Vauxhall Astra review (2004-2010)
An all-new Astra makes its debut later this year. But don't overlook the old one, as it still has lots to offer.
Styling/image When it was introduced in 2004, the current Astra was a revelation. Its rakish looks were a huge improvement over the stodgy styling of the previous model. Five years on and Vauxhall has aged remarkably well, although it can’t match the Honda Civic or Mazda 3 for visual impact. The five-door hatchback and estate models are the practical choice, while the coupe-like lines of the 3-door Sport Hatch will appeal to fashion conscious buyers – especially when fitted with the panoramic windscreen option, which stretches over the heads of driver and passenger. Drivers who want wind-in-the-hair thrills can pick the Twin Top with its folding metal roof. At the top of the range is the muscular, body-kitted VXR hot hatch.
Interior/practicality The interior is functional and solid, but lacks any flair. Surfaces are covered in decent quality plastics, especially the textured soft-touch plastic trim around the upper parts of the cabin. However, there isn’t quite as much space as you’ll find in competitors, while boot space is about average for the class. All versions come with a decent amount of kit, although entry-level models do without air-conditioning. Range-topping Elite trim get leather coverings for the seats, climate control and automatic control of lights and wipers.
Engine/performance Keen drivers will find little to excited about once behind the Astra’s wheel. It’s agile with decent body control, but the steering lacks feedback and the other controls feel clunky. There’s a wide range of engines, with petrol units from 1.4 to 2.0-litres and 1.3, 1.7 and 1.9-litre diesels. The 1.8-litre petrol and 1.9-litre diesels would be our picks, offering decent performance levels without being too thirsty. SRi models and Design 1.6-litre turbo petrol and 1.9-litre CDTi versions are available with a Sport button that sharpens both steering and throttle response. Also available as an option is the firm’s hi-tech Continuous Damping Control suspension system. For performance fans there’s the 238bhp 2.0-litre VXR, which delivers scorching pace but struggles to retain its composure in corners.
Ownership costs The Astra is a popular choice for company car fleets, which means that residual values are poor. VED Bands for most models mean that road tax will cost upwards of £120, with only the 1.7-litre diesel Ecoflex models benefiting from CO2 emissions that dip below 120g/km. All the oil-burners should deliver at least 55mpg at the pumps, although the 1.3-litre CDTi feels a little sluggish on the move. There are plenty of Vauxhall dealers to choose from and servicing costs are reasonable.
Safety/environment The Astra scored well in crash testing, thanks to a body that is extremely stable and provides good protection for occupants. Safety equipment includes at least four airbags (Club models and above add curtain ‘bags) and ABS, with ESP only a £445 option on many versions. Apart from the EcoFlex models using the 1.7-litre diesel, CO2 levels aren’t particularly low, although the forthcoming replacement should be more competitive.