Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer review
High equipment levels, a good drive and punchy yet efficient engines ensure the Astra Sports Tourer is a top family estate
The new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer is better than its ever been, and is now a very capable mid-size estate. It's lighter, better looking and better to drive than before too, with a range of frugal and strong engines and loads of equipment. Some rivals have more outright space, however, and that's all-important in this class of car.
We were impressed by the new Vauxhall Astra hatchback when we first drove it, and given the Sports Tourer is just a slightly bigger and more practical version you'd expect us to like it, too. And you'd be right.
You can get an Astra Sports Tourer with a 104bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine then there are two versions of a new 1.4 with 124 or 149bhp. A 99bhp 1.4-litre engine and a 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo complete the petrol line-up. The 1.6-litre diesel can be had with 109 or 134bhp, with the latter being our pick of the range. The most powerful is the 158bhp Biturbo, which has 350Nm of torque. There's an automatic gearbox available with the 1.0 and 1.4 149bhp petrol engines and the 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine.
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The trim levels are the same as those on the hatch, with Design, Tech-Line, Energy, SRi and Elite trims. You get the top-spec SRi and Elite versions with sat-nav under the SRi Nav and Elite Nav names too, which helps keep company car tax costs down if you need that option.
Vauxhall's OnStar system with a 4G WiFi hotspot is also available on the car. It’s part of a wide range of kit that makes the Astra Sports Tourer look a great-value small estate compared to rivals like the VW Golf Estate and SEAT Leon ST.
Engines, performance and drive
The new Astra is good to drive, offering a fine balance between tidy handling and a comfortable (if taut) ride. If the VW Golf is the comfortable option and the Ford Focus the best handling choice, the Astra is somewhere in between. It's a fine balance that means the Sports Tourer is great for UK roads, although rough tarmac can expose the Astra's slightly sporty edge to the ride.
Although the steering lacks feel and is quite light, there's not much body roll and grip is good through the corners. This, combined with a big weight saving over the previous model, means the new Sports Tourer feels much more agile on the road.
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The brakes are strong, but the pedal feel is a little odd and will take some getting used to. The driving position is comfortable so it won't be a chore to hop in and go for a drive. The manual gearbox has a smooth shift but it’s not quite as satisfying to use as the VW Golf's.
There are plenty of engine options in the Astra Sports Tourer, with most being solid choices - so you can be confident that there's one that will suit your needs. The diesel range offers plenty of power without a loss in fuel economy. The 109bhp 1.6-litre unit is the most economical, offering 89g/km emissions and 83.1mpg. Our pick would be the more powerful 134bhp model, which still manages an impressive 74.3mpg and feels punchy for its size. You'd swear it was a 2.0-litre in most situations.
The petrol range includes an excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, but it might be a little underpowered for lugging heavy loads - your best bet for that task is the torquey Biturbo 1.6-litre diesel. There's also a 1.6-litre turbo petrol with 197bhp, and while it lacks a high fuel economy figure it certainly turns the Astra into a surprisingly fast estate.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
If low running costs are a priority, you could do a lot worse than picking a Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer - the excellent range of diesels (and certain petrols) offers high economy figures and low tax costs. The best performer is the 109bhp 1.6-litre diesel, returning 83.1mpg and emitting just 89g/km.
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The 1.0-litre petrol is the best of the petrols for economy, returning 62.8mpg, but it only manages 103g/km, not quite dipping below the 100g/km threshold. The 134bhp diesel is the top choice, offering low emissions, high economy and plenty of power for load-lugging.
The Astra Sports Tourer fitted with the 1.0-litre petrol sits in insurance group 10E (depending on specification), which is very low - but of course that's because the engine is so small. Even the 1.6-litre turbo, which does 0-60mph in just 6.6 seconds, is in a relatively low group 21E.
Interior, design and technology
There's loads of tech in the new Astra Sports Tourer, including a new touchscreen display and Vauxhall's OnStar concierge system, which also includes a 4G WiFi hotspot. The dashboard is nicely designed, and the bright, responsive screen sits inside some black plastic that makes it look even larger than it is. The buttons are easy to use while on the move, too. Overall it's a huge step up in terms of interior design over the old Astra.
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On the outside the Sports Tourer looks a lot like the hatch, with the nose being virtually identical. The longer roof and rear pillars look a little awkward compared to the handsome hatch, but it's nothing you couldn't live with.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The sat-nav system in the Astra is great, with easy to understand graphics and an intuitive menu system. In fact, it might be the best in its class. It comes as part of the SRi Nav and Elite Nav trim levels, which helps keep company car tax costs down if you need satellite navigation as an optional extra.
The OnStar system means you can even get someone else to set your directions for you, as well as offering everyone in the car the chance to connect to 4G Internet for the whole journey. There are USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity for your music, too.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Astra Sports Tourer obviously offers plenty more space inside than the hatch, thanks to that elongated roofline and rear overhang that means the boot is much bigger.
The opening is wide and square, which will make loading and unloading of heavy items a lot easier - and the dog will be able to jump in more easily, too. The rear seats split and fold down in a 40:20:40 pattern, so there's plenty of flexibility in the back as well. The well for the spare wheel means there's no under-floor storage, though.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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Even with the front seats set up for a tall driver and passenger, there's plenty of rear legroom, and getting in an out is easy thanks to the wide door openings. It looks like there's not going to be much room, but once you sit down you'll find that there's plenty of space, including headroom.
The new model is significantly bigger than the previous Astra estate, with 540 litres available. That's reasomable, but it falls behind the Skoda Octavia Estate's massive 610-litre load area with the seats up and the Honda Civic Tourer beats them both, with 624 litres.
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There are 1,630 litres of space in the Astra with the seats folded down - but that's quite a bit smaller than the Skoda's 1,740-litre area. The Ford Focus Estate is quite a bit smaller inside, with 1,502 litres available in total - so while the Astra isn't best in class, most buyers won't feel short-changed.
Reliability and Safety
The Astra Sports Tourer comes with plenty of standard safety kit, and of course there's quite a bit more once you head into the optional extras list. The Driving Assistance Pack adds autonomous emergency braking and a warning for when you get too close to the car in front. Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist help keep you in lane while on the motorway too, though these systems can be a little annoying at times.
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There are self-parking systems available and road sign recognition so you always know the speed limit, even if you missed the sign yourself. There are front and side airbags for the driver and passenger, and full-length curtain airbags to protect all occupants.
Vauxhall used to offer a lifetime warranty for all its new cars, but that policy is gone now - so the Astra Sports Tourer gets an industry-standard three-year warranty. There are plenty of dealers around the UK so servicing and repair costs should be kept in check, too.