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
I don’t think facelifts get any less substantial than this. New front bumper, tweaked grille, whiter rear light glass, darker front light glass and a couple of new materials hither and thither on the inside. That's it for this, revised Vauxhall Astra. Low key, is the phrase. But “it was always our intention to only give Astra a mild facelift,” says Peter Vos, head of Opel Marketing. Why? “Because the Astra was such a progressive-looking and very competitive car.”
What's it like?
The Astra's exterior still looks good and the interior passes muster with the best in the class. The ride and handling remain unchanged too - which means positive, accurate steering and a very tidy ride-handling balance that’s up there with the Focus and Golf. This is still a very likeable car. What is a lot newer are two new petrol engines. There’s a revised, normally aspirated 1.6 petrol (up 10bhp to 113bhp) and, more interestingly, a new 1.6-litre turbo, replacing the 168bhp 2.0-litre turbo. It’ll just be badged ‘Turbo’ for the badge snobs. And it’s good. It generates 178bhp and, because of its smaller capacity, it’s peakier than the 2.0-litre. And then some. It’s a little flat at lower revs, really surges from the mid two-thousands and, in the wet, will scrabble the front wheels from there round to the red-line. It’s a smooth enough unit; but could be more eager higher round the rev-range and a touch more linear in its response. The six-speed gearbox it’s mated to is very slick and the performance claims (62mph in 7.8sec, 137mph flat out) are believable.
Should I buy one?
This Astra SRi is more economical and has lower CO2 than the older 2.0-litre. All things considered, then, it’s pretty good. Which is just as well – because the Corsa VXR, which we’ll drive in March, gets this very engine, only more powerful again. I wonder what the response will be like.