Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch 1.9 CDTI Design

After generations of dull family hatchbacks, Vauxhall has rediscovered its sense of fun.

  • Dramatic looks, modern interior design, cashback deals, well equipped, superb refinement, comfortable ride, airy cabin
  • Cheap trim, cramped pedals, cumbersome gearshift, poor rear visibility, residuals, confused ergonomics

After generations of dull family hatchbacks, Vauxhall has rediscovered its sense of fun. And like Citroen, the firm has made its three-door hatch substantially different from the five-door, going in pursuit of a more youthful, style-oriented buyer.

With the exception of the bonnet and front wings, every panel on the Sport Hatch is unique, while the roofline is 32mm lower – the lowest of the trio in this test. The Astra’s sweeping C-pillars, pointy side windows and sharp rear lights certainly make it look the most coupé-like.

Inside, the steeply angled windscreen means Vauxhall has lowered the seating position, which further adds to the racy feel. The cabin itself remains unaltered from the five-door, and compared to its rivals in this test, is very conventional and somewhat uninspiring. The quality of materials and finish can’t be faulted – it’s just a bit dark and lacking in any stand-out design.

More importantly, it’s ergonomically challenged too, because the information screen and air vents push the audio and heater controls down low, and there’s a serious lack of stowage areas. That’s a shame, because the seats offer excellent comfort and the best side support when cornering, and there’s plenty of wheel adjustment. In the back, the sweeping roofline compromises space a little, and, as with the Civic, the C-pillars are close to your head. The Astra’s rear window is bigger though, and there’s more room for your feet under the front seats than you get in the C4. Crucially, leg space is noticeably tighter than in the Honda, while the small 312-litre boot is further compromised by a narrow opening.

Under the bonnet, the 1.9 CDTI has 148bhp – that’s 10bhp up on the Civic and C4, but with 320Nm, it only matches the Citroen’s torque figure and has a 20Nm deficit to the Honda. The Astra outperforms the C4, but is very closely matched to the Type S, with both posting near identical 0-60mph times and little difference between their in-gear figures. But while performance is on a par, the engines have very different characters – the Vauxhall delivers its power in a sudden surge, which then tails off, whereas the Honda has a smoother delivery over a wider rev range. The Astra’s engine is also noisier at a standstill, although excellent soundproofing means it’s fine on the move.

Keen to give Sport Hatch models a dynamic edge, all three-door Astras ride 15mm lower than the five-door, which helps it have the best body control of our trio. However, it isn’t the most entertaining to drive, because while our car’s optional button-operated Sport mode (which comes with 17-inch alloys for £650) sharpens steering and throttle response, the Astra doesn’t turn in as sharply or offer as much feedback as the Civic. In comparison it’s less responsive, although there’s lots of grip and it certainly feels sportier than the C4.

But there is a trade-off to this less forgiving ride. The Vauxhall’s firm set-up can be tiring on long trips, and over really rough surfaces there’s kickback through the steering wheel. As a result, the Citroen is far more comfortable, and the Civic offers a dynamic balance somewhere between its rivals.

Lacking cruise control, sat-nav, power fold mirrors and a CD changer as standard, the Astra isn’t as well equipped as its opponents. But shop around and you should be able to save more than £2,000 on the list price.

Details

  • Price: £18,350
  • Model tested: Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch 1.9 CDTI Design
  • Chart position: 2
  • WHY: With a 28-model line up, the Astra Sport Hatch range is massive compared to the Civic’s. The 148bhp 1.9 CDTI 150 is the most powerful car here, while in Design specification, it falls between the Civic and C4 with its £18,350 price tag.

Economy

The Astra’s engine is the most powerful unit here, and it’s the least efficient, too. Vauxhall’s claimed combined figure of 48.7mpg is some way behind the Honda and Citroen’s official statistics. And during our time with it, we only recorded an average of 34.7mpg.

Residuals

It might not fare as badly as the Citroen, but the Vauxhall’s predicted residual values still don’t make for particularly happy reading. The diesel Sport Hatch is estimated to retain 41.1 per cent of its value over three years. Make sure you get a good discount if buying new.

Servicing

A huge 500-garage franchise network means you shouldn’t have to travel far to find a Vauxhall garage to service your Astra. And with a total bill for three checks coming to £670 according to our quotes, the Astra will be the cheapest to maintain as well.

Tax

With emissions of 157g/km, the Vauxhall engine is noticeably dirtier than its rivals, so sits in the 23 per cent group. This means it’s a far more expensive company car choice – higher band earners would pay an extra £324 a year compared to the Civic’s tax bill.

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