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New Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer GSe 2023 review

The estate version of Vauxhall's new Astra GSe offers more boot space than the hatchback, but is stifled by a higher BiK tax rate

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

Blending speed, efficiency and thrilling dynamics in an estate car is no mean feat, and the Astra Sports Tourer GSe doesn’t offer much of the latter. As with the hatchback version, the rewards diminish as you drive harder, although this is easier to stomach given the estate’s practicality advantage. It’s well equipped and there’s ample performance for everyday driving, but company car buyers may be better off with the hatchback’s lower Benefit-in-Kind tax rate.

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Vauxhall is on the road towards full electrification, with the firm pledging to become EV-only by as soon as 2028. As part of this plan, the brand is reviving its efforts in the performance car space by introducing a new GSe (Grand Sport Electric) sub brand, and the new Astra Sports Tourer GSe is among the first to wear the badge. It arrives with a more powerful 222bhp version of the Astra’s 1.6-litre plug-in hybrid petrol engine and a retuned chassis, with the goal of combining efficiency and fun under one roof. 

This Sports Tourer sits alongside the GSe-badged Grandland SUV and Astra hatchback to form a trio of sporty plug-in models, and the formula is very much the same as for its stablemates. Vauxhall has abandoned the boisterous visuals of its VXRs in favour of a more subdued design, and the Sports Tourer GSe is picked out by a reworked front bumper, 18-inch diamond cut alloys and black roof rails. 

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Aside from alcantara-trimmed seats and a thicker steering wheel, the interior is also borrowed from the standard Astra - albeit with a host of extra standard kit. As with the GSe hatch, the Sports Tourer receives Vauxhall’s Pure Panel Pro infotainment suite as standard, which adds a larger 12-inch touchscreen and a digital instrument panel of the same size that sweeps behind the steering wheel. 

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The interface is fairly responsive and easy to navigate, while a row of physical toggles below the touchscreen allow for quick climate control adjustments without delving into the UI. It’s far more intuitive than a Volkswagen Golf, and the Astra feels well made overall - save for some low-grade rubberised surfaces and a few too many glossy plastic trims. 

Still, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be included as part of the Sports Tourer’s projected £41,750 starting price when it goes on sale later this year, along with Vauxhall’s IntelliLux headlight technology and a 360-degree parking camera. All GSe models receive intelligent adaptive cruise control, too, which keeps a set distance to the vehicle in front and brings the car to a halt in traffic. 

Of course, the Sports Tourer’s calling card is its boot, which offers 516-litres of load capacity. That is a 126-litre advantage over the four-wheel drive Grandland GSe SUV, making this the most versatile model in the GSe line-up. The Golf estate’s boot is almost 100-litres bigger, but the Volkswagen isn’t available in space-sapping hybrid form. More of a concern are the Astra’s rear seats, which are a little tight for passengers over 6ft tall. 

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Given that this is the quickest version of the Sports Tourer to date, Vauxhall’s engineers have installed frequency-selective dampers to tighten the GSe’s responses, and it sits 10mm lower on 11 per cent stiffer springs. As a result, the new model follows the contours of the road more resolutely than the standard Astra Sports Tourer, but the broader operating range of the new dampers means that the ride comfort hasn’t taken a dive. 

Like the base car, the GSe can jitter around over rippled surfaces and there's a touch more vibration through the structure than in the hatch, but it feels more accurate than lesser models thanks to a revised power steering calibration. There’s some excess friction as you apply the first few degrees of lock, but this provides a reassuringly hefty feel for steering adjustments around the straight ahead.

The electric motor assistance is tangible too, covering for any lethargy as the eight-speed automatic gearbox shuffles through cogs. The power sources don't always blend seamlessly though, and it can be difficult to meter-out the throttle when pulling away from a standstill. The brake pedal combines motor regeneration with the physical discs and pads, which also results in an inconsistent feel. 

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Even so, the GSe is relaxing on the move, and especially so in pure-electric mode. Unfortunately - and unlike the hatchback - the Sports Tourer's 39-mile EV range figure doesn't reach the 8 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax threshold, which does dent its appeal as a company car. 

Flick the drive mode switch up to sport on a challenging road and the GSe doesn't hit the spot as a driver's car either. Bury the throttle and the Astra powers along at a decent rate, but the engine sounds stressed in the upper reaches of the rev range, encouraging a calmer approach. 

Weighing in at 1,746kg, the Sports Tourer feels heavy-handed and unwilling when tackling tight corners, thanks in part to the fitment of Michelin Primacy 4 tyres. In this sense, it’s similar to the GSe hatch, which doesn’t offer a meaningfully more involving drive despite its shorter wheelbase and slightly trimmer kerb weight. 

The low-friction compound squeezes extra efficiency from the package, but the front wheels are easily overwhelmed by greedy throttle applications, forcing the driver to dial back the commitment. The Sports Tourer feels more settled at moderate speeds, and in truth, its shortfalls as a performance car are easier to accept given its more practical brief than the hatchback. 

Even so, a touch of extra dynamism would help do justice to the GSe badge; as it stands, the hottest Sports Tourer feels closer to a sporty trim level than a specially developed performance model. It fulfils the practical aspects of a fast estate, but the fun factor is missing.

Model:

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer GSe

Price:£41,750 (est)
Engine:

1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol PHEV

Power/torque:222bhp/360Nm
Transmission:

Eight-speed automatic

0-62mph:7.6 seconds
Top speed:146mph
Fuel economy:256.8mpg
CO2:26g/km
On sale:Q2 2023

Do you prefer SUVs to estates? Read more about the Vauxhall Grandland GSe...

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