The likes of Honda and Mazda may have brought welcome punch and a smattering of pace to low-CO2 diesel hatchbacks in the past few years, but most of them still smack of compromise on outright acceleration. This Astra doesn’t.
Its 1.6 CDTi engine trumps most of its rivals by around 20% on maximum power and torque, while still being competitive on fuel economy and emissions – and that’s one of the car’s main selling points.
Against our timing gear, the difference is plain. The Vauxhall needs less than nine seconds to pass 60mph from rest. The equivalent Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi we reviewed took more than two seconds longer for the same sprint, and the Volkswagen Group’s 1.6 TDI offerings suffer a similar disadvantage. For in-gear pulling power, the Astra’s performance is just as impressive, its relative advantage being worth around two seconds from 30-70mph in fourth gear compared with the class norm.
The Astra’s engine isn’t the quietest of its ilk, but it’s smooth and fairly free-revving. The fact that its maximum torque allotment is available over such a slender band of revs doesn’t seem to make much of a dent in the overall impression of vigour with which the car climbs gradients and gets up to speed. Responsiveness to the accelerator pedal is more than respectable. Most of the time, you’d swear this was a modern 2.0-litre diesel.