New Vauxhall Astra
Vauxhalls have never been at the top of my list of “must have” cars and that’s strange, because I’ve owned two of them.
They were both Astras, and I liked them. The last one I bought was back in 2000; it was silver and had an Irmscher body kit. it looked great at the time – or maybe I thought it did because I was still in my 20s then and only had myself to please. These days I’m a dad with a whole different set of priorities about what I need from a car.
Now with three kids, I look at how easy it is to fit child seats in a car, I check out if the boot will swallow a pushchair and a weekly shop. All sorts of boring things like that. And do you know what? Yes, the latest Astra is great for strapping a nine-year-old, six-year-old and a two-year-old into the back seat, and the load-area is bang on for a buggy.
Compared with its predecessor, this new five-door Astra is shorter, yet it offers more rear legroom. It drives well, too, and with its new “whisper” 1.6 diesel engine, it has some nice low-down shove.
Indeed, this version will be the fleet choice, allowing up to 91mpg and releasing just 85g/km of CO2 in its lowest 108bhp semblance. But we only got to drive the 134bhp version (76mpg), which still gives decent performance and is both effortless and hushed.
The new Astra doesn’t have the wow-factor looks of some rival hatchbacks, but it isn’t ugly and is the first Vauxhall to feature OnStar. This ground-breaking connectivity technology includes high-speed 4G LTE mobile network, emergency response notification and stolen vehicle recovery alert.
Taken as a whole, the new Astra is a highly-affable and spirited car. The VW Golf still leads the segment in terms of drivability and aesthetics, but the fresh Vauxhall works for me, and in spite of its rather bland looks, it has very few failings. It feels solid, it has airbags everywhere, it’s comfortable, economical, spacious, has decent pulling power, and it even has a great sounding music system. For value for money, it’s a top motor – and you get a lot of car for the dosh.
Model tested: Design 1.6CDTi 16v (136PS) ecoFL 99g S/S
Max speed: 124 mph
0-62 mph: 10.3 secs
Combined mpg: 76.3
Engine: 1598cc, 4 cylinder, 16 valve turbo diesel
Max. power (bhp): 134
Max. torque (Nm): 320
CO2: 99 g/km
PROS ‘N’ CONS
√ Drives well
√ Hi-tech kit
X Bland looks