2015 year looks set be a busy one for Vauxhall. As well as the freshly rejuvenated Corsa, the Luton-based firm will have introduced four other new models before the year is out. There's the warm Adam Grand Slam, the hot Corsa VXR, the all-new Viva city car and this, the new 2015 Vauxhall Astra. The car is due on sale in November 2015 with prices kicking off around the £13,000 mark.
We've taken to the road in a prototype version of the new Astra and gained an early impression of how the car is shaping up. We'd already seen spyshots of the disguised production body that confirmed the Astra's front and rear light designs but the images taken on our test drive gave the clearest view yet of how the car will look. While the lamps are slightly altered from our exclusive renderings below, the rest of the body appears true to what we expected.
More dynamic and slimmer front lenses merge into a more prominent grille and bonnet fluting. The side profile shows a more sloping roofline even on the five- door, so we can expect the three-door to look even sportier than the current GTC. A pronounced kink down the flanks marks out the new model. At the rear, the overall shape remains familiar, but new 'sideways L' shaped LED lights debut.
According to Tim Tozer, Vauxhall’s chairman and managing director, there were several areas in which the current car needed to be improved: “The Astra today is a bit heavy. Can it overcome the 200kg excess? Nearly. But for the new model being lighter is key, plus interior touch and feel and powertrain investment.”
When the new Astra arrives around November, engine choices will range from 94bhp to 196bhp, and include Vauxhall’s excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder, plus 1.4 and 1.6 petrols – all turbocharged. Versions of the new 1.6-litre Whisper diesel will also be offered (although how a diesel can be described as ‘whisper’ is beyond us), and it’s the 134bhp version that we tried on the bumpy, broken, typically British roads in Bedfordshire that GM is using to develop the car.
It won’t have escaped Vauxhall’s attention that a Ford Focus RS is nearing completion, 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.
Improving interior quality is high on the agenda for Vauxhall and this spy shot gives us an idea of what to expect. The much larger central screen inspired by the Adam and Corsa, sitting above a less cluttered centre console, certainly looks the part, but the proof will be how it feels when we get our hands on the finished version.
We learned on our prototype test drive that space and access for passengers is vastly improved, too. Even in an interior draped in cloth to disguise the new design, there’s more rear knee and headroom, while the door opening is much wider for far easier access. With the driver’s seat set for a six-footer, a passenger of the same size could sit behind with a few inches spare legroom. The floor across the back is almost flat, too.
We were pretty comfortable up front, while boot space is said to be close to the current model’s 370 litres, which is 10 litres shy of a Golf’s. All that in a car that’s smaller than at present – 49mm shorter and 26mm lower – due to better packaging.
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 the spy shots show the more practical five-door, a sportier three-door and estate are also set to be made available.
There’s no official word on cost, but as Vauxhall has reduced the list price of the new Corsa, the Astra shouldn’t stray too far from the current model’s entry-level £12,995.
Read our full Vauxhall Astra 2015 prototype drive here...