Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Two petrols and one diesel engine available
  • 180hp plug-in hybrid with 225hp to follow
  • Excellent six-speed manual, automatic optional

Petrol engines

There are 110 and 130hp petrol options, with a six-speed manual standard and an eight-speed auto optional on the punchier engine. It’s the same three-cylinder power unit shared with the Peugeot 308 and Citroen C4 among others – and has established itself as punchy, refined and economical.

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Predictably then, we really like the Astra in 130hp form, which majors on quietness and refinement. Yes, the engine thrums away under acceleration, but it’s a nice sound and the actual noise levels are kept low. The six-speed manual is a pleasure to use – light and accurate action, snicking between ratios delightfully.

Acceleration is more than up to the task of keeping up with the flow with a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 130mph. But what really marks this engine out is how flexible it is – it pulls well in high gears from low speeds, and steep inclines rarely trouble it if you want to leave it sat in sixth. Very impressive.

Diesel engine

A single 1.5-litre diesel with 130hp is available with a choice of manual or auto. The diesel predictably dips lower at 113g/km with a manual and 116g/km with an auto.

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Hybrid engines

A first for the Astra, however, is the addition of a not one but two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants. First up is a 180hp version which cracks 0-62mph in a respectable 7.9sec with a punchier 225hp version, due later in 2022, dropping this to 7.7sec making it the fastest Astra available.

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Both are capable of covering up to 37 miles on official WLTP tests, giving CO2 emissions from just 24g/km and economy of up to 256.8mpg. That’s not quite Mercedes-Benz A250e good, but still allows the PHEV to attract the lowest rate of BIK tax.

The first impressions of this version are that it’s impressively refined, and retains its electrical charge very well indeed mixed driving. Choose the hybrid drive mode and it always pulls away super-quietly, and retains that near-silence up-to motorway speeds. When the 150hp four-cylinder petrol engine cuts in, it’s very quiet and unobtrusive. Choose Sport mode and it ramps up in sound, but again is a long way from being intrusive. Those looking for a refined drive will not be disappointed.

You can run it as a pure electric car, too, and we were impressed by how strongly it pulls in zero-emission mode all the way from 30mph in town to quick A-roads, without the need for assistance from the petrol motor. City dwellers and low-mileage drivers should find the PHEV suits their needs perfectly well.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Neat handling, excellent ride quality
  • Light steering and brakes
  • Petrol model handles better than plug-in hybrid

As we noted in the introduction, there wasn’t a lot wrong with the way the old Astra drove – but for the eighth generation it takes a big leap forward, and is now up there with the best in class. We sampled the 130hp petrol model in six-speed manual form, and the 180hp plug-in hybrid, and although both were badged as Opels, they are identical to UK-spec cars.

The standard 130hp petrol Astra feels nimble on the road, with quick steering, lots of grip and impressive body control. It’s not particularly sporting, but very capable, and is capable of entertaining on the right roads. The hybrid isn’t quite as good, feeling heavier and less eager to turn-in to bends. All models, though, have light and precise steering, making them a pleasure to steer in tighter situations.

Ride quality is very good, though, which is a big improvement over the older rather stiff-legged model. Considering we were testing it on some fairly rough roads, the Astra never really put a foot wrong, which bodes well for how it will handle UK roads. In addition, the Astra managed to shrug off potholes without complaint on back roads.

However, we reckon it’s at its best on the motorway. At speed, it settles down well, and although the ride is compliant, it never feels over-soft or lacking in composure. Noise levels are also low at speed. Overall, a very impressive effort, not quite up there with the best-in-class Ford Focus or SEAT Leon in terms for fun, but a good overall compromise between handling and comfort.