Pick four British motorists at random, seat them in a Vauxhall Astra and at least one should feel instantly at home. Such has been the success of this hatchback in the UK – fuelled by its unpretentious versatility and value for money for 36 years and six model generations now – that a quarter of all licence holders in this country have owned or regularly driven one, says Vauxhall.
Underneath the revised styling of the seventh-generation Astra, there’s a great deal that’s brand new about this car, from its platform to its engines, suspension tuning and more besides.
That’s something we haven’t been able to report about every ‘new’ Vauxhall recently. Perhaps most enticing, the car is up to 200kg lighter and £2200 cheaper than the outgoing one, depending on which model you’re looking at.
Vauxhall parent General Motors appears to have gathered together all of its latest and greatest technology and thrown it at this car – as you’d imagine it might when replacing a model so crucial to its European fortunes. This is the first Vauxhall or Opel developed on GM’s D2XX platform, announced in 2012. As you’ll read, that platform has allowed space to be made inside while also eliminating weight and outward size.
The Astra's engine line-up starts with a 99bhp 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, followed by a 103bhp three-cylinder, one-litre unit ahead of a couple of turbocharged 1.4-litre blocks producing 123bhp and 148bhp respectively. The petrol range is rounded off with a 198bhp turbo-boosted 1.6-litre engine. The diesel range consists of an 1.6-litre unit in numerous outputs - 108bhp, 134bhp and 158bhp - which is also twin-turbocharged.
A hot 247bhp Ford Focus ST rival has been mooted, coming in five-door format with an estate version also possible. It is likely to be badged GSi, while a replacement for the VXR three-door Astra GTC also in the product plans.
Meanwhile, from active LED matrix headlights, through automatic crash mitigation and avoidance systems, to Vauxhall’s latest IntelliLink infotainment set-up, Vauxhall hasn’t held back on convenience or safety features, either. Stand by to find out what rivals have to fear from this leaner, cheaper, better-equipped Vauxhall, then – and exactly how much more it offers the legions of British drivers whom it’ll ultimately serve.