In-depth reviews

Vauxhall Astra hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The plug-in hybrid Astra is quickest but feels heavy

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.7 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

The Vauxhall Astra should offer something for a wide range of buyers, although hot hatch fans will need to look elsewhere for the time being. A diesel engine will suit high-mileage motorway drivers, while the two punchy petrol engines offer plenty of flexibility and will appeal to many buyers. At the top of the range, the plug-in hybrid provides an excellent blend of performance and efficiency, and a fully-electric Vauxhall Astra-e will arrive next year. 

To set it apart from the latest Peugeot 308, Vauxhall has tweaked the Astra’s steering, suspension and anti-roll bar settings. The result is a car that’s agile on turn-in, and the steering is easy to place even if it’s quite light. Its lightness will be a benefit when parking or doing low-speed manoeuvres.

Rivals like the Mazda3 and Ford Focus are more suited to keen drivers, but the Astra gets fairly close to them. It’s easily capable of back-to-back direction changes, and there’s a secure feel and a pleasing lack of body roll in corners. However, this results in a firm ride, especially on the largest 18-inch alloy wheels.

Vauxhall Astra petrol engines

Carried over from several Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen and DS models, the 1.2-litre petrol produces either 108 or 128bhp. The lower-powered option is limited to the Design trim level, while the 128bhp version isn’t much more expensive and is a little punchier without sacrificing any fuel efficiency. Zero-to-62mph takes 10.5 seconds and 9.7 seconds respectively, broadly matching the last Astra. You’ll have no trouble keeping up with traffic, but it won’t be the most exciting hatchback to drive.

The 128bhp petrol feels a good match for the GS Line trim, making the Astra feel sprightly. There’s a little engine noise from the three-cylinder unit, but it never became unacceptably loud. The gearbox has a slightly long throw when you’re changing gears; the smooth eight-speed automatic is a good alternative.

Diesel engine

The sole 1.5-litre diesel engine produces 128bhp. On paper it’s the slowest to accelerate, with 0-62mph taking 10.6 seconds, but there’s more torque so it should feel quicker when setting off. The petrol and diesel engines both come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox is available as an option.

Hybrid engine

With a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, the Vauxhall Astra Hybrid-e is the most powerful model yet revealed. A combined output of 178bhp and more torque than the diesel should allow it to sprint away, but it’s pegged back by the weight of the batteries. Accelerating from 0-62mph takes 9.3 seconds.

As long as there’s enough charge in the battery, the Astra PHEV will start in electric mode, and settings let you choose between power sources or let the car decide. The switch between petrol and electric power is pleasingly muted, although keep your foot down on the accelerator and the engine noise does become a little loud.

The plug-in hybrid is the heaviest version of the Astra, and our test car felt rather firm. That could be an issue on UK roads, which aren’t known for their smoothness. There was also a lot of tyre rumble at normal speeds.

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