Vauxhall Astra review (2004-2010)
The latest Astra is aiming for top honours in one of the most hotly contested sectors of the market.
Designers at Vauxhall have played safe with the styling of the latest Astra. Taking its inspiration from the firm’s large Insignia, the newcomer is handsome rather than eye-catching. At present the Astra is only available as a five-door hatchback, with buyers able to choose from S, Exclusiv, SE, Elite and SRi trim levels. Entry-level models make do with steel wheels, while SE versions and above get alloy rims and extra chrome embellishment for the bodywork.
The cabin of the Astra has a much more upmarket feel than its predecessor, although it can’t quite match the VW Golf for classy appeal. Highlights include a logically laid out dashboard and excellent driving position. Watch out for models with a manual handbrake, as when it is released the lever can pinch stray fingers on the centre console. On the plus side, the interior will comfortably accommodate five adults and the load area delivers a class competitive 370-litres of carrying capacity. All models benefit from air-con, electric windows and an aux-in socket.
As you’d expect, the Vauxhall is available with wide range of powerplants, from a gutless 85bhp 1.4-litre petrol up to a torquey 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Pick of the line-up are the punchy turbocharged petrol units that deliver 138bhp and 158bhp in 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre forms respectively. Keen drivers should avoid the breathless 1.7-litre oil-burner – although its claimed fuel return of 60.1mpg is impressive. Five and six-speed manual gearboxes are standard, while a six-ratio automatic is optional.
On the move, the Astra impresses with its refinement. Noise levels are low and the supple ride soaks up poor road surfaces. However, it can’t match the agility and poise of the Ford Focus or VW Golf. The steering is direct, but delivers very little feedback. Vauxhall’s optional Flexride kit tweaks the dampers, steering and throttle at the touch of a button, helping to sharpen the driving experience.
There’s no getting away from the fact that buying an Astra is an expensive exercise. Take a look at the price lists and you’ll discover the more talented and equally well-equipped VW Golf undercuts the Vauxhall. Matters are made worse by the Luton machine’s poor residuals, with no model retaining more than 40 percent of its new value after three years. On the plus side, the dealer network is huge and the diesel versions serve-up strong fuel economy.
An excellent performance in the EuroNCAP tests earned the Astra a five-star safety rating. All models benefit from six airbags, electronic stability control and active head restraints. Excellent adaptive xenon headlamps and a tyre pressure monitoring system are optional. Pick the 1.3-litre diesel and you’re rewarded with CO2 emissions of only 109g/km, while the 1.4-litre turbo emits a respectable 139g/km.
Our Choice: Astra SRi 1.4 Turbo