Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo: long-term test review
Final report: a temperamental alarm doesn't dampen our impression of the new Vauxhall Astra hatch
Our relatively short spell with the Vauxhall Astra has reinforced the view from comparison tests that this is easily one of the best cars ever to carry the famous badge. It’s comfortable, quick and sophisticated – and even in as little as just three months, it showed solid strengths both around town and on the open road. It’s fair to say we’re missing it already.
After only three months on the fleet, it’s already time to say goodbye to our Vauxhall Astra. I’m pleased to report that we found plenty to recommend in the latest generation of one of the UK’s favourite vehicles. But it did have a tendency to cry out for attention a little too often.
I’m referring to the alarm, which proved to be the only major glitch during the Astra’s time with us. Early on, it developed a habit of going off randomly. On the majority of occasions, it was very soon after the vehicle had been locked – and so most of these incidents happened outside my flat.
But it did make me a bit paranoid about parking it on the street, and I found myself waiting a minute or two after getting out of the vehicle before I felt it was safe to walk away and leave it. The most embarrassing moment came at my local supermarket, where I heard the dreaded announcement over the tannoy: “Would the owner of a Vauxhall Astra, registration BP22 EXH, please return to their vehicle!”
Car group tests
Bizarrely, the glitch seemed to improve after that embarrassment – and there weren’t any unwanted alarms during the car’s final few weeks with us. It’s possible that it could have been user error – a protocol with the keyless entry that we simply weren’t following – but then, my husband and I had differing approaches that should have covered all the bases. He stopped locking the car completely and left it to do it itself, whereas I pressed the key-fob button.
Other gripes were few and far between. I cited the indicator noise in an earlier report and this was a common comment from any new passengers in the car. But on the whole, the Astra was a joy to live with. After the 700-mile journey we put it through only days after its arrival, it settled into suburban life quite happily, and was a fine companion as I fought my way across London twice a week to work from my daughter’s studio.
This is at least partially down to how well the Astra does some of the basics. The steering is light but responsive, and while the stop-start system was occasionally clunky, the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifted smoothly enough to make life easier in what often felt like never-ending traffic. When the road ahead did clear, though, I found I had to keep an eye on the speedo, because it was deceptively easy to creep over 20mph limits without really trying.
Our GS Line model came with a lot of tech as standard; the front and rear parking sensors and 360-degree cameras provided extra confidence when parking, something I appreciated because I was worried about damaging the smart black alloy wheels.
In the first report, I mentioned that swiping between menus on the car’s touchscreen was awkward, but I soon realised that a lot of the time it just wasn’t necessary. As well as using the buttons below, I found that you could switch back to Apple CarPlay from the radio screen by pressing the small symbol on the top-right corner of the display. The voice control system, activated simply by a button on the steering wheel, also proved a simple way of changing radio stations while on the move.
The exterior design of the car was also a hit, right from our first trip up north, when the cashier at a petrol station asked what car it was and couldn’t believe it was an Astra. It’s certainly a lot sharper and more stylish than many of its predecessors.
Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo: first report
We welcome the new Vauxhall Astra hatch to our fleet with a 700-mile road trip
- Mileage: 3,641
- Economy: 51.5mpg
There’s nothing quite like a major road trip to get you settled into a new car – be it your own purchase or a long-term test car. The first few miles around home are easy pickings for a box-fresh arrival, after all, whereas a journey over several hundred miles can really help you to pick out strengths and weaknesses.
That’s certainly been the case with my latest Auto Express fleet car, the Vauxhall Astra. Here’s a model that has made its name racking up millions of miles over the length and breadth of the UK, so it seemed entirely fair to deny the car much of a settling-in period and immediately point it (far) north of my base in south London.
First up, though, an introduction to our specific Astra. It mates GS Line trim with the 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine – a well known powertrain from Vauxhall’s parent group Stellantis. It produces 128bhp and 230Nm of torque, and is paired with an eight-speed auto gearbox.
GS Line sits in the middle of the Astra line-up, but on the face of it, I don’t see any glaring omissions from the spec sheet that would persuade me to stump up for a range-topping Ultimate. Our car features LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors with a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, heated front seats and steering wheel, power-folding door mirrors, a 10-inch infotainment display and a similarly sized digital instrument panel. It also comes with 17-inch black alloy wheels that look a good match for our car’s Vulcan Grey paint job. In fact, the two-coat metallic finish is the only option on our car, and it looks a lot of family hatch for less than £30k.
The aforementioned early test was a 700-mile round trip to visit friends and family in the North East, coupled with a wedding in Northumberland.
Packing up was easy, because there was plenty of room in the 422-litre boot for our luggage. Indeed, with just my husband and I travelling, we were able to lay out our wedding outfits across the empty back seats.
Setting off from London, we stopped to fill up with fuel and buy a cable to connect our phones up using Apple CarPlay. This was a rookie error on my part, because I didn’t realise that the system also works wirelessly. But it was still a useful purchase because it meant we could charge our phones and switch between them.
The 10-inch touchscreen is bright and clear, and we both like the way it’s angled towards the driver. But swiping between the menus proved awkward and it sometimes needed a few attempts. It took me a while to work out how to change the climate control, too; the temperature and fan are via buttons on the dash, but to change the direction of airflow you have to use the touchscreen.
Once out of London, the first leg of our journey up to Middlesbrough comprised motorway virtually all the way. We both found the ride comfortable and, while the road noise was noticeable, it certainly wasn’t obtrusive. We were even pretty lucky with traffic, meaning the four-hour journey was more enjoyable than anticipated.
Day two brought a short trip up the A19 to Sunderland. I haven’t been to the city since Covid, so despite there not being a match on, I had to visit the Stadium of Light and go to my team’s shop. However, my Arsenal-supporting husband Dave refused to get out of the Astra at this point!
The wedding on the following day was amazing and the best driving of the whole trip came on the leg from Otterburn in Northumberland to visit our friends in Yorkshire. We detoured through part of Kielder Forest for a walk along Hadrian’s Wall, and Dave switched to Sport mode, enjoying accurate steering on the country roads. He did admit later that he wouldn’t want to stick with it for too long, because the heavier steering would be too much.
We got a good economy figure for the trip as well, averaging 51.5mpg – north of even the official quoted figure of up to 50.4mpg for this engine. But I’m sure our average will drop during our time with the car, as we do more trips around London.
|Vauxhall Astra 1.2 Turbo 130PS GS Line
|On fleet since:
|1.2-litre 3cyl, turbo petrol, 128bhp
|Two-coat metallic paint (£600)
|Group: 19/Quote: £995
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.