Compact Family Car of the Year 2016: Vauxhall Astra

The Vauxhall Astra is the 2016 Auto Express Compact Family Car of the Year, with the MINI Clubman and SEAT Leon commended

After a few stagnant years, Vauxhall has reinvented its Astra compact family hatch – and it needed to, as the class was being left behind by the SEAT Leon for style, the Volkswagen Golf for quality and the Ford Focus for handling fun. But the British brand has come back with all guns blazing to fight off the competition, adding plenty of real-world appeal and futuristic tech to claim our crown.

The Astra takes on its rivals in all of their showcase areas, and puts up a compelling performance across the board.

A compact hatchback has to do everything – ferry the family around, offer enough space in the cabin and boot to cover day-to-day practicality, and serve up strong enough pace for an interesting drive. Vauxhall’s family five-door does just that, pumping out more power from the most popular 1.6-litre turbodiesel than its rivals, for less cash.

Sharp angles and attractive proportions mean the Astra is easy on the eye, plus with features like LED headlights, Apple CarPlay and Vauxhall’s OnStar concierge service all available on mid-level trims such as the sportier SRi model, there’s lots to like.

OnStar can turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot, download destinations directly to your sat-nav, or even call the emergency services in a crash, telling them how many people are on board. It’s clever tech that not only makes your life easier, but could also end up saving it, too.

Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo 2016 - front tracking

There’s lots more kit for your cash – in fact, across the board the Astra costs less than its predecessor while offering more.

Flexible engines and a nicely balanced chassis mean the car delivers easily accessible performance and taut handling when you want it, but plenty of refinement and comfort when you don’t.

Vauxhall opted for a simple yet effective rear-suspension design for its latest Astra that means you don’t have to sacrifice space inside. There’s lots of room in the rear for passengers, while a big boot is a bonus. Hi-tech safety features helped the Astra earn five Euro NCAP stars, which will give peace of mind, too.

Our choice

Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 136 SRi Nav (£21,480)

SRi models get OnStar as standard, while upgrading to SRi Nav spec is worthwhile. With the 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel, the Astra is extremely well priced against its rivals, plus it’s faster and gets just as much kit. The step up in quality compared to its predecessor is palpable, too.


MINI Clubman

MINI Clubman ALL4 2016 - front tracking 2

It might not quite be a hatchback, but with a similar amount of space in an alternative bodystyle, the Clubman offers exactly the same qualities as the Astra in a more individual package. While it’s pricey, the MINI is classy inside, and those rear barn doors offer surprising flexibility. Plus, it’s superb fun to drive.


Last year’s winner has been dethroned, but the SEAT Leon is still a great family car. Available in three or five-door form (unlike the Astra), it lets you prioritise style or practicality. But with plenty of premium features, a strong engine range and an entertaining chassis, the Leon doesn’t compromise what you want from a compact hatch.


Auto Express New Car Awards 2016 

For complete, in-depth coverage of the New Car Awards 2016, buy your collector's edition copy of the Auto Express magazine now or click here to subscribe...  


New 2020 SEAT Leon: PHEV model to cost from £30,970
SEAT Leon - front

New 2020 SEAT Leon: PHEV model to cost from £30,970

The fourth-generation SEAT Leon now boasts a plug-in eHybrid option, which is available in the UK from just under £31k
12 Oct 2020
Vauxhall Astra review
Vauxhall Astra 2019 facelift - front tracking
Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra review

The Vauxhall Astra performs well in a field of tough hatchback rivals
17 Sep 2020
SEAT Leon vs Volkswagen Golf vs Ford Focus
Family hatchbacks

SEAT Leon vs Volkswagen Golf vs Ford Focus

The Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon are all long established hatchbacks - we find out which is best among the latest crop
11 Jul 2020
New SEAT Leon 2020 review

New SEAT Leon 2020 review

We sample the new fourth-generation SEAT Leon hatch on British roads for the first time
25 Jun 2020

Most Popular

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport adds more power and gets an aero overhaul
13 Oct 2020
New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV 2020 review
Land Rover Discovery Sport

New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV 2020 review

The Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e plug-in hybrid promises 135mpg and an all-electric range of 38 miles, but does it deliver?
21 Oct 2020
Car exhaust smoke explained
British Steam Car
Tips & advice

Car exhaust smoke explained

Is your car suffering from a smoky exhaust? Our troubleshooting guide tells you the causes and what you need to do to fix it
22 Oct 2020