A mainstay of the UK’s top 10 best-seller charts for many years, the Vauxhall Astra remains one of the most popular cars in its class, and for very good reason.
Stylish, well made and impressive to drive, the Astra is also more technologically advanced than ever before, with sophisticated ‘Intellilink’ infotainment systems, seats developed in conjunction with the German Council of Ergonomics (this makes them exceptionally comfortable…) and advanced chassis design, as well as a level of fit and finish that might surprise you from such a mainstream brand.
The Astra is available in two body styles - a five-door hatchback and a ‘Sports Tourer’ estate, both of which are manufactured at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire, UK.
The factory is one of the most advanced in Europe and has a reputation for great quality and paint finish, both of which are clearly evident in the Astra. It may be a ‘normal’ car on the surface, but beneath the mainstream badge lurks a very advanced car indeed.
Styled by British designer, Mark Adams, the Astra has a distinctive wedge-shaped profile that kicks up into a stubby but stylish rear end, the rear light clusters, in particular, being a handsome styling feature.
One of the Astra’s smartest touches is its ‘floating glass’ design, where the rear door pillar swoops up to meet the glass line before the tailgate glass begins - it cleverly reduces the amount of metal on display and lends the Astra a compact and lean appearance, though it does tend to work better on the hatchback than the estate.
At the front, the car gets Vauxhall’s signature dual bar grille and split front bumper, with trapezoidal cut-outs for the fog lamps. Some models also get ‘Matrix’ headlamps, which split into quarters and adapt their light pattern with the car’s steering, and also in the face of oncoming traffic.
The Astra’s cabin isn’t as avant-garde as its exterior, but it’s still a pleasant place to be, with a well laid-out dash and extremely comfortable seats - indeed, Vauxhall’s engineers worked hard to ensure that the ergonomics of the car were the best in its class, and it’s hard to argue with them after spending time behind the wheel.
All but the most basic models feature ‘Intellilink’, which is Vauxhall’s advanced infotainment system. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, as well as ‘OnStar’, which is effectively an on-board concierge service that also contacts the emergency services in the event of a collision. It’s clever stuff, and far more advanced in many ways than the car’s obvious rivals, such as the VW Golf and Ford Focus.
Rear seat passengers aren’t forgotten, either, with best-in-class head and legroom, though the back seat is firmer than those in the front, and you’ll notice if you regularly switch between the two.
The Astra has a spacious boot - 370-litres with the seats up and 1,210-litres with the seats down, which isn’t the best in its class, but it’s not far off, while for those who do need extra luggage space, Vauxhall is one of the few manufacturers to still offer a conventional estate, making it a popular choice with dog owners and family buyers.
Driving and practicality
All models are pleasant to drive, with a good balance between comfort and handling, while those with Sports suspension, notably the SRi, have excellent steering and responsive handling.
The Astra isn’t as cossetting as the VW Golf on uneven road surfaces, but it makes up for it on twisty roads, where the chassis comes into its own. It really is a fine handling car.
Buyers can choose between six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, with the manual having a short throw and positive shift, again making it feel far more sporty than you’d expect.
There’s also a vast range of engines and trim levels to choose from, with a mix of normally aspirated and turbocharged petrol units and a 1.6 diesel with two different power outputs.
The most basic engine is a normally aspirated 1.4 petrol, which offers adequate but leisurely performance. The 1.0 turbo is surprisingly peppy and the 1.4 turbo even more so. The range-topping petrol is a 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo and it certainly knows how to shift.
Both diesels are 1.6-litre units from Vauxhall’s ‘Whisper’ family and are quite efficient and refined.
The Astra has been such a popular car throughout its life that Vauxhall estimates that one in four British drivers has owned or driven one at some point.
And that’s because it’s a multi-purpose car that suits all tastes, from those seeking a reliable and stress-free runabout, through high mileage business drivers, to those who want something a little more sporty.
There’s an Astra for everyone, and that’s very much the key to its appeal.
Astra range consists of seven key models: Design, Tech Line, Elite, Elite NAV, SRi, SRi Nav, VX-Line.
VX-Line models get tuned suspension and sports styling features, but sit below the performance SRi.
All petrol and diesel models have a choice of six-speed manual or auto transmission.
Seven engine choices - five petrol, two diesel.
Entry-level petrol powerplant is the 1.4 normally aspirated petrol with 100bhp, entry-level diesel is the 1.6 CDTi with 134bhp.
Other options include 125bhp 1.0 turbo petrol, 150bhp 1.4 turbo petrol, 200bhp 1.6 turbo petrol and 160bhp 1.6 diesel.Search Vauxhall Astra