What is it?
This is the accomplished and exceptionally frugal Vauxhall Astra hatchback. Although it carries a punchy 1.7-litre diesel engine, this Astra is the most economical model in the car’s line-up, capable of upwards of 75mpg with emissions that undercut the golden 100g/km Co2 marker.
These figures are achieved thanks to revisions to the Astra’s diesel engine, including a reduced compression ratio and a new variable geometry turbocharger, which provides greater boost-pressure control.
In addition, an energy-recuperation system stores kinetic energy in the car’s battery during braking and throttle lift-off and an active aero-shutter in the radiator grille improves aerodynamics at higher speeds. A stop-start system, eco tyres and an underbody aero kit also feature.
Like the 99g/km Co2 emitting Seat Leon 1.6 TDI CR Ecomotive, VW Golf BlueMotion 1.6 TDI, Audi A3 1.6 TDI and Peugeot 308 SR e-HDi EGC (with stop-start), the Astra sits in tax band A and is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
What’s it like?
Despite its headlining eco credentials, the Vauxhall Astra tested here makes impressive progress in most driving situations. Every nugget of the oil-burner’s 221lb ft torque figure is exploited by a well-suited and slick six-speed manual gearbox; unlike other similar-sized eco hatchbacks, the Astra doesn’t suffer with poor low-end twist, brought on by taller gearing.
Around town, the car’s supple suspension copes well with poorly maintained British roads, managing to soak up potholes without any crash intrusion into the cabin. The stop-start system copes adequately, although we were able to catch it out on occasion; when we were ready to move off again quickly, the engine sometimes hesitated as it was still in the shut-down transition.
The Astra’s ride is firm but comfortable and the car’s nicely-weighted steering also makes it a car that can be introduced to a twisty B-road by keener drivers. Thanks to its balanced chassis, quick changes in direction can be made confidently and heavy braking stops the car very competently and with little drama. The brake pedal feel is also very good.
Excellent refinement is another benefit the Astra brings to the table and is something you’ll notice as soon as you enter the cabin. The car’s switchgear is of a good quality, the interior logically laid out there are plenty of soft-touch plastics around the centre console and dashboard. The fabric seats, too, are firm and very supportive.
It’ll comfortably seat four adults and the boot is one of the most accommodating in the Astra’s class at 351 litres. By comparison, the Ford Focus swallows 25 litres less.
Should I buy one?
The real question is, why wouldn’t you buy one? The Vauxhall Astra (in this guise at least) offers groundbreaking economy figures, impressive performance and pleasing driver engagement levels. Granted, it will cost you more of your hard-earned upfront compared with similar eco models, but none offer such a well-rounded and entertaining package.
Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi Ecoflex Exclusiv start-stop
Price: £20,725; Top speed: 126mph; 0-62mph: 10.4sec; Economy: 76.3 (combined); Co2: 99g/km; Kerb weight: 1446kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1686cc, turbodiesel; Installation: Front, transverse, FWD; Power: 128bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 221lb ft 2000-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual