Astra majors on looks, usefulness - and carries more cargo than an Insignia

What is it?

The Astra hatch is currently the UK's best seller in its class. Seems the range is more significant than perhaps we thought. And now, majoring on that UK dimension, Vauxhall launches the rather svelte Sports Tourer, the new name for what used to be called Estate.

Read our full review of the latest Vauxhall Astra here.

What's it like?

It's built exclusively at Ellesmere Port as is the Opel version for export to Europe, and the transformation from hatch to estate car was a UK project.

The new body pressings went straight from computer to production tooling, with no physical prototypes in between. That's brave.

A falling upper window line, forward-leaning rear pillars and a wraparound rear window make the Sports Tourer appear sleeker than it is, but the reality is that there's more load space in here than in an Insignia estate, with a maximum load capacity of 1550 litres (versus 1530 litres). The tailgate aperture is bigger, too, thanks to non-intrusive hinges.

This is Vauxhall's practical load-carrier, with high-spec models' rear seat backrests foldable at the touch of an electric switch. That creates an upward slope at the front of the load bay, but you can make it fully flat by flipping the seat cushions forward first. There's a shallow storage area under the boot floor, with a movable aluminium divider. Cargo-carrying options include a moulded liner for the load bay and the FlexOrganiser, which uses rail-mounted nets and dividers to keep loads secure.

Should I buy one?

This is a useful estate, then. It's also remarkably good to drive, provided you choose the right engine and chassis combination. The best one is the 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, a torquey device whose power peak of 138bhp arrives at just 4900rpm, matched to the slightly firmer SRi chassis on its standard 17in wheels.

It rides beautifully, steers with consistent response and weighting and handles with an easy fluidity we hadn't really found in Astras to date. By contrast the non-SRi, fitted with optional 18in wheels, feels more fidgety despite softer suspension and loses the steering sweetness. Vauxhall's engineers – the settings are UK-specific, incidentally – agree.

John Simister

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.4 Turbo SRi

Price: £20,350; Top speed: 125mph; 0-62mph: 9.5sec; Economy: 46.3mp (combined); CO2: 144g/km; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1364cc, 16V turbo petrol; Power: 138bhp at 4900rpm; Torque: 148lb ft at 1850-4900rpm; Gearbox 6spd manual

See all the latest Vauxhall Astra reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Add a comment…
evanstim 1 November 2010

Re: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer

streaky wrote:
Not sure why this should bother you when it is reported that ride and handling are absolutely fine - the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

For two reasons: marketing, and for the reviews in publications like Autocar.

I agree with you that Joe Average, driving an independantly suspened Focus/Golf against the well sorted Astra might not be able to tell the difference.

However, motoring publications mostly can, and do report these differences.

autocar Vauxhall Astra 1.4T SRi review wrote:
Vauxhall is to be praised for the clarity of thought and simplicity of design that led to the addition of a Watts linkage to a normal torsion beam rear axle. Cheap to manufacture and easy to package, it’s a clever and effective move. Just don’t let anyone convince you it’s quite as good as a far more complex and expensive fully independent multi-link rear ends such as those you’ll find on not just the rival Ford and VW but Hyundai’s i30 too

Quotes like that when littered across many publications can ruin a vehicle's reputation.

ronmcdonald 30 October 2010

Re: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer

autocar wrote:
...but the reality is that there's more load space in here than in an Insignia estate, with a maximum load capacity of 1550 litres (versus 1530 litres). The tailgate aperture is bigger, too, thanks to non-intrusive hinges.

So much then for the hype that surrounded the tail light set up on Insignia. I seem to remember reading somewhere the rear lights on Insignia were moved from the rear side pillars on to the tailgate thus creating greater access to the load area. This of course meant the unusual addition of an extra set of lights within the load area so that at night, the car can still be seen when the hatch is opened.

Given the Astra has just as much rear leg room than the Insignia and comes with the same engine line up (whether those engines are any good or not is another matter) has more load capacity and is cheaper, surely this makes the Insignia Tourer redundant?

moe360 29 October 2010

Re: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer

smarttony wrote:
2.0 cdti is also less than brillian

Someone at work has a white 2.0 CDTI insignia and one day I was going out to go home and heard the HORRIBLE LOUD noise of its Diesel I was quite far away but could still hear the horrid diesel rattle of old ! I was shocked it was an 09 plate car I expected this noise issue to be resolved now in new cars !