Vauxhall Astra review
A plush cabin and sharp looks help the latest Vauxhall Astra keep pace with family hatch rivals.
Over 35 years on sale, the Vauxhall Astra has consistently featured among the most popular cars on sale in the UK.
Intended as a serious competitor to the Volkswagen Golf, the Vauxhall adopted a more sleek and sporty design with the MkV Astra, as well as giving it a huge upgrade in cabin quality. While it can't quite match the Volkswagen for all-round appeal, the Astra still makes for a comfortable, refined and capable car.
Vauxhall made the Astra an even more appealing choice for family hatchback buyers with a huge range of diesel and petrol engines as well a wide selection of trim levels.
The Astra is also available with a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, with the latest addition coming in the guise of an ultra efficient, 108bhp, 1.6-litre TDCi diesel.
Despite its good looks and wide model range, the Vauxhall Astra lacks the level of driver engagement that you'd find in the Ford Focus, for example. Furthermore, range-topping cars are expensive
Our choice: SE 1.7 CDTi 16v 110PS ecoFLEX S/S
The latest generation Vauxhall Astra was launched in 2009, so it's starting to show its age when compared to newer, sharper looking rivals like the Ford Focus or SEAT Leon. Nevertheless, with its styling cues taken from Vauxhall's Ford Mondeo rivalling Insignia, the Astra still looks handsome and well proportioned.
While Vauxhall fits air-con, electric windows and an auxiliary-in socket as standard across the Astra range, entry level Expression models don't get alloy wheels and extra chrome trim.
Furthermore, while the cabin has taken a step forward and has an upmarket feel, the Astra's interior is no match for that found in the Volkswagen Golf.
The chrome-rimmed dials are neat, but the red dot-matrix readout that’s set between them looks a little dated when compared to the colour screens found in a Kia.
Elsewhere, the button-heavy centre console slopes away from the driver, so the standard screen is set further back than the SEAT’s
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 and 178bhp litre units are stronger and worth paying a bit extra for.
Those who want a diesel Astra can choose from either a 1.3-litre, 1.6-litre CDTi, 1.7-litre or 2.0-litre engine. The recently introduced 1.6-litre Astra CDTi means Vauxhall now has a rival for the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion or Ford Focus Econetic.
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-ratio 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 optional Flexiride system that tweaks the dampers, steering and throttle for sportier responses, but it is expensive.
The Astra is a reliable and sturdy family car. It’s safe too having acheived a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
Vauxhall provides six airbags and electronic stability control on every Astra, while active head restraints come as standard kit on SRi models and above.
Adaptive Xenon headlamps that respond to steering inputs to improve night vision in corners are also an option for Astra buyers.
While its sturdy build quality suggests the Astra should be a reliable choice, it dropped way down the order of our 2013 Driver Power survey by 64 places to rank 103rd.
However, Vauxhall throws in a unique warranty that lasts the lifetime (or 100,000 miles) of the car. This applies only to the Astra's first owner.
Given its family hatchback credentials, the Vauxhall Astra is on a par with the Volkswagen Golf in terms of practicality.
Five adults can easily fit inside, and will benefit from a generous amount of head and leg room. In addition to the Astra's spacious cabin, Vauxhall has laid it out in a thoughtful way, including plenty of neat cubby holes and storage boxes for all the family's odds and ends. One minor criticism, however, is that the door bins could do with being a bit bigger.
The Vauxhall Astra has a well-shaped 351-litre load bay, and when folded, the split-fold rear bench results in 1,216 litres of space. An optional Flex Floor system also allows owners to create a completely flat load area with a hidden compartment below to store valuables.
Our choice of engine and model for the Vauxhall Astra is the new 1.6-litre CDTi which returns up to 78.5mpg, and emits only 94g/km.
However, the Astra costs more than a Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion, which gives a better economy figure of 88.3mpg on the combined cycle and emissions of 85g/km of CO2.
The SEAT Leon Ecomotive makes the Astra seem an expensive choice due to its £2,000 cheaper price tag. The SEAT also provides a better combined economy of 85.6mpg and 87g/km of CO2.