Parkers overall rating: 3.8 out of 5 3.8
  • Range of conventional engines
  • All three-cylinder turbo units
  • No hot model in current line-up

Despite many rivals exploring hybrid and fully electric powertrains for their range of hatchbacks, the Vauxhall Astra is more traditional, with performance derived from a range of four petrol and two diesel engines.

The bulk of the Astra's petrol range comes from a 1.2-litre unit with three power outputs, 110hp, 130hp and 145hp. The least potent has 195Nm of torque while the punchier two have 225Nm, meaning 0-62mph times of 9.8, 9.3 and 8.8 seconds.

Paired with a manual gearbox only, the 145hp unit provides a good amount of performance given the size of car it has to shift, although long gearing designed to improve fuel economy means it can trip over itself a bit trying to pull away in second gear.

Vauxhall Astra 2019 red engine bay

More user-friendly in this regard is the larger 1.4-litre unit - also providing 145hp, but this time available only with a CVT automatic transmission. There's a marginal amount more torque on offer but a slower 0-62mph time (9.0 seconds) than the 1.2-litre unit with 145hp.

Where this version excels however is in its ability to pick up and go, although that initial punch does wane as the speed increases. It's also much nicer than most CVT units in other cars, thanks to artificial steps designed the make it feel more like a conventional auto.

Diesel engines

Not a huge amount to choose from here - just a 1.5-litre engine with 105hp or 122hp. The lower-powered version comes with a manual gearbox only, while the more powerful can be paired with a nine speed auto. This cracks 0-62mph in 10 seconds flat, (the same as the 105hp) but with a manual 'box this drops to 9.6 seconds.

We've driven the 122hp manual Astra and found it more flexible than the petrols but quicker to run out of acceleration at the top of the rev range.

Engines previously available

The 100hp 1.4-litre, produced 130Nm of torque at 4,400rpm and was mated to a five-speed manual transmission. On-paper figures suggested it wasn't particularly thrilling to drive with a top speed of 115mph and taking 12.6 seconds to reach 60mph from a standstill.

Better was the 1.0-litre, three cylinder motor producing 105hp and 170Nm from an easier-to-access 1,800rpm. Vauxhall’s Ecoflex fuel-saving measures were fitted as standard, including stop/start. This could reach 121mph and complete the 0-60mph sprint on 10.5 seconds, and an Easytronic automated manual gearbox was on offer, too.

Fleshing out the middle of the range was a pair of turbocharged 1.4-litre units, producing 125hp and 150hp. Both engines delivered 245Nm of torque at 2,000rpm and were fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The lower-powered version’s 127mph top speed and 0-60mph acceleration time of 8.6 seconds were bested by the lustier motor’s 134mph and 7.8 seconds figures. Power delivery was linear and overall refinement was fine for a mid-sized family hatch, while the more powerful version had the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox.

The performance flagship of the range was the 200hp 1.6-litre turbo engine, serving up 280Nm of torque from an impressively low 1,650rpm. Its had a top speed of 146mph and 0-60mph time of 6.6 seconds.

Three versions of Vauxhall’s well-regarded 1.6-litre CDTi ‘Whisper’ diesel were offered in the Astra, with 110hp, 136hp and 160hp – the latter with two turbos. Unsurprisingly, the lowest powered version was the slowest Astra with a 121mph top speed and a 10.3 second time to reach 60mph from a standstill. Those figures improved to 124mph and 10.2 seconds with the fuel-saving Ecoflex measures added on. Despite its eco-focused and sensible nature, it still felt perky on the road and was surprisingly enjoyable to drive thanks to its torquey power delivery. The six-speed manual gearbox was slick, with a direct action.

The 136hp edition was the most popular of the diesel line-up, with 320Nm at 2,000rpm versus the 110hp’s 300Nm at 1,750rpm. It could reach a claimed 127mph and get to 60mph from nought in 9.0 seconds. Topping the diesel range was the 160hp BiTurbo, generating 350Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm. It promised reach 137mph and dashed to 60mph from nothing in 8.1 seconds.

Handling

  • Lightness improves overall agility
  • Comfortable, but firmer than key rivals
  • More engaging to drive than its predecessor

By honing the Vauxhall Astra's handling on challenging British roads, its makers believe it will be enjoyable to drive whatever demands are placed upon it. After just a short while behind the wheel you’re aware that the latest Astra feels more agile than the previous model, thanks to that weight-saving programme which has seen up to 200kg shed from its heft.

Not only are its underpinnings lighter, but consequently other components are too, because there’s less of the car to accelerate and stop: the engines and brakes on offer are smaller and lighter as well.

While it’s undeniably more fun to flick through a series of challenging corners, it’s not quite up to the same level as the revised Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, but it makes a decent fist of things. Cornering traction is good, although some may feel the level of power assistance is too generous, making it feel a shade too light and lacking as much feel as its rivals.

Ride comfort is good in most conditions although poorly surfaced-asphalt exposes the Astra’s inherent erring towards firmness. Passengers are unlikely to complain but it detracts from the potential polish of the set-up. A host of electronic systems are available to rein in driver waywardness and keep the Astra in check; including Torque Vectoring by Brakes which applies braking pressure to the inside wheels on a bend in order to increase agility.