Vauxhall Astra hatchback - Engines, drive & performance
Least powerful Vauxhall Astra engines might struggle, but there’s plenty of choice if you want more grunt
The Astra’s impressive weight reduction contributes to swifter acceleration and better handling across the range. It has plenty of grip and rides well enough most of the time, but can become bouncy on undulating roads. All of the controls are easy to operate, from the light but accurate steering to the light clutch, but the six-speed manual gearbox can feel a little loose at times, which isn't helped by a large unwieldy gear knob.
And unlike the previous Astra, the sportier trim levels don’t have harsher suspension – differences to ride quality are only due to the wheel and tyre combination you go for, but even on sporty SRi Nav models with bigger wheels, things remain reasonably composed. This is in contrast to the Ford Focus ST Line, which gets firmer suspension over the regular trim models.
Vauxhall Astra diesel engines
Badged Turbo D, the new 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel engine is available with 104bhp or 122bhp, and both come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 10.2 seconds or 9.7 seconds respectively, while both can manage a top speed of at least 124mph. The 122bhp version is offered with a nine-speed automatic gearbox for the first time, but its acceleration is about half a second slower.
On the road, the diesel offers up relaxed acceleration and feels punchy once the revs pass 1,800rpm. While there's a bit of a rumble when it starts, it's a quiet engine too, giving the Astra a demeanour that might not be exciting but is certainly relaxing. When you do accelerate hard, the slightly off-beat noise from under the bonnet lacks the traditional diesel grumble and clatter, giving the Astra Turbo D something of a unique character. We aren't fans of the stop and start system though - the engine seems to cut in and out rather jarringly, so it's good there's a physical button to disable it.
Three petrol engines are available, which are all based on the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo. A single 1.4-litre with a CVT automatic gearbox was also offered, but is no longer available. You can choose your 1.2-litre with 108bhp, 128bhp or 143bhp, dropping the 0-62mph time from 9.8 seconds to 9.3 and then to 8.8 respectively, with an impressive 137mph top speed for such a small engine. The 1.4-litre automatic took a respectable nine seconds.