Vauxhall Astra hatchback
Price £15,295 - £23,520
- Powerful and frugal engines
- Lots of technology
- Good to drive
- Less desirable than a Golf
- Rivals have longer warranties
- Residual values may not be the best
At a glance
“The latest Vauxhall Astra combines a range of efficient engines, an enjoyable driving experience and a stylish design to make it one of the best family hatchbacks on sale today.”
The Vauxhall Astra has always been a big-selling family hatchback but has lagged behind the competition in terms of performance and outright desirability in the past. With this latest, seventh-generation model, Vauxhall has pulled out all the stops to help ensure that the Astra can hold its head high in this important and popular class of car.
It's true that the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 continue to lead the pack in terms of desirability, and that the Ford Focus is more driver-focused, but the Vauxhall Astra now bears fresher, more stylish looks, has a wide range of efficient yet punchy engines, and is comfortable and more fun to drive. The Astra acquits itself well in every field, and is a credible alternative to the Volkswagen, Audi and Ford, as well as other rivals like the Kia Cee’d, Hyundai i30 and Honda Civic.
In a bid to aid economy and improve handling, the new Astra is an impressive 200kg lighter than the outgoing model. It's also slightly shorter than the old car, yet thanks to clever design there's more room inside than before. The overall design is modern and sleek, with headlights that blend into the front grille and a coupe-style ‘flick’ to the rear windows to give it a slightly sporty look. Vauxhall even asks for less money for an Astra than it did previously.
The cheapest route into Astra ownership is the 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol model, but this engine is slightly old-fashioned and slow, taking 12.6 seconds to go from 0-62mph. Its 52.3mpg fuel economy is reasonable but far from outstanding, while CO2 emissions of 124g/km will see you paying £110 a year in road tax.
Fortunately, the 104bhp turbocharged 1.0-litre engine is not much more expensive to buy, yet offers more performance, with a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds. It's also significantly cheaper to run than the entry-level 1.4-litre engine thanks to its 65.7mpg and low CO2 emissions, which ensure you won’t pay a penny in road tax.
If you want more power, there's also a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, available with 123 or 148bhp. This can return 52.3 and 51.4mpg respectively, while both of these engines incur a £110 annual road tax bill. There's also a 197bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, which offers hot-hatch like performance with a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds – though it's the least economical engine in the lineup, with fuel economy of 46.3mpg and C02 emissions of 141g/km leaving you with an annual road tax bill of £145.
All of the diesels are 1.6-litres, and Vauxhall proudly calls these ‘Whisper’ engines thanks to their quiet nature. If you want a diesel Astra you can specify the 1.6-litre engine with 109, 134 or 158bhp. The ecoFLEX version of the 109bhp engine will go from 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds, and is the cheapest to run thanks to its 85.6mpg economy. The 134 and 158bhp engines offer more useable performance, going from 0-62mph in 9 seconds and 8 seconds respectively, yet still claim official economy of 74.3 and 67.3mpg.
Inside, the Astra feels modern and more upmarket than before, even if it's some way off beating the Volkswagen Golf for interior appeal. All models come with Vauxhall's ‘IntelliLink’ touchscreen infotainment system, which is simple to use and frees up the dashboard from numerous buttons – although Vauxhall has wisely stuck with conventional dials for the heating and air-conditioning.
There's plenty of space for passengers, with those in the rear getting 35mm more kneeroom than was to be found in the previous car. The boot remains a reasonable, if not exceptional, 370-litres: this is larger than the Ford Focus’ but smaller than the Volkswagen Golf's.
On the road, the Astra is an enjoyable and comfortable car to drive. The suspension gets the balance just right, offering little body lean in corners, yet protecting you well from potholes and poor road surfaces. The Ford Focus continues to lead the pack in terms of outright driver enjoyment, but the Astra is more involving than it was previously, and it's equally adept at steering through a twisty backroad, cruising on the motorway or pootling around in town.
One thing that hasn’t changed with the new Astra is Vauxhall's bewildering array of trim levels. There are seven of them in total, starting with Design and rising through Tech Line, Energy, SRi, SRi Nav, Elite and Elite Nav. All models come with cruise control, a DAB radio, alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a colour touchscreen, all-round electric windows, air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity and six airbags.
Naturally, moving up the trim levels gets you more equipment. The leather massage seats of top-spec models are likely to be a rare and expensive option, but sat-nav and Vauxhall's excellent OnStar concierge service are more sensible extras. You can also get clever 'adaptive' headlights, which allow you to drive using high beams without dazzling other road users – although these are expensive and could be more effective. We recommend Tech Line trim, which features sat-nav, a leather steering wheel and a larger touchscreen without pushing the Astra's price up too far.
The new Astra scored the full five stars from Euro NCAP, while Vauxhall's 25th place finish out of 32 manufacturers in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey may seem underwhelming, but represents a significant improvement on its 30th place finish of the previous year.
New Vauxhall Astra boasts advanced ‘Whisper’ diesel engines that promise superb efficiency
Least powerful Vauxhall Astra engines might struggle, but there’s plenty of choice if you want more grunt
New Vauxhall Astra has a stylish and cleverly designed interior that matches anything you’ll find in rivals
Boot and interior space are plentiful, so the new Vauxhall Astra is a good choice for growing families
The new Vauxhall Astra should be dependable in the long run and safe in a crash