Vauxhall Astra 1.4iT SRi Hatchback 17 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    Vauxhall finally builds an Astra which is capable of going head-to-head with its main competition

    VAUXHALL HAS ALWAYS had a problem with the Astra; well, that is until now. With the launch of the sixth-generation Astra, the manufacturer is ready to position itself side-by-side with the market leaders it has lagged behind for so long, Volkswagen’s Golf and the Ford Focus.

    It appears Vauxhall has finally discovered a sixth sense. Where rivals VW and Ford had always led the way — especially in the fields of build quality, design and interior styling — Vauxhall had, for more years than it would care to admit, struggled to find a modern identity. It always appeared as though its latest models were a generation behind its rivals. Well all that has changed; and changed big time.

    The rebirth of the badge started with the Insignia. Its sweeping and stunning looks, allied to its on-road poise and presence steamrolled over the VW Passat and Ford Mondeo. Suddenly Vauxhall had a market leader on its hands. And the industry recognised the improvement by awarding the Insignia the 2009 European Car of the Year Award.

    That improvement has now been carried on by the all-new Astra. Bigger, better looking and all-round impressive, the newcomer is ready to go head-to-head with the Golf and Focus.

    The new Astra comes with a comprehensive range of engines which offer a reduction in CO2 emissions compared with their equivalent models; on average, the powerplants deliver a 10% saving in terms of emissions and fuel consumption.

    There’s a 1.4 and two 1.6s petrol engine, one of which is turbocharged, plus three diesel engines, a 1.3, a 1.7 and a 2.0-litre. All the oilburners feature common-rail fuel injection. As you would expect, all engines are Euro 5 compliant; there is also a fuel-efficient Ecoflex model. Without question, the most attractive engine in the range — and the model Vauxhall believes will be its top-seller — is the 1.4i Turbo SRi.

    Bigger, better looking and all-round impressive, the newcomer is a headturner

    Larger than its rivals

    Small in volume it may be, but it has the same 138bhp as the 1.8-litre petrol it replaces. It also boasts CO2 emissions of just 139g/km (as opposed to 172g/km) and combined consumption of 47.9mpg. Overall then, it’s a very attractive package.

    The same can be said for the new Astra’s designing, both exterior and interior. It’s also larger than its rivals. Not only is it the longest, but it sits on a longer wheelbase, is the only one over 1.5 metres tall and only the Focus beats it for width.

    Fortunately, there has also been a significant move away from the dull but clear lines of its predecessor. The new Astra’s sculpted lines are a clear extension of those first seen on the Insignia, and the family resemblance is clear for all to see. Looks like Vauxhall has struck another winner. But, without question, Vauxhall has reserved the biggest transformation for the cabin. Boy, what a difference.

    Suddenly the interior of the Astra is a place where you would happily, and comfortably, click off the miles as you cruise down the M74 or potter through the countryside. Even before you actually get inside the Astra, you can’t fail to notice the new dashboard. In looks and quality it looks as though it’s been lifted straight from the Insignia; and, without question, it wouldn’t look out of place in any car from the class above. It certainly matches the premium feel of the current best-in-class, the Golf.

    The Astra’s dials and major switches are all now beautifully surrounded by shiny chrome rings, and everything now just looks, and feels, so much better. There’s also not just more space in the cabin, but the interior feels bigger, lighter and more spacious. In fact rear passengers will find themselves questioning whether they’re actually in an Insignia, there’s so much space.

    Quiet and comfortable

    And like the Astra’s bigger brother, rear passengers can comfortably slide their feet right under the seat in front. It is a lovely place to be. There’s a copious amount of storage areas — there’s three lidded bins in the centre console alone — and the door bins are generous too. Even the glovebox is more than adequate.

    You’ll also not be surprised to hear the cabin is a quiet and comfortable place to be thanks to new high levels of soundproofing and deadening. Not only has Vauxhall managed to restrict the noise from the engine, partly assisted by the 1.4’s high gearing, but new levels of effective sealing on all apertures ensure cabin disturbances are kept to a minimum.

    And the SRi is well appointed. In addition to its reasonable level of standard equipment, it also comes with smart 17in alloys, a leather wheel, sports seats, front foglights and an easy-to-use electric parking brake. For too long, certainly in Vauxhall’s eyes, the Astra has played second fiddle to the Golf and the Focus.

    Now, thanks to its sleek new shape and high-quality cabin, it can give the VW and Ford more than a run for their money.

    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £19,245 / £21,115
    Engine / Power: 1398cc / 138bhp
    How fast?: 0-60 mph 9.0secs, Max 128mph
    How big/heavy?: H1510mm W2013mm L4419mm / 1393kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 47.9mpg / CO2 138g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 17 /
    Alternatives: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf

    User Comments

    Login or register to post comments.
    Send to friend
    Click here to add message:

Car Review Finder