Matt Saunders
30 August 2012

What is it?

This is the new Vauxhall Astra CDTi BiTurbo – the most powerful diesel-powered Astra there has ever been, and a promising addition to a class in which it offers more than 10 per cent more power and torque than the norm.

Sounds exciting. Excitement, however, remains a rare commodity in a company car in 2012. As the current crop of performance diesels such as the VW Golf GTD, Seat Leon FR and Alfa Giulietta Multijet prove, it’s easy enough for a car-maker to drop a grunty four-cylinder compression-ignition lump into a compact five-door hatchback and end up with something that handles well enough, goes well enough, and squeezes into a CO2 band low enough to keep your tax bill reasonable.

Making that car as involving to drive as a good petrol-powered hot hatchback, though – that’s an enduring problem.

What is it like?

And it’s a problem that Vauxhall hasn’t solved any more successfully here than most car-makers who’ve taken a shot. The omens looked encouraging: with headline figures of 192bhp and 295lb ft, this new fast oil-burner is second in the class only to the BMW 125d on sheer power and torque. More’s the pity, then, that it just isn’t the sort of car to really tickle your giggle receptors.

The BiTurbo CDTi engine has been added to the Astra range at the same time as the car’s first mid-life revision since its launch in 2009 – of which, besides some quite subtle but welcome exterior styling updates, new optional gadgetry and one or two engine lineup tweaks, the addition of a performance diesel model is the most newsworthy part. Criticisms we’ve made of the Astra’s practical, functional but slightly dowdy and downmarket cabin therefore go unaddressed.

Vauxhall’s 2.0-litre CDTi engine has had plenty of attention. Fitted with not just twin sequential turbos but twin intercoolers, aluminium pistons and new conrods and camshafts, it seems to lack for little on paper. But in practice, the engine’s responsiveness and flexibility somehow rob it of performance character. There’s little drama or charm to the way this motor serves up maximum thrust; plenty of noise and a little coarseness, but not much to woo the senses. Its businesslike delivery certainly makes the Astra brisk enough in outright terms, but little more so than a 168bhp Golf GTD (8.1sec to 62mph) or even a 163bhp Astra CDTi (8.5sec). And more disappointingly, you just never seem to get that healthy torque-driven slap on the back you’re expecting when you flex your right foot.

With Vauxhall’s optional FlexRide adaptive dampers – and even without the UK-specific power steering tune that Brit-supplied cars will benefit from – our test car had an impressive breadth of dynamic talent that would make it a pleasing everyday driver even for high-mileage users, as well as a capable fast car. In ‘Tour’ mode there’s Golf-rivalling suppleness in the suspension, and still enough steering precision and roll control to take on a B-road with some gusto. Switch to ‘Sport’ and the responsiveness of the chassis is even greater, although the ride deteriorates.

But whichever driving mode you chose – despite a lower, tauter chassis tune than the standard Astra hatch gets – the Astra BiTurbo struggles to improve on neat-and-tidy adequacy in the way it corners. Its steering is accurate and direct but uncommunicative, its handling obedient but lacking in real purpose or verve. This is definitely a journeyman sort of driver’s car; it’s effective enough, but no virtuoso entertainer.

Should I buy one?

Perhaps. But only perhaps because few quick oil-burning hatchbacks are actually as big on entertainment value as we’d like them to be.

If your heart is set on a car like this, the Astra BiTurbo is certainly well priced, smart and impressive enough in its own way to be worth considering. A Golf GTD is slower, after all, as well as £1500 more expensive.

And for the more three-dimensional thrills of a BMW 125d M-Sport you have to part with almost £28k: thirty grand or more for a like-for-like car equal on equipment level, we’d guess.

But for keen drivers, this Astra does little to advance or improve the performance diesel breed. So just don’t buy one as a cut-price alternative to an Astra VXR. That way disillusionment lies.

Matt Saunders

Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTI BiTurbo

Price: £24,095 0-62mph: 8.0sec Top Speed: 141mph Economy: 55.4mpg C02: 134g/km Kerb weight: 1475kg (tbc) Engine type: 4 cyls in line, 1956cc, twin turbocharged diesel Power: 192bhp at 4000rpm Torque: 295lb ft at 1750rpm-2500rpm Gearbox: 6-spd manual

 

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Comments
22

Is it me...!?

2 years 8 weeks ago

... £24k for an Astra Diesel...!

Well priced...!?

Compared to the competition...

