Peugeot 308 vying for attention, along with attractive long warranties and reliability records for the Hyundai i30 and Kia Ceed, the Astra is facing stiff competition.
On sale initially as a five-door hatchback, it was joined in early 2016 by the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer estate, although there’s no official word as yet on a replacement for the coupe-bodied Vauxhall GTC, based on the previous-generation model.
Less weight, more space
Underneath the Astra’s crisp styling is a platform that is on average 200kg lighter than that of the previous-generation model. Combined with improved aerodynamics, the Vauxhall’s thirst for fuel is reduced too.
That inherent lightness also benefits the Astra’s agility, making it feel much more nimble both around town and on windier back roads. Revised suspension settings and a suite of electronic systems are designed to make the Vauxhall more enjoyable to drive than before.
Inside there’s more space for passengers than before, allowing four six-foot adults to sit comfortably, while there’s also been a revamp of the dashboard. The revised interior mimics that of the Corsa and Adam, employs higher quality plastics and is sensibly-zoned with buttons collectively located depending upon their functions.
Efficient range of engines
Whether petrol or diesel, almost the entire range of engines offered in the latest Vauxhall Astra are turbocharged, the exception being the 100hp 1.4-litre petrol which serves as an entry-level point for the range.
Turbocharged versions of that engine come in 125hp and 150hp power outputs and are popular with petrol-engined buyers. The more powerful of the two is claimed to reach 60mph from a standstill in 7.8 seconds yet still returns a quoted 51.4mpg.
Already familiar from the Corsa and Adam is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre motor generating 105hp, while the range is topped – at least unless a performance derivative arrives – by a 1.6-litre 200hp engine.
Diesel fans are offered a choice of three different versions of the 1.6-litre ‘Whisper’ CDTi unit in 110hp, 136hp and - with twin turbochargers - 160hp BiTurbo.
All are impressively quiet power plants but it’s the lowest-powered of the trio which offers the greatest efficiencies, with claims of 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions of just 88g/km.
Simplified range, generously equipped
Unusually for Vauxhall, the Astra range has been simplified, but there’s a host of features available normally associated with cars at a much higher price point.
This Astra was the first Vauxhall to be available with the firm’s OnStar telematics system, with a concierge service just a button press away. Want to know where the nearest coffee shop is? Ask the OnStar representative and your sat-nav will be automatically instructed to direct you there.
As befitting modern smartphone technology, the Astra is also available with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, making connecting your device even easier.
Particularly impressive at night are the IntelliLux LED matrix headlight with directional function when cornering and glare-free automatic main beam.
The Parkers Verdict
The Vauxhall Astra hatchback remains to be one of the most popular cars on sale in the UK, and with good reason. It’s well-equipped, good to drive and well-priced, and you’re likely to be able to get a great deal on one if you haggle hard enough.
It’s not the most exciting, but there should be an Astra to suit all tastes with a vast number of engine and trim combinations available.