Vauxhall Astra hatchback review
“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
- Rivals have easier-to-use touchscreens
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 competition, 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.
For the first time, the Vauxhall Astra also offers other choices than just conventional petrol and diesel engines. A plug-in hybrid version adds the potential for low running costs, thanks to a 43-mile electric range, and a fully electric Vauxhall Astra-e is being prepared for launch in 2023. 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.
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 Line 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.
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 are a selection of familiar petrol and diesel engines. You’ve a choice of a 1.2-litre petrol engine, with either 108 or 128bhp, and a 1.5-litre diesel also 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 engines may be the same, but we understand that Vauxhall’s engineers have tuned the handling setup slightly differently so it doesn’t feel identical to a Peugeot 308. Turn the wheel and you’ll feel steering that’s light but accurate. Body lean is kept under control very well, too, so the Astra is decent to drive.
While we said the last-generation Astra was the best yet, the new model seems to have all the 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.