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 is a Vauxhall Astra for those who like performance, as well as infrequent trips to the fuel station, if you believe the numbers on paper. This 2.0 CDTi ecoFLEX model is the fastest, most powerful Astra diesel you can buy, its engine producing 158bhp and the 0-60mph sprint taking 8.5sec.
But it’ll also return 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and has a tax friendly CO2 rating of 119g/km. So far, so good, then.
What’s it like?
This Astra may be quick, but it’s not fun or especially comfortable to drive. The engine has plenty of poke and is responsive at all legal speeds, and, unlike in most eco-biased cars, its six forward ratios are nicely spaced for swift and unblunted progress.
But the engine is noisy at low speeds and around town and there is considerable diesel clatter. This only really disappears were you’re into fifth and sixth gear on the motorway. The clutch, too, is much firmer than we’d like and has a very narrow bite point. Not great in traffic. That said the stop-start system is efficient and unobtrusive enough.
Elsewhere, the Astra’s chassis lacks the involvement of its rivals. The 2.0 CDTi engine makes the Astra feel like a heavy car and one lacking agility or involvement. The steering, however, is nicely weighted and precise and the ride is acceptable, if lacking the absorption abilities of the Golf and Focus.
There are good points to the car asides from the performance, though. It’s easy to achieve around 50mpg even when you’re driving hard, although this is still short of the claimed figure. The interior, too, is classy and feels like a car from the class above.
Should I buy one?
The Astra five-door isn’t a car for enthusiasts. If you want a quick Astra with a sports chassis, Vauxhall says that will be provided to you in the shape of the upcoming three-door Astra GTC.
The running costs and performance are not without appeal in this 2.0 CDTi model, but in this class, being excellent in some areas and merely good in others will put you closer to the bottom of the class than the top.
And at £22,725 in SRi trim before you start ticking option boxes, this isn’t a cheap car. You’ll find the sweet spot of the Astra diesel range further down, with the 1.7 CDTi 125 offering the best blend of economy, kit and value.
Vauxhall Astra Sri 2.0 CDti ecoFLEX Start/Stop
Price: £22,725; Top speed: 134mph; 0-60mph: 8.5sec; Economy: 62.8mpg combined; CO2: 119g/km; Kerb weight: 1453kg; Engine: 4cyls in line, 1956cc, turbodiesel; Power: 158bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manual