From £17,7008
New 1.2-litre petrol triple is a standout performer in Vauxhall’s revised British-built hatchback

What is it?

Long a staple of the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars list each month, and towards the sharp end at that, the Vauxhall Astra this year finds itself missing from the SMMT’s monthly rundown.

Even a facelift two thirds of the way through last year hasn’t helped prop the Astra’s sales up in what remains a family mainstream hatchback segment shrinking next to the rise of the SUVs, and also the affordability of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class that has taken the Astra’s place on the top 10 list.

Yet the Astra remains a car worth your consideration, as we’ll discover. Since driving it on the original launch, we’ve now spent a bit more time in the new 1.2-litre petrol version.

Astra sales are split greatly in favour of fleets (some 80/20, where the new 1.5-litre diesel and its RDE2 compliance makes it a tax friendly and fuel efficient choice) yet it's the new petrol triple, offered in 108bhp, 128bhp and 143bhp outputs each with the same impressive economy and CO2 outputs, that will find its way into the hands of more private buyers.

The three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine is new to the Astra, but don’t get it confused with the same-sized engine from new parent firm PSA. The all-alloy engine, along with the 1.5-litre diesel triple, were developed originally under Vauxhall/Opel’s previous owner General Motors, and the decision was taken to carry them through to production.

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What's it like?

And the engine is an impressive one. It revs nicely, and spins freely across the rev range, giving the Astra a pleasing turn of pace. It’s not set your pants on fire performance - nor is trying to be - but rather the kind to allow you to best exploit and enjoy real-world everyday driving conditions, and gaps in the traffic. The six-speed manual gearbox, itself newly updated, is also a slick performer, and a nice match for the engine.

The good news continues with the economy. For once, here are some on-paper economy figures you can get near. This Astra will cruise near to 50mpg on a run, meaning Vauxhall has found that rarely-found combination of good real-world performance and economy from a downsized three-cylinder engine, which replaced the 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo.

The engine is approximately 10kg lighter than the old 1.4, and it does feel it in its front-end agility. This Astra turns in more keenly than you’d expect, the car towards the Ford Focus end of the class for driver involvement if still short of the Blue Oval’s exceptional standards here. 

Chassis tweaks include a recalibrated steering system, which remains one of the Astra’s weaker points. There are also revised spring, damper and bush settings, all designed to increase the engagement and agility as well as offer a smooth ride. And it’s mission largely accomplished here, too, the Astra offering the desired smooth ride and dynamics that engage rather than excite you.

Other changes include exterior ones, albeit these are minor, and mainly focused on the front grille and headlights. There are bigger changes inside where the Astra gets the latest touchscreen infotainment system from Insignia, which brings with it Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Using this is far preferable than the factory fitted system, which lags behind that of even the outgoing Volkswagen Golf for its slickness of operation. 

It’s the cabin that then undermines the Astra’s overall case in such a fiercely competitive sector. It lacks the perceived quality of the likes of the Golf, Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3, and feels a bit dark and drab with little visual flair and interest. It’s all a bit boring, really. The seat and driving position could be more comfortable, too.

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Should I buy one?

It’s a shame the cabin is the way it is for there is so much to otherwise recommend about the Astra otherwise. It’s good value, good to drive, and with impressive real-world performance and economy, and you can drive it happy in the knowledge you’re supporting UK manufacturing,

Yet given the unstoppable rise of the SUV, and the long-standing low interest rates that are driving PCP costs down to make the premium models in the class like the A-Class, BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 more affordable than ever for the family hatchback segment’s buyers that are left, it’s hard to see the Astra’s good points winning through, however much it deserves to.

Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo 145 Elite Nav​ specification

Where Suffolk, UK Price £23,995 On sale now Engine 1199cc, 3-cyls, turbocharged petrol Power 143bhp at 5500rpm Torque 166lb ft at 2000-3500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1280kg Top speed 137mph 0-62mph 8.8sec Fuel economy 51.4-54.3mpg CO2 tbc Rivals Ford Focus, Mazda 3

Join the debate

Comments
11

1 June 2020

Very little not to like, econmical, can go at reasonable pace and the price is the icing on the cake for this version which is of very high spec, Puma active reviewed today is a fair chunk more but is smaller with a less powerful engine.

1 June 2020

 Yes, it'll do well, but that's it, it's an economic choice.

1 June 2020

So that GM engine is to be gradually discontinued then? Shame after all the development

1 June 2020

Virtually no one, and I mean no one would be able to spot the difference of 10kg difference in engine weight in the way an average run of the mill family car drives, its impossible. Does that mean adding 10kg in the boot, or carrying a  very heavy front passenger would upset the balance? The Astra is still a very average car in a very average group, until we get a new one built on a PSA platform it will remain so. 

1 June 2020

Deperately dull. Needs some PSA design guidance, then the potentially interesting underpinnings can maybe shine. i get the feeling PSA will look to ditch Vauxhall at least...

1 June 2020
This 5 door looks very staid compared with previous 3 door versions looked great especially the vxr of 2012 model year, the facelifts or is it a totally new car? I'm not sure, bit either way they look worse to my eyes.
That aside, it does seem a decent car that does look ok and I am not offended by the interior, it looks no different to anything VW would have quality wise or styling wise so I don't see how it described as undermining it's virtues. Though obviously I haven't sat in one so pictures may simply flatter it.

1 June 2020
Good rating, it may be average to some or not equal to premium brands. But it is a good economical and good looking car. 0-60 in 8.8 is far more than necessary and better than entry level premium cars. A good buy for the sensible buyer. No point in comparing a £17,000 car with a premium car that costs £10,000 more.

2 June 2020
Wooster wrote:

Good rating, it may be average to some or not equal to premium brands. But it is a good economical and good looking car. 0-60 in 8.8 is far more than necessary and better than entry level premium cars. A good buy for the sensible buyer. No point in comparing a £17,000 car with a premium car that costs £10,000 more.

2 June 2020

I’m tired of reading about the high quality of the Mercedes A Class interior. The Toyota & Mazda are also praised here. They all feature an “add-on” infotainment screen. There is one reason and one only that they were designed that way. IT IS CHEAP. Integrating the screen properly, like the Vauxhall, is more expensive, because you have to take more care to cool it. The people at Autocar don’t understand the technical aspects of cars enough  to realise this. You only have to approach a Mercedes from the front, look in through the windscreen, and you can see the cooling vents on the back of the infotainment screen. 

2 June 2020
rhwilton wrote:

I’m tired of reading about the high quality of the Mercedes A Class interior. The Toyota & Mazda are also praised here. They all feature an “add-on” infotainment screen. There is one reason and one only that they were designed that way. IT IS CHEAP. Integrating the screen properly, like the Vauxhall, is more expensive, because you have to take more care to cool it. The people at Autocar don’t understand the technical aspects of cars enough  to realise this. You only have to approach a Mercedes from the front, look in through the windscreen, and you can see the cooling vents on the back of the infotainment screen. 

Yes.

 

Understanding and review of engineering and the other technical aspects of vehicles ceased to be a requirement of Autocar (and most other outlets) articles many years ago.  Now it seems all that matters is some soft plastics and silver painted plastics.

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