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Car trim reviews

Vauxhall Astra SE

The SE is the second most luxurious Vauxhall Astra, and is available with all the best engines. It's expensive however and depreciation is heavy.

Owners Rating
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In SE spec the Astra comes close to matching premium German small hatchbacks – in content and price, if not image. It has smart 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, an electric handbrake (although some owners have reported this to be troublesome), a trip computer, electric windows front and rear, illuminated vanity mirrors and anti-whiplash front headrests. There’s more chrome trim than on lesser Astras, a leather-rimmed steering wheel and ambient lighting in the front doors. There are gaps in the spec list, though: a Bluetooth phone connection is one feature we’d expect to find in a high-end car such as this. All the best engines are available in the SE – the 138bhp 1.4-litre and 177bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrols, as well as 123bhp 1.7 and 131bhp 2.0-litre diesels. There’s also the 114bhp 1.6 petrol, and 94bhp 1.3 and 109bhp 1.7 diesels found in lesser models. All the diesels are available with stop-start to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and an automatic gearbox is available with the normally aspirated 1.6 petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel.

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Good points

The Astra is a well-made car that looks even more upmarket with the SE trim and equipment package. SE also offers the widest choice of engines, including our favourites, the 1.4 and 1.6-litre turbos. The availability of stop-start with all four diesel engines reduces fuel consumption and emissions, and will be particularly appreciated by business drivers because it helps to cut company car tax bills. While not the most exciting small hatchback to drive, the Astra makes a fine motorway car, where its comfort shines through.

Bad points

The biggest issues with the Astra SE are cost and depreciation. Every version is on the top side of £20,000, and you can expect to lose 70% of that over a typical three-year ownership period. And although it’s well equipped, it doesn’t have everything we’d expect in a car of this price. Bluetooth is only an option, which comes as a surprise. Cabin space is adequate rather than generous and the small switches on the dash can be confusing and fiddly to use. Owners have reported issues with the electric handbrake, which can apply or release itself entirely of its own accord.

What you get

  • Alloy wheels
  • Folding rear seats
  • Alarm
  • Passenger & Driver airbag
  • Front side airbags
  • Curtain airbags
  • Front fog lights
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Height adjustable driver's seat
  • Front electric windows
  • Single CD player
  • AUX stereo input
  • Cruise control
  • Automatic wipers
  • Rear electric windows

Recommended optional extras

  • Bluetooth
  • Stability control

Our choice

The 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine offers the best blend of driveability, economy and cost, and is terrifically smooth.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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