The styling of the sixth-generation Astra is quite a hard act to follow, but Vauxhall’s designers have nonetheless succeeded in following it with something fresh, smart and attractive. The new car’s wider and more impactful front grille and headlight treatment give it the vaguely upmarket air that it’ll need to continue to sell alongside myriad premium-brand rivals.
We’re less convinced by the split C-pillar design, which delivers the impression of a floating roof but looks like more of an afterthought at close quarters.
Compactness undeniably contributes to the latest Astra’s new-found visual appeal, with the car having lost an inch or two on both overall length and height. GM’s D2XX platform has allowed a substantial 77kg to be taken out of the all-steel body-in-white, while static torsional rigidity has been increased. And although the wheelbase and front and rear overhangs have been shortened, both passenger and boot space have apparently been improved.
The car’s suspension remains a middle-ground compromise between cost, notional sophistication and packaging efficiency. At the front, MacPherson struts feature, with an aluminium strut carrier, a hollow steel anti-roll bar and a redesigned ‘mass-optimised’ lower control arm all saving weight. At the rear, Vauxhall continues with its torsion beam, which, combined with a Watt’s linkage, allows for more precise wheel control and a softer-bushed, more fluent ride than a standard beam axle would grant, without the necessary complexity and packaging intrusion of a fully independent rear end. The Watt’s link itself is lighter than it was, and progressive-rate springs have been adopted. Altogether, 50kg has been saved from the car’s rolling chassis.
Because fleet sales are expected to account for 70% of Astra sales, we’ve opted to test the mid-range 1.6 CDTi engine – and it looks a very competitive offering. Bringing with it 17in alloy wheels as standard, the SRi trim of our test car tipped CO2 emissions over the 100g/km barrier. Buy this car in a more modest trim level, though, and it’ll combine attractive sub-100g/km CO2 with power, torque and performance levels that you’d need a bigger, less efficient engine to equal in most of the Astra’s rivals.
In a departure from precedent, Vauxhall is declining to offer a sports suspension tune with certain versions of the Astra. Instead, it has opted for one particular spring, damper and torsion beam specification for each engine and bodystyle. The firm’s Flexride adaptive damping system has not migrated downwards from the Insignia, either. But will either factor affect the breadth of the new Astra’s dynamic ability?