2 years 8 weeks ago

...I'd say it was very well priced!  Plus, it's the best looking car in it's class, except perhaps for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

1475Kgs...

2 years 8 weeks ago

Another bloater!

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

Excited

2 years 8 weeks ago

Well I am excited by this car. It is £3000 less than a new VXR and about 25 more mpg. I had a VXR before and only part exed it when I had 2 children. With the price of petrol/Diesel this is fairly economical at 55mpg and for me it is a 5door which is practical. It under cuts a new 5 door Golf by about £2000 I think.

This is the automotive equal

2 years 8 weeks ago

This is the automotive equal of high strength economy larger. Yes its powerful, but you wouldnt get me having anything to do with it.

Astra diesel Bi-Turbo

2 years 8 weeks ago

In your report you compare this Astra with the BMW 125d in terms of output, but like so many "hot" diesels (Mazda 3 2.2 springs to mind) the quoted performance figures for this car are not as good as the quoted output would suggest.

Maybe Teutonic horses are stronger, because the Astra would seem to be slower than a 120d and a comparison with that would close the price gap considerably and the 120d would have a lower tax burden.

A shame really because there must be other drivers out there who want the economy and tax benefits of a diesel but still want some meaningful performance to go with them.

Astra diesel Bi-Turbo continued

2 years 8 weeks ago

Just tried to edit my comment after looking at the 13 July 2011 review of the BMW 120d, but I was not permitted to access that page(!?!).

Anyway Autocar quoted a price just under £24,000, a top speed of 142 mph, a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds and CO2 of 119, although they also said it "still lacks that crucial entertainment factor" - maybe the Astra et al just lack it even more!

Not sure why you would want the Astra, or even more tellingly the dearer, slower Golf GTD...... 

toptidy wrote: In your

2 years 7 weeks ago

toptidy wrote:

In your report you compare this Astra with the BMW 125d in terms of output, but like so many "hot" diesels (Mazda 3 2.2 springs to mind) the quoted performance figures for this car are not as good as the quoted output would suggest.

Maybe Teutonic horses are stronger, because the Astra would seem to be slower than a 120d and a comparison with that would close the price gap considerably and the 120d would have a lower tax burden.

A shame really because there must be other drivers out there who want the economy and tax benefits of a diesel but still want some meaningful performance to go with them.

 

It's the vauxhall way.  Never believe the statistical hype.

Although this is the first time I've ever thought the of the vauxhall as pleasing on the eye inside and out.  Go vauxhall.

jer

adaptive

2 years 7 weeks ago

Having the split option to ride well on rubbish roads and also handle well when you are in the mood is rare in this class makes up for ultimate handling being down on say a focus.

Smilerforce wrote: toptidy

2 years 7 weeks ago

Smilerforce wrote:

toptidy wrote:

In your report you compare this Astra with the BMW 125d in terms of output, but like so many "hot" diesels (Mazda 3 2.2 springs to mind) the quoted performance figures for this car are not as good as the quoted output would suggest.

Maybe Teutonic horses are stronger, because the Astra would seem to be slower than a 120d and a comparison with that would close the price gap considerably and the 120d would have a lower tax burden.

A shame really because there must be other drivers out there who want the economy and tax benefits of a diesel but still want some meaningful performance to go with them.

 

It's the vauxhall way.  Never believe the statistical hype.

Although this is the first time I've ever thought the of the vauxhall as pleasing on the eye inside and out.  Go vauxhall.

Reckon that VX don't hype-up their figures quite like the German marques do (i.e. take the figures with a pinch of pessimistic salt). I have the Tourer version of the 165 CDTI engine and I can categorically say - it flies when you bury the pedal. 2.0 VAG diesel units simply can't compete (and I know this from >20k a year worth of miles) - not convinced they were all 140 as opposed to 170 units either. 

Don't understand this "Criticisms we’ve made of the Astra’s practical, functional but slightly dowdy and downmarket cabin therefore go unaddressed." Really? Have you been in a Golf cabin for longer than a few hours - its dreary, dark and deathly dull. Downmarket? Sorry, but the same functional hard plastics live in all cars in the same places Autocar - whether 1 series or Golf/VAG. 

Sorry, but I'm sticking up for the VX....and would consider the Tourer version (again) of this one at next purchase (mind you the all new one is out 2013/14).

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Our Verdict

The Vauxhall Astra is one of the best-looking hatchbacks, but average dynamics and performance hamper its overall appeal

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