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Vauxhall Astra SRI
6/10

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Road Test

Vauxhall Astra SRI driven

Driven July 2010

Additional Info

In our recent issue on hot hatches, the new Vauxhall Astra is steadfastly refusing to play ball. Though you can still buy the previous-gen VXR, there won't be a MkVI Astra VXR until next year, following the unveiling of the three-door Astra this autumn. Boo.

So if you want a hot new Astra and you want it now, you might think this car - the fastest, most powerful diesel variant on the sports chassis - would be a good bet. After all, behind the 1.6-litre turbo petrol version, it's the quickest accelerating Astra currently on sale, and the most torquey. You would be wrong.

The 2.0-litre diesel has been nabbed straight from the Insignia, and its vital statistics are good. It manages 158bhp and a meaty 258lb ft (more than a Golf GTI or Megane RenaultSport, if you'll forgive our selective statistic-grabbing) and will return 59mpg while hauling the Astra to 62mph in just under nine seconds. Not mad-fast, but quick enough.

Quick enough, but in no way... hot. In fairness, Vauxhall isn't pitching this Astra as a diesel-hot-hatch, leaving that territory to the Leon FR and Golf GT TDI. Good thing too: the engine is more lazy low-end torque than zippy free-revving, the sort of unit where pushing it past 3,000rpm seems a bit unfair, like forcing a beefy weight-lifter into a dainty skipping routine.

This car is, however, a mighty effective way of dispatching motorway miles. The new Astra has already impressed us with its big-car feel, and this diesel feels the biggest of the bunch: long-legged, rapid and  amply powered in an understated way.

It isn't the last word in hushed refinement, but it's somewhere in the second half of the book at least. We'd have to test them back-to-back to be sure, but it seems less chuntery than the Focus's diesel, as smooth as the Golf's biggest diesel. Not the same league as the sickeningly brilliant small-displacement diesels churning out of BMW at the moment, true, but frankly not much is. As torquey, non-sporty diesels in modest family hatches go, this is one of the best.

Our test car had Vauxhall's ‘sports chassis' instead of the optional ‘FlexRide' system with adjustable dampers. So should yours. Leave FlexRide alone: the non-adjustable chassis - though hardly sporty - is fine in its own right, and saves you £450. Which, coincidentally, is almost exactly slightly less than the price difference between the 1.7-litre, 123bhp diesel Astra and this one. TopGear Tipsmith, he say: save on FlexRide; go for big diesel.

Sam Philip

On your drive for: £541pcm
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.5secs, max speed 134mph, 58.9mpg
Tech: 1956cc, 4cyl, 4WD, 158bhp, 258lb ft, 1453kg,  127g/km CO2

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