What is it?
Vauxhall’s take on the familiar eco-car recipe. Take your all-new model, add tall gearing and a small diesel engine and you have a very frugal car. This is exactly what Vauxhall has done with the Astra EcoFlex, with a 94bhp 1.2-litre turbodiesel motor and a five-speed gearbox.
What’s it like?
Producing this sort of model makes a lot of business sense and occasionally makes a very nice car, but often it results in an underpowered engine hampered even more so by the gearing. This is exactly what you have with the new Astra EcoFlex. At a steady cruise on the motorway or at urban speeds the engine settles and it’s easy to appreciate the Astra’s supple ride and an interior that avoids the piously basic finish that some rivals get.
But gathering momentum requires a lot of patience. The tiny turbodiesel motor struggles to tow the burden of the heavy Astra if you want to make normal progress through traffic, forcing you to work the engine beyond 2500rpm much of the time - harder than would be necessary with a bigger or more powerful unit.
This also means that motor’s gruff tone is audible in the cabin most of the time. Even at idle it’s noticeable – a problem that could be avoided if the Astra were fitted with stop-start technology; an obvious way to further improve the all-important economy as well. Not having an average or instant mpg readout in the EcoFlex is also a huge oversight, though you can be sure the Astra isn’t a very heavy drinker with a very respectable output of 109g/km and 68.9mpg.
Should I buy one?
In general the EcoFlex is very economical and it’s a perfectly pleasant way to travel if you don’t mind sedate progress. It’s also competitively priced and comes with a decent list of standard spec, making it one of the nicest cars in the class to spend time in.
But the compromises it asks you to make in the name of saving fuel are more severe than in some and it brings nothing new to the class. You’d be better off looking at the more competent offerings from Volkswagen, Kia and Volvo.