Vauxhall Astra review - versatile hatchback gets hybrid tech
“The latest Vauxhall Astra gets a striking look and the latest tech to better compete with rivals”
- Stylish looks
- 43-mile plug-in hybrid range
- Impressive technology
- Firm ride
- Rear space could be better
- Small boot for plug-in versions
Verdict - Is the Vauxhall Astra a good car?
We said the last-generation Astra was the best yet, and in most respects, the latest model benefits from even more ingredients to succeed, despite its numerous strong rivals. With looks and technology lifted from the eye-catching Vauxhall Mokka, the Astra is a smart family hatch that won’t cost a lot to run. With petrol, plug-in hybrid and now all-electric power, the Astra’s appeal has never been broader. It’s just a shame the Astra Electric is so pricey, making it harder to recommend.
Vauxhall Astra models, specs and alternatives
No matter what Vauxhall tried, it struggled to convince buyers to choose the previous Astra over its rivals. The car was lighter and more agile than its predecessor, and looked more confident, but it was uninspiring when compared to rivals like the SEAT Leon, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.
In light of such strong family hatchback competition, and with fashionable SUVs stealing sales away, the brand has pulled out all the stops to ensure the new Vauxhall Astra grabs your attention. It features the brand’s latest ‘Vizor’ front end, with a black panel sweeping between the bright LED headlights. There are interesting creases in the bodywork, and higher-spec versions get a contrasting black roof. There’s also a sporty GSe version, but the visual changes for this are much more subtle than the lairy spoilers of past Vauxhall Astra VXR hot hatches, helping to broaden its appeal. Sadly, it’s also far less exciting to drive than Vauxhall’s sometimes lairy old hot hatchbacks.
For the first time, the Vauxhall Astra also offers other choices than just conventional internal combustion engines. A plug-in hybrid version adds the potential for low running costs, thanks to a 39-mile electric range, and zero tailpipe emissions Vauxhall Astra Electric also arrived in mid-2023, the latter looking virtually identical to the rest of the line-up. Given that fleet buyers make up a good proportion of Astra sales, it’s vital for the car to offer electrified options that present lower tax costs for business users, and even the GSe version uses a more potent version of the plug-in hybrid setup, also shared with the Peugeot 308.
The interior should confirm to buyers that Vauxhall is serious about targeting the family hatch class leaders. As standard, the Astra gets two 10-inch displays ahead of the driver, one for the infotainment and one that replaces traditional analogue dials. It’s a marked improvement over the old car, which didn’t get much design flair inside, although the new media screen could be more intuitive to use.
Kicking the range off is the Design trim. From the outside, it looks a little plain in comparison with the higher trim levels, but the equipment level is generous. That 10-inch touchscreen includes sat nav, wireless smartphone connectivity, DAB radio and voice recognition. Other standard features include front and rear parking sensors, keyless start, climate control and high-beam assist.
GS brings sporty looks with bigger wheels and the black roof mentioned above. Extra safety features are fitted, and convenience is boosted with heated front seats, an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror and adaptive cruise control. Top-spec Ultimate piles in even more driver aids, an insulated windscreen, a sunroof and adaptive headlights, while the GSe version gets unique 18-inch alloy wheels and Alcantara sports seats.
With the ride being a little on the firm side, it’s worth considering sticking to a trim level that offers smaller wheel sizes. The heavy plug-in hybrid model we tested also produced a lot of tyre noise, although the powertrain itself is refined enough most of the time.
Below the hybrid there’s a selection of familiar petrol engines, but the diesel has now been retired. You have a choice of a 1.2-litre petrol engine, with either 108 or 128bhp, while a 1.5-litre diesel was previously offered with 128bhp. Fitted in a range of Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot models, none of these engines propel the Astra off the line particularly quickly, but they should prove economical. The Astra Electric gets a 152bhp electric motor and 54kWh battery, giving it a range of 258 miles between charges.
The engines may be the same, but Vauxhall’s engineers have tuned the handling setup slightly differently so it doesn’t feel identical to a Peugeot 308. The Astra is definitely better to drive than its predecessor; turn the wheel and you’ll feel steering that’s light but accurate – this can be made heavier by activating ‘Sport Mode’. Body lean is kept under control very well, too, making the Astra surprisingly fun on a twisty road. The GSe is quick and has plentiful grip, but it’s too heavy and slow to respond to really perform as a hot hatchback. Despite the extra eight of its battery pack, the Astra Electric isn’t too dissimilar to the petrol model to drive, only revealing its tendency to understeer if you push it or try to accelerate while in a corner.
Now, those plus points have been complemented by a decent four-star safety score. While that’s not the absolute best in class, the Astra is a safe car that you can trust to protect your family. It scored roughly 80% for both adult and child protection, while its lack of the full five stars is due to it missing out on some of the latest driver aids rather than any major shortfall in crash performance.
Which Is Best?
- Name1.2 Turbo Business Edition 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual
- Name1.6 Hybrid Design 5dr Auto
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name1.6 Plug-in Hybrid GSe 5dr Auto
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto