Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Turbo SRi

The latest generation Astra looks more appealing and feels better built than ever, can it's extra power help it win this test?

The Vauxhall Astra is an established presence in the UK sales charts thanks to its blend of space, practicality, value for money and quality.

The latest model aims to add driver appeal and sexy styling to its array of attributes. And in SRi guise, the Vauxhall appears very purposeful. With its chrome window surrounds, large alloy wheels and lowered suspension, it is the best-looking version of the new Astra we’ve laid eyes on.

Neat LED headlamps lend its smooth nose a modern appearance, while the darkened glass area and striking double arrowhead tail-lamps add to the visual interest. Despite these details, the Astra’s silhouette looks a little anonymous next to the distinctive Alfa and taut VW.

The Vauxhall puts up an even stronger fight inside, with high-quality switchgear, plenty of storage space and a well finished cabin – the optional leather of our test car added to the classy ambience.

However, with manual window winders for rear passengers, the premium feel is at odds with some elements of the interior. The sports seats provide great support, while finding the correct driving position is easy, making the Astra a solid choice for long stints behind the wheel.

Passengers travelling in the back get enough room and the extra glazing on the C-pillar provides an airy feel. However, there isn’t appreciably more space than in the Alfa, and the Golf provides even more rear legroom.

Luggage capacity is broadly on a par with its rivals, but the narrow tailgate opening means you’ll struggle to fit bulkier items in the boot. A split-level floor should hand the Astra an advantage in terms of versatility, yet we think the heavy and over-engineered arrangement is more of an irritation.

With 178bhp on tap from its 1.6-litre engine, the Vauxhall has more capacity and produces more power than either of its rivals, but against the clock the turbo Astra was the slowest of our trio. Peak torque is delivered late in the rev range and at 8.5 seconds, it trailed the Alfa in the 0-60mph sprint by four-tenths-of-a-second.

Still, there’s lots of overtaking punch, and the Vauxhall acquits itself well off the straight and narrow, with impressive grip and sharp turn-in from the direct but lifeless steering. Unfortunately, the chassis is as engaging as the steering, so you get little reward in terms of feedback and the Astra doesn’t inspire the same level of confidence as the Golf. The stiff ride from the sports suspension means there is a distinct trade-off in terms of comfort, too.

The Vauxhall is also left trailing at the pumps. Its combined fuel economy of 41.5mpg lags 7.2mpg behind the Alfa and is 3.3mpg adrift of the VW. Emissions of 159g/km mean annual car tax is a reasonable £155 for private buyers, but the Astra is the most expensive model here, with the highest company car tax banding, which makes it the least attractive choice for business users.

Details

Chart position: 3WHY: The SRi promises to be the sharpest driver’s car in the entire Astra line-up. Plus, it has a useful power advantage over its rivals.

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