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?
With this, the Vauxhall Astra Design 1.7 CDTi Ecoflex, Vauxhall has joined the green ranks. The Ecoflex gets all the usual green tweaks: a lower idle speed, modified air intakes, lowered suspension and low rolling resistance tyres.
The idle speed of the power steering pump has also been reduced, and Vauxhall has fitted a taller axle ratio to lengthen the gearing.
What sets the Vauxhall Astra Ecoflex apart from the eco competition, however, is its engine. At 109bhp and 192lbft of torque, the long-serving 1.7-litre turbodiesel actually gets 10bhp and 15lb ft more in Ecoflex trim.
What’s it like?
The extra power is welcome, almost offsetting the longer gearing. It means that the Ecoflex hits 60mph in 12.0sec, just half a second shy of the regular 99bhp 1.7-litre CDTi.
The green credentials are justified too. Combined fuel consumption improves by more than 7mpg over the regular 1.7 to 62.8mpg, while CO2 emissions drop by 19g/km to 119g/km, allowing the Astra Ecoflex to sneak into the £35 VED band B.
The problem is that the Astra has been around for more than four and a half years and it shows. The seats are flat and unsupportive and the dashboard, although good looking, isn’t the most user-friendly thing. The gearchange has a slick, positive action, but the steering is lifeless and the ride fidgety.
Should I buy one?
Yes. If you can put aside the shortcomings of the Astra range as a whole, the Astra Ecoflex makes a strong case for itself, especially with that extra helping of power and torque.