From £19,215
Staple of the Astra range, but far from the best
Andrew Frankel Autocar
8 October 2009

What is it?

This Astra comes with a normally aspirated 1.6-litre engine and is likely to be one of the sales mainstays of the range. The engine is a carry-over unit from the previous Astra and develops 113bhp at 6000rpm and 114lb ft of torque at 4000rpm.

It uses a five-speed gearbox as standard, though a six-speed automatic transmission is available, albeit for a steep-sounding £1175 premium. Fuel consumption is a reasonable 44.8mpg, emissions an equally acceptable 147g/km.

The car we drove also came with the optional FlexRide chassis, which allows the driver to choose between standard, sport and touring settings for the suspension by way of electronically controlled damping, though other parameters like throttle mapping and steering weighting remain unaltered.

In SE specification this Astra looks expensive at £18,850, so it should be said the engine is available in all five grades, from the entry Exclusiv at £16,650 to top-of-the-range Elite at £19,830.

What’s it like?

Really rather unremarkable. Engine performance is sluggish; the car seems slower than even the claimed modest 10.9sec sprint to 60mph suggests. The engine does at least spread its torque evenly through the rev range, but never suggests it has more than the merest enthusiasm for the job. The five-speed gearbox is good enough, with more sensibly spaced ratios than its six-speed sibling found in other, more expensive Astras.

Otherwise its pretty much as you’d expect: a smart and well built hatchback with conspicuous amounts of interior space and a very high-quality driving environment. But like other Astras, it fails to build upon its showroom appeal once out on the open road.

The FlexRide system works well, but how many will choose to spend a further £425 on it remains to be seen. And even so equipped, it cannot cover the fact that regardless of whether you want a car to ride well or have engaging handling, others in the class do it better.

Should I buy one?

It is quite hard to make a case for this Astra. That there’s no great sparkle to it wouldn’t be quite so disappointing had the rest of the car not promised so much.

However, what really undermines its case is the presence in the range of the 1.4-litre turbo model for just an extra £640, or less than the optional premium lighting pack. This engine not only provides another 25bhp and massively better performance as a result, it is also substantially more refined and has by far the more cheerful nature. Most damning of all, the sweeter, more powerful 1.4 turbo also uses quite a lot less fuel and has lower emissions too.

So while the 1.6 can be seen in isolation as a harmless, inoffensive, high-quality family hatch, the moment it is put even into the context of its own range, let alone competitors like the Focus and Golf, its case falls rapidly and irretrievably apart.

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Comments
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diggytheelder 21 May 2014

Useless Engine

Just has this as hire car. I thought the engine was broken it was so useless or had 85 bhp.

The car has no torque. It refuses to rev out to the red line in any gear apart from 1st and 2nd. It is positively bad news for Motorway driving. It's a shame because the car is otherwise a comfortable place to drive 250 miles in a session.

My wife used to own a 1992 2.0 astra CD with 115 BHP and in comparison was a rocket ship and would return 45mpg at indicated 80mph. The 1.6 of this review does about 40mpg.

Avoid this car unless you drive around town, but then of course you would probably want a Fiesta with 90 bhp.

Disillusioned 21 July 2014

diggytheelder wrote:Just has

diggytheelder wrote:

Just has this as hire car. I thought the engine was broken it was so useless or had 85 bhp.

The car has no torque. It refuses to rev out to the red line in any gear apart from 1st and 2nd. It is positively bad news for Motorway driving. It's a shame because the car is otherwise a comfortable place to drive 250 miles in a session.

My wife used to own a 1992 2.0 astra CD with 115 BHP and in comparison was a rocket ship and would return 45mpg at indicated 80mph. The 1.6 of this review does about 40mpg.

Avoid this car unless you drive around town, but then of course you would probably want a Fiesta with 90 bhp.

I stupidly traded in an Astra G (1.8) for a new 1.6 and drive around town. Terrible decision. The car is so heavy that you burn half a tank of petrol getting the thing moving. Also find the three feet wide front columns makes it difficult to see at junctions. In the old car getting around 35mpg, in this bucket I get 25.7mpg. I think it can be seen by the relatively high road tax. And yes I agree the old car feels somewhat amazing compared to this.

moe360 20 October 2009

Re: Vauxhall Astra 1.6 SE

chandrew wrote:

I can just see the scene....

Fleet purchasing bloke from any of the major car hire companies...

"Look, Autocar say the 1.6 Astra has no real sparkle, engine performance is sluggish and never suggests it has more than the merest enthusiasm for the job.

That's obviously the model for us. Order a thousand".

L0L so true :) ... great post

Epe 16 October 2009

Re: Vauxhall Astra 1.6 SE

The new Astra seems a very decent car but one thing is already bothering me - the weight.

The equivalent VW Golf weighs approx. 100 kg less. I have also understood that the next generation Golf/A3 platform will shed another 100-150 kg off its kerb weight. This will make the new Astra look like a dinosaur! The VW group products will have a considerable advantage when it comes performance, economy and agility.