Used Vauxhall Astra review
A full used buyer’s guide on the Vauxhall Astra covering the Astra Mk6 (2009-2015)
As the most popular new car class in Europe, the small family hatch market is big business. With the stakes so high, it’s in every manufacturer’s interests to come up with brilliant products, but that’s something that Vauxhall has often struggled with.
The General Motors subsidiary has long focused on affordable family vehicles, but has often failed to inspire due to penny-pinching engineering and lacklustre design.
But when the sixth-generation Astra was revealed in 2009, it’s fair to say that expectations were pretty much universally exceeded by a car that was stylish, refined, well built and good (if not brilliant) to drive. With the Astra Mk6 now obsolete, how does it stack up as a used buy?
The Vauxhall Astra arrived in 1979 and is now in it’s award-winning seventh generation, however it’s the Mk6, that was on sale between 2009 and 2015, that we’re covering in this review.
- • Vauxhall Astra Mk6 (2009-2015) - Sixth-generation family car is stylish and practical. Buy carefully and it’s top value, too.
Vauxhall Astra Mk6
The Astra Mk6 arrived in December 2009, with 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrol engines (normally aspirated or turbocharged), and 1.7 CDTi or 2.0 CDTi diesels. Most came with a choice of power outputs. The 1.4T, 1.6 and 2.0 CDTi engines were available with an automatic gearbox, as well as the standard manual.
More reviews for Astra
At first there was a five-door hatch only, but within a year a five-door estate had arrived, followed in summer 2011 by a sharp-looking three-door GTC hatch. The 1.7 CDTi ecoFLEX of June 2011 cut CO2 emissions to 99g/km; the hot 280bhp Astra VXR followed in July 2012.
A facelift in summer 2012 brought fresh styling, a longer options list and a 192bhp twin-turbo 2.0 CDTi engine. A 97g/km 1.6 CDTi diesel was launched in February 2014.
Vauxhall Astra prices
Two-year-old cars will be between £7,750 and £13,500 depending on specification, while a four-year-old Astra will be in the £6,500 to £12,500 bracket.
Vauxhall Astra Mk6 reviews
Vauxhall Astra in-depth reviewVauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi reviewVauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi reviewVauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi BiTurbo reviewVauxhall Astra GTC in-depth reviewVauxhall Astra GTC 1.4 Turbo reviewVauxhall Astra GTC 2.0 Turbo reviewVauxhall Astra GTC 2.0 CDTi reviewVauxhall Astra GTC 2.0 CDTi BiTurbo reviewVauxhall Astra VXR in-depth reviewVauxhall Astra VXR review
Which one should I buy?
The 1.3 CDTi is best avoided because it struggles to cope; it’s the same with the normally aspirated 1.4 and 1.6 petrols, but their turbo counterparts are far better.
The best and most modern diesel is the 1.6 CDTi; it’s smooth, punchy and frugal, but the BiTurbo 2.0 CDTi provides hot hatch pace with decent economy. Entry-level Astras (Expression, ES) get air-con and electric front windows, while the Exclusiv adds cruise control and the SE features alloy wheels and powered rear windows.
Leather trim and climate control are standard on the Elite, plus the SRi gets sportier suspension that reduces body roll but doesn’t spoil the ride. Indeed, the suspension is decently set up, so don’t pay extra for the Flexride adaptive damping.
Alternatives to the Vauxhall Astra Mk6
As a used buy the Ford Focus is compelling thanks to its affordability, great dynamics, generous equipment and solid build quality.
The Kia Cee’d offers strong reliability and decent kit with an excellent warranty, and its Hyundai i30 sister car isn’t far behind. The Volkswagen Golf is hugely desirable and easy to recommend, but prices are much higher than for the Astra; it’s the same story for the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.
Just ahead of the Golf as the most highly rated small family hatch in our Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey was the SEAT Leon, thanks to its performance and in-car tech. Don’t overlook the Mazda 3 or Honda Civic, though; both are worth considering.
What to look for:
Fit and finish
Fit and finish of some of the interior trim can be an issue, while squeaks, creaks and rattles aren’t uncommon, either.
The cruise control can disengage and the brake lights can flicker. This is because of a known fault with the parking brake sensor.
Ball joints in the front suspension are known to wear, leading to knocking as the car is driven over bumps. Replacements are cheap, though.
Replacing the headlight bulbs is a pain because of poor access. The bulb on the nearside is especially difficult to get to.
A huge leap forward over its predecessor, the Astra’s cabin feels classy. There’s plenty of room for five adults, but it’s short on cubby space. The 351-litre boot extends to 1,216 litres with seats folded, plus the FlexFloor system provides adjustable load floor heights.
Whichever engine is fitted, all Astra Mk6s need to be serviced every 12 months or 20,000 miles. Vauxhall keeps things simple; services alternate between minor and major, priced at £149 and £249 respectively. The latter is cut to £199 when a car reaches its third birthday.
Fresh brake fluid is needed every two years or 40,000 miles (at £39), while all engines apart from the 1.4 petrol and 1.3 CDTi feature a cambelt that has to be replaced, at £229. The schedule for this varies according to the engine and car’s age; it can be as frequent as every four years/40,000 miles, but could be longer for newer Astras.
Vauxhall has recalled the Astra Mk6 four times, initially in November 2010 over the potential for failure of the front passenger seat’s fixing bolts.
The next recall came in January 2011 because the anti-trap function could fail within the electric window mechanism. A possibility of the engine’s electric cooling fan short circuiting brought another callback in January 2015. The most recent action was in February 2015 because of the same cooling fan problem.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
A ranking of 149th in our Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey isn’t surprising for a defunct model, although the latest Astra was just eight places ahead. The Mk6’s only score in the top 100 was 93rd for ride quality. It was voted 102nd for handling, but 140th and 138th for build quality and reliability.
Much of the criticism we levelled at the Astra Mk6 when it was new centred on the high purchase costs and stiff depreciation, but as a second-hand buy these things work in your favour. While its lacklustre Driver Power result shows it’s no class leader, the Vauxhall ticks plenty of other boxes.
There are masses to choose from, with a wide range of engines and low prices. But Astra owners either love or hate their cars, because picking the right engine and trim can affect the experience enormously. The Mk6 can be brilliant or frustrating to own. It’s well worth a look; just buy with care.