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Long-term tests

Vauxhall Astra GSe PHEV long-term test: a troublesome start to life on our fleet

First report: British brand’s new plug-in hybrid hatch joins our fleet

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

We've endured a troubled start to life with the Vauxhall Astra, although that’s mainly through no fault of its own. Let’s hope getting a few more miles under its wheels will see some of our initial reservations disappear.

Mileage: 305
Economy: 48.0mpg

The return of a car with a plug to the Adams’ drive required a few spiders to be made homeless before I could take advantage of our Astra’s PHEV tech.

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The Wallbox charger had been dormant for almost a year when the Astra arrived and had become clogged with webs, leaves and other debris. A quick wipe and the charger was ready, but there was no chance to use it before the Astra was parked up for more than a week through no fault of its own.

A country lane at night, low-profile tyres and a pothole added up to a three-hour wait for recovery and another hour to get home in our ill-fated first trip in the GSe. There’s no spare in the Astra thanks to its batteries, (which also squeeze boot space), and no sealant can fix a pothole pinch puncture in the sidewall a couple of centimetres long.

Then, Vauxhall’s tyre partner ATS hardly covered itself in glory getting the Astra back on the road. Thanks to a missed appointment, it was a week later before we could tackle our second trip in the car.

After running a series of pick-ups and SUVs, the hatchback’s low-profile tyres, combined with the state of the roads where I live, have left me feeling a touch vulnerable to another tyre failure, particularly at night.

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The ride has also taken some getting used to. Compared with my previous cars, the Astra is on the firm side, particularly on uneven surfaces at low speed. And despite the nod to previous Vauxhall performance models in its name, the GSe doesn’t seem all that sporty, with the steering lacking feel.

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The problematic start to life and a long break abroad over Christmas mean I’ve done few miles in the car so far. Without battery assistance, the Astra showed fuel economy of 38mpg, but that jumped to 48 after we began to plug-in each time we were at home.

Charging from the Wallbox takes around four hours, thanks to the optional 7.4kW charger (£500). Each full charge saw 11kWh or so being used, not far off the battery’s 12.4 capacity. Despite this, we’ve yet to see an electric range of more than 20 miles, while the WLTP figure is 40. No doubt this is due to the colder temperatures, and it will rise when the weather improves. The Astra works well in electric mode, but while the regenerative mode does add some charge to the battery, it makes driving smoothly with the already-sharp brakes even more tricky.

While the GSe doesn’t beg to be driven hard, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the power on full throttle once the slow gearbox has dropped a few ratios.

It’s one of several elements we already like. The head-up display is an asset, too, and works well with the steering wheel controls, while the infotainment is clear and links with Apple CarPlay wirelessly, although a few of the menus take some fathoming out. One we know well is turning off the lane assist to remove the intrusive tugging on the wheel when moving from the centre of the lane.

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The cold weather may have hit the electric range, but there’s plenty to keep the driver warm, including heating for the front seats and steering wheel; the latter works very well and has been welcome during the cold snap.

The electrically heated windscreen has also been appreciated, clearing the screen in a few minutes, and saving on the de-icer and frozen fingers on frosty mornings. Another bonus is the wipers with built-in washers, which have been working overtime, thanks to the filthy winter roads. They clean very effectively, with no missed spots, although the momentary loss of vision as they start to pump takes a little getting used to.

It’s also been a while since I’ve run a white car and the grimy roads have left their mark. Normally I’d deal with it myself, but with temperatures close to freezing, I’m reluctant to turn my drive in to a skating rink. Until it warms up, I’ll leave it to the local car wash.

Model:Vauxhall Astra GSe
On fleet since:December 2023
Price new:£43,250
Powertrain:1.6-litre 4cyl turbo, 12.4kWh battery, 1x e-motor, 222bhp
CO2/tax:25 g/km
Options:7.4kW single phase charger (£500)
Insurance*:Group: 31/Quote: £767
Mileage:305
Economy:48.0mpg
Any problems?Puncture

*Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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Products editor

Kim has worked for Auto Express for more than three decades and all but a year of that time in the Products section. His current role as products editor involves managing the section’s content and team of testers plus doing some of the tests himself. 

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