Vauxhall Astra review

Our Rating: 
2009 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Can the Vauxhall Astra hold its own in the competitive family hatch segment with good looks and a classy cabin?

Attractive styling, classy cabin, refinement
Lifeless steering, high prices, lacklustre engines

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The Vauxhall Astra is a permanent fixture on lists of the most popular cars on sale in the UK.

Having been on sale for over 35 years, the Astra squares up against similarly-established rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, as well as more recent additions like the Kia Cee'd, Hyundai i30 and SEAT Leon.

The Astra range is vast - made up of five-door hatchback, three-door GTC and the Sport Tourer estate, meaning there's an Astra for everyone. More recently, the Cascada convertible was added to the Vauxhall range, though this is made up of parts from both the Astra and Insignia.

In terms of trim levels, Expression kicks off the range, before the line-up extends through to Design, Excite, Tech Line, Tech Line GT, SRi, Elite, BiTurbo and the performance VXR.

A huge range of petrol and diesel engines are available too, including the efficient 1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX diesel which comes in 108bhp and 134bhp outputs, a 2.0 CDTi with 163bhp and a powerful 2.0 BiTurbo CDTi which offers 192bhp and a combined economy figure of 55.4mpg.

The Astra still lacks the level of driving engagement that you'll find in the Ford Focus. Despite the comprehensive model range, range-topping cars are expensive when compared to some of its rivals, too.

Vauxhall has worked hard to make the latest Astra as competitive as possible in the hatchback segment. It sports sleek looks and an attractive cabin, with a huge step forward for interior quality over its predecessor. It remains a comfortable and refined car, but it can't quite match the all-round appeal of the Volkswagen Golf. 

Our choice: 1.6-litre CDTi ecoFLEX S/S

Engines, performance and drive


The Astra is an impressively refined and comfortable car on the road, soaking up potholes and poor surfaces with ease. Noise levels are low, but the entry-level 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrols are gutless and become vocal.

The levels of refinement and comfort found in the Vauxhall Astra are impressive, and it soaks up poor road surfaces with ease.

Noise levels are low, but the entry-level 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrols are thrashy and gutless. The turbocharged 138bhp 1.4-litre unit is stronger and worth paying a bit extra for.

Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo rear view

For those who prefer a diesel powerplant, the Astra is available with either a 1.3, 1.6, 1.7 or 2.0 CDTi engine. The 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre units come in two states of tune each, with the 2.0-litre CDTi BiTurbo topping off the range.

The introduction of the 1.6 ecoFLEX means Vauxhall now has a rival for the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion, Ford Focus ECOnetic and SEAT Leon Ecomotive.

Vauxhall fits the Astra with a long throw five or six-speed manual gearbox as standard, the latter of which can feel notchy. However, a six-speed automatic can be specified as an option.

While it can't match the Ford Focus for fun as a result of lifeless steering, on twisty roads, the Astra is grippy and composed. Buyers can opt for the Flexride option that tweaks the dampers, steering and throttle response for a sportier drive, but this is expensive. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Our choice of the Astra range is the 1.6-litre CDTi, which returns 76.3mpg, and emits only 97g/km of CO2. However, these figures aren't as impressive as the equivalent Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion or SEAT Leon Ecomotive.

These two cars return in excess of 80mpg and CO2 emissions of less than 90g/km, so the Astra trails behind slightly.

Elsewhere in the range, the engines on offer are efficient enough, but still can't compete with the class best for running costs. 

Interior, design and technology


The current generation Astra was introduced in 2009, with a design taking cues from the larger Insignia. It is, however, beginning to show its age when compared with sharper looking rivals such as the Focus and Leon. It is still a handsome car with good proportions, though.

Entry level Expression models do without the alloy wheels and chrome exterior trim afforded to higher-spec versions, but the cabin has an upmarket feel throughout the range with air-con, electric windows and an auxiliary-in socket available as standard. However, the cabin still can't match that of the Volkswagen Golf.

The chrome-ringed dials look neat, but the red dot-matrix readout set between them looks dated compared with the colour screens that feature on most of the Astra's key rivals. Elsewhere, the button-heavy centre console slopes away from the driver, so the central screen is set further back than that of the SEAT Leon, for example. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space


On the inside of the Astra, five adults will fit with ease and benefit from a generous amount of head and leg room. The boot is well-shaped and offers 351 litres of load space, but this can't match the class best.

The Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon both offer 380 litres of space. With the rear seats folded, the Astra’s load capacity increases to 1,216 litres.

Vauxhall Astra SRi dashboard

There's also the option of Vauxhall's Flex Floor system, enabling owners to create a completely flat load area with a hidden compartment below to store valuables.

Throughout the cabin are a host of neat cubby holes and storage boxes which will swallow up most of a family's paraphernalia. The door bins could benefit from being slightly bigger, though. 

Reliability and Safety


The Astra is a safe and sturdy family car, having achieved a five-star rating in Euro NCAP's crash safety tests.

Six airbags and electronic stability control are standard across the Astra range, while SRi models and above have active head restraints as standard. Adaptive xenon headlamps to improve vision at night are also available as a cost option.

