Despite the rising importance of SUV models across its line-up and the increasing inroads being made by pure-electric rivals on the back of generous government incentives in some markets, the traditional combustion-engined hatchback still makes up a 14% share of the company’s overall sales – a figure it expects to remain constant up to and beyond 2030.
To see what Vauxhall has in store for the new Astra, we were invited to drive a series of prototypes of the eighth-generation model in the final stages of a two-year development programme currently being carried out in Germany. They are early hand-built examples fitted with various data loggers, as is usual at this late stage of testing, but they are nevertheless representative of what we’ll see here when sales begin in September.
In a move similar to that already undertaken with the latest Corsa, the new Astra has been comprehensively re-engineered under the guidance of Vauxhall’s parent company, Stellantis. At the centre of its long list of changes is the adoption of a brand-new platform: the third-gen iteration of the EMP2 architecture originally introduced by Peugeot-Citroën in 2013.
The adoption of the new platform is a significant shift for Vauxhall, netting greater economies of scale through increased material procurement and component sharing with other Stellantis-run brands, including with the new Peugeot 308, alongside which the new Astra has been developed. As is now the case, all models will be offered exclusively with front-wheel drive.
The new platform also brings a claimed 14% increase in torsional rigidity compared with the General Motors-developed Delta platform of the outgoing Astra. “We have done a lot of simulation work to give it the sort of front-end stiffness we consider crucial to our particular chassis tuning, and the way we like to set up our cars with greater roll stiffness [than Peugeot and Citroën],” said Andreas Holl, head of vehicle dynamics. “We started off with the EMP structure, but the extent of the changes means it could be considered a whole new platform.”