It's been a bumper year for Vauxhall. A new Corsa, hot Corsa VXR and Adam S, and all-new Viva city car have all gone on sale, and now we've got official images and details of the all-new Astra. It'll hit showrooms in November 2015 after a Frankfurt Motor Show debut in September, priced from around £16,000.
The sleek new look and upmarket cabin are the first things to draw you in, but under the skin things get even better. It's up to 200kg lighter than the outgoing model thanks to a new lightweight body and chassis, and there's a range of efficient new engines.
With 2.9 million Astras sold in the UK in its 36-year history, this seventh-generation model has a lot to live up to. And it's much improved in terms of styling, with a redesigned front-end, new LED matrix headlamps and sportier profile. Those LED lamps are a Vauxhall first, constantly adapting to every traffic situation, using a front-mounted camera to adjust the beam for other vehicles or pedestrians.
The side-on view shows a blacked-out C-pillar creating a floating roof impression, while a distinctive blade-like crease is adapted from the new Corsa. A more angular bootlid and L-shaped LED lights sharpen things up at the back.
Bucking the 'bigger is better' trend in family hatchbacks, Vauxhall has actually reduced the size of the new Astra yet improved passenger space. It's 49mm shorter and 26mm lower than the outgoing car, which Vauxhall says reduces weight and improves aerodynamics. All cars boast a drag coefficient below 0.30.
A shorter wheelbase would usually indicate reduced legroom, but rear passengers get 35mm more space to stretch out than before. Overall space between the front and rear rows has increased to bring the Astra on a par with class-leaders such as the Volkswagen Golf.
The 2015 Astra will debut with three new powertrains of varying power outputs. There will be two turbocharged petrols; a three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, with 103bhp and 168Nm of torque, taken out of the new Corsa, and an all-new 1.4-litre ECOTEC unit also debuts offering up to 250Nm of torque. It weighs 10kg less than the current 1.4-litre turbo, thanks to a new aluminium block.
The new 1.6-litre 'Whisper' diesel is the sole oil-burning choice, but its available in power outputs from 108bhp to 158bhp. No official economy specs have been revealed yet, but we're expecting efficiency to improve considerably.
It won’t have escaped Vauxhall’s attention that a Ford Focus RS is about to land here, and Tozer said that when it comes to the VXR brand, the “business is committed to it”. A tuned version of the current VXR model’s 276bhp 2.0-litre turbo could feature with an output in excess of 300bhp. In the shorter term, Vauxhall may revive the Astra GSi brand and produce a slightly less hardcore Astra hatch to rival the Ford Focus ST. The model would sit below the VXR with around 250bhp to call upon.
The eight-inch central touchscreen, unlike the Corsa and Adam, sits flush with the sloping top of the dash and above a less cluttered and more premium-looking centre console.
New tech debuts, such as Vauxhall's 'OnStar' road assistance connectivity, where an advisor automatically contacts the vehicle if an airbag has deployed, and alerts the emergency services if necessary.
The new Astra is also a 4G mobile data hotspot, allowing up to seven smartphones to be connected at once. The Intellilink infotainment system, which debuted in primitive form in the Corsa, is now compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Apps such as Google Maps, Skype, Whatsapp and Spotify can be controlled through the car's interface.
Lane Keep Assist, Advanced park assist, forward collision alert, autobraking and traffic sign assist all debut on the Astra. Top spec cars will get an 18-way adjustable drivers seat with massaging function, and the rear seats can even be heated.
The new Astra is due to arrive in November 2015 and will be built at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire. The current Astra and Astra Sports Tourer are produced there, and the new car is set to form a significant factor in a £125million investment which will generate a total of 700 new jobs and secure 2,100 others.
Production of the next-generation Astra will begin in 2015, and the agreement - which lasts until the early 2020s - is for a minimum of 160,000 cars to be built there every year.
As with previous generations of the Astra, different bodystyles will be offered. Although these images show the more practical five-door, a sportier three-door and estate are also set to be made available.
We've learned that the Astra range is expected to start from around £16,000 when it goes on sale, a small increase over the current entry-level model. But the rise in performance with the turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, plus an increase in equipment and upmarket feel, should justify this price rise.
Read our full Vauxhall Astra 2015 prototype drive here...