While sturdy build quality suggests the Astra should be a reliable choice, it ranked a disappointing 124th place out of 150 cars in our 2014 Driver Power survey. In the manufacturer rankings, Vauxhall came 29th out of 33.

Disqus - noscript

If this car had been wearing the Opel badge you can bet it would have been awarded 4.5 stars.

Erm, it's the same car whatever badge it's wearing. Both are sh*t.

British made Astra is very popular outsells the VW Golf in the UK.

Vauxhall Astra is No4 in the UK sales chart. Trusty little Vauxhall is very popular. Buyers keep coming back to buy more Astra cars, Vauxhall must be very happy so are the buyers.

Not as eyecatching as the Ford?? Matter of opinion AE! Also the best drive by far is the 2.0CDTI which is swift and frugal. the 1,4 Turbo is quite quick too but the 1.6 isn't the best choice. It is also expensive but can be bought with a decent discount.

I own a 59 plate 1.7CDTI Astra, new shape it has 62k motorway miles on the clock and the gearbox has just blown..

Surprise Surprise its fitted with the M32 6 speed gearbox. Two independent mechanics told me that the bearings on the 1st and 6th cog would have collapsed.

Lookers in Speke Liverpool, took the car in to take a look and guess what the bearings have collapsed. They have applied to Vauxhall to see if there is any problems or if it can be claimed as a faulty part, Vauxhall denied all knowledge of any problems with this gearbox.

The vehicle is less than 4 years old, 7 months out of warranty and now im looking at a repair bill of near 2k to fix a problem which is well known with this gearbox.

If you Google the box M32 6 speed you will see pages of problems all regarding insufficient bearings which eventually collapse..

If you own one, get shut failing that get the bearings changed, it will cost you about £400 but trust me that's better than the 2k its going to cost me..

I'll never buy Vauxhall again..


I had the repair bill from Lookers in Speke to replace the Gearbox with a new one.


Yeah I nearly fell over also. I refused to pay the bill and called Vauxhall as I was told they may help.

Vauxhall said because I was the second owner and it was 6 months out of warranty they would only offer to pay 80% of the bill. I said well surely you are responsible for a faulty component on a fairly new car.

They said because i was second owner (first being dealer wtf) they would only offer 80%. They said if the dealer paid 10% they would go to 90%

Lookers said we will split the remaining 10% if we went 50/50 leaving we with a repair bill of £233.00 for a new gearbox with 12 month warranty.

I was not happy paying anything however £233, from £4660 is not a bad option.

I have researched this gearbox extensively and as reported elsewhere what happened to mine was identical to every other poor customer.

The M32 gearbox can not handle the torque output by the engine. 1st and 6th gear bearings had collapsed causing the shaft to crack through the case.

If you own a Vauxhall with this gearbox, the first sign of wear or soon to be dead gearbox is excessive play while driving in low (1st ) and high gear (6th)

I would get the bearings changed to more suitable and deffo from an independent but check your warranty as Vauxhall service centers will rob you blind..

Yet the Escort, Focus, Fiesta, Astra and Corsa have always filled the top of the charts for decades. Were all of these cars superb buys?

Typical AE, a Review on the Astra, mentions the Golf on 4 separate occasions!!!!!

I had one of these as a hire car a few weeks ago. Classy cabin ? ..... Definitely not. Sharp edged hard plastic, and seats that seem to have been supplied without any support or springs.

The worst shock of all was coming out of a slip road to join a dual carriageway....foot to the floor, very little happened apart from the rev counter soaring. I had the 1.6 petrol model - and I kid you not, when I got to my destination I opened the bonnet to see if it was actually a 1.6 engine in there - amazingly it was. On speaking with my local garage the other day they said that was a normal experience for an Astra.

I wonder if that was an 8v engine, as I had a previous-model 16v 1.6 LS Estate for several years, and it went like a scalded cat.

I imported it as an Opel, and it covered 106k trouble-free miles until squashed by a truck one icy night.

2009 astra 1.4 power steering fails occassionally when cornering

DoctorDoug, Yep, I agree. I've just replaced a 3 year old Vauxhall Astra and I had to floor it to make it move. My friend said I should've been a rally driver until I got a new car (not a Vauxhall) and noticed the difference in power to speed. I wouldn't touch anything with Vauxhall on it again.

A quite good car, made in the UK. A good driver choice, a good choice for the UK economy.

Yes I agree, the 1.6 non-turbo engine in the Astra is rubbish! Fuel economy is bad and as you mention, the power delivery is poor. For some reason people still buy it though, so they keep making it. Annoying as the other engines are not that bad. I've had several, with my favourite being the 2.0cdti.

I have a 5 month old 2.0ltr diesel sri astra est , first of all it's been a great car very sporty good performance & good fuel economy until it reached 1000 miles then the on board computer started putting the car into service mode every time the car was started. now the car has been back to Vauxhall dealer for the 3rd time in two weeks the dealers have announced they can not repair the fault on the cars computer as they don't have the relevant equipment / qualified technicians . The only option I have been given is keep bringing the car back to them for computer updates every time the car goes into service mode... A really nice car spoilt by poor service back up & dealer technician training .

Last updated: 12 Aug, 2014