Plenty of poke and decent running costs, but it’s not the most rewarding car in its class to drive

What is it?

This is a Vauxhall Astra for those who like performance, as well as infrequent trips to the fuel station, if you believe the numbers on paper. This 2.0 CDTi ecoFLEX model is the fastest, most powerful Astra diesel you can buy, its engine producing 158bhp and the 0-60mph sprint taking 8.5sec.

But it’ll also return 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and has a tax friendly CO2 rating of 119g/km. So far, so good, then.

What’s it like?

This Astra may be quick, but it’s not fun or especially comfortable to drive. The engine has plenty of poke and is responsive at all legal speeds, and, unlike in most eco-biased cars, its six forward ratios are nicely spaced for swift and unblunted progress.

But the engine is noisy at low speeds and around town and there is considerable diesel clatter. This only really disappears were you’re into fifth and sixth gear on the motorway. The clutch, too, is much firmer than we’d like and has a very narrow bite point. Not great in traffic. That said the stop-start system is efficient and unobtrusive enough.

Elsewhere, the Astra’s chassis lacks the involvement of its rivals. The 2.0 CDTi engine makes the Astra feel like a heavy car and one lacking agility or involvement. The steering, however, is nicely weighted and precise and the ride is acceptable, if lacking the absorption abilities of the Golf and Focus.

There are good points to the car asides from the performance, though. It’s easy to achieve around 50mpg even when you’re driving hard, although this is still short of the claimed figure. The interior, too, is classy and feels like a car from the class above.

Should I buy one?

The Astra five-door isn’t a car for enthusiasts. If you want a quick Astra with a sports chassis, Vauxhall says that will be provided to you in the shape of the upcoming three-door Astra GTC.

The running costs and performance are not without appeal in this 2.0 CDTi model, but in this class, being excellent in some areas and merely good in others will put you closer to the bottom of the class than the top.

And at £22,725 in SRi trim before you start ticking option boxes, this isn’t a cheap car. You’ll find the sweet spot of the Astra diesel range further down, with the 1.7 CDTi 125 offering the best blend of economy, kit and value.

Vauxhall Astra Sri 2.0 CDti ecoFLEX Start/Stop

Price: £22,725; Top speed: 134mph; 0-60mph: 8.5sec; Economy: 62.8mpg combined; CO2: 119g/km; Kerb weight: 1453kg; Engine: 4cyls in line, 1956cc, turbodiesel; Power: 158bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manual

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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bottlebill 2 October 2012

astra 2ltr cdti sri

love it.  pretty quiet for a diesel and quieter than my previous 1.9 golf diesel.  like the stiffer sport suspension.  who can quibble at £30 year road tax ??? handbrake and start/stop was a bit odd at first but soon got used to it.  would raet car as 9 out of 10. Down side - I like to think I am pretty light footed 95% of the time but getting average 46 to gallon on my 30 mile round trip to work - 10 mile mway, 2 mile town, 3 mile A road so admit to expecting much better result.

Dr_watson 5 March 2012

Re: Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi SRi

I just got one of these as a hire car from Edinburgh airport from Sixt. 7 miles on the clock. I own a Golf 6 back home.

+ It's fast, it's refined at all speeds, especially at speeds above 70mph ( I stay in the middle of nowhere so it's easy to test) I don't hear the noisy diesel in town as mentioned? The clutch is excellent, not too heavy?? It is comfortable, the seats are better than my golf, the steering is a little lighter which doesn't make the car feel heavy? The cabine is very nice inside, good build quality, no rattles at all.

- The wing mirrors are tiny, tiny rear window and rear view mirror. Driving it hard returns 48mpg, driving it very smooth, at 50mph, ac off, returns 52-55mpg. How the stated 65mpg (or whatever the value was) is possible I have no idea. The visability at 2 and 10 o'clock is terrible, the pillars and those extra small windowns near the wing mirrors are a bad design, corners and junctions you need to lean forward and back to see in the blind spot. Small things like the high / low beam switch are awkward, you have to push on a round stalk and push it quite far, blinded a few drivers from a slipping finger. It feels like a big car, without parking sensors, you feel like reversing a lorry.

Its not a car I would spend my money on, I don't like the badge really, but I am pretty impressed with it , certainly a huge step up from the astra I had as a hire car 3 years ago, that was a pile of rubbish.

smarttony 9 July 2011

Re: Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi SRi

I waited 4 months last summer for a new Astra 2.0 CDTI Elite auto, and then owned it for about 6 weeks before Motability took it back from me. It was faulty, had issues with the climate control and dashboard that Vauxhall admitted they couldn't fix.

Shame really as I did like it, rode and handled well, but the engine is nowhere near as smooth as a VAG common rail unit, it sounded like a bag of spanners. The owners forums are full of problems with the new Astra, and there have been a number of recalls.

Very pleased with the SEAT that replaced it.