Refinement could be better
Impressive handling for diesel Astra
Styling is sleek but conservative
Reasonable perfromance from ageing diesel
Sculpted rear designed to guide wind around Astra's boot
Interior quality is much higher than previous Astras
The Vauxhall Astra is one of the best-looking hatchbacks, but average dynamics and performance hamper its overall appeal
First DriveFrugal 1.6-litre diesel Astra estate has the zest to match its decent chassis and good looks
First DriveDespite a raft of tweaks aimed at achieving impressive frugality, this Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi Ecoflex Exclusiv still offers an engaging driver experience
What is it?
This sixth-generation Astra is an almost entirely new car, but some of its engines live on from previous generations, including the old 1.7 litre, 109bhp Isuzu turbodiesel, which is now the least potent oil-burner in the range until the 109g/km 1.3 CDTi turns up next year.
This engine does not go under the Astra’s bonnet unmodified however, because it now meets Euro V emission standards, and its installation has been modified in the quest for refinement.
There’s also a 123bhp 1.7 CDTi - although this is a different and quicker engine, it produces the same combined fuel consumption figure of 60.1mpg and identical Co2 emissions of 124g/km.
What’s it like?
For this 109bhp engine none of these figures is especially competitive, the 104bhp Golf 1.6 TDI beating it on every count for emissions (119g/km), fuel consumption (62.8mpg), 0-62mph (11.3sec) and top speed (117mph), while Ford’s Focus 108bhp 1.6 TDCi also trounces the Vauxhall.
And the same is true on the road. Although the Isuzu motor is much quieter than before, whether you’re sitting behind it or hearing its presence from outside the car, it still sounds like a set of deftly deployed maracas, and there’s a muted over-run growl to match.
On-board the Golf, you’ll be struggling to tell which fuel it burns. Still, this Astra certainly isn’t an unpleasant drive. The diesel’s clatter is far from insistent enough to overwhelm the car’s considerable virtues in other directions, which include a pleasingly supple ride, very tidy handling and a classily crafted cabin. Though far from scintillating, its performance is elastic enough for adequately brisk journeys.
Should I buy one?
The Vauxhall Astra is a sophisticated addition to the class that should not be overlooked by anyone shopping for a family hatch, particularly when fitted with one of the new engines available in the range. But this latest Astra deserves an oil-burner of the calibre of the Golf and Focus whose engines are plainly better, whether statistically and aurally.