Agreeable looks and interior, decent chassis, low costs, good economy
Cramped rear seats, not the quickest, doesn’t excel anywhere
What is it?
This is the eighth generation Vauxhall Astra. Some have been pretty good cars for their eras, others absolute donkeys. So past form is no guide to future performance. Besides, this is the first Astra to have been developed in Vauxhall-Opel's post-GM era.
This means it has a lot in common with the new Peugeot 308 and the DS 4 (we recently put our long-term Astra and DS 4s head to head, which you can read here), while also facing stiff competition from the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Ford Focus, Merc A-Class and VW Golf.
Looks smart, doesn't it?
Arguably even better in the metal. That dark visor front is distinctive, and there's some attractive creasework: a sharp bone down the middle of the bonnet, and horizontal lines to mark the wheelarch bulges.
A little fluted black triangle aft of the rear door harks back to the Mk1 Astra. Most versions have a black roof, which visually lowers the car. It's truthfully lower than before anyway, and wider too. But only a bit. And it isn't needlessly bulky.
Inside you get a dash that mimics the black visor approach of the front end, and double 10-inch screens and as standard. The designers have clearly been busy with the crayons in here and it shows: head over to the Interior tab for the full lowdown.
What are the choices?
It's petrol (1.2-litre three-cylinder), diesel (1.5 four-cylinder) or plug-in hybrid (1.6-litre four-cylinder, plus e-motor). There's a full electric one coming in 2023. All part of Vauxhall's push to be EV only by 2028. More on that another time.
Petrols are manual (six-speed) or auto (eight-speed), diesels the latter only. Top pure-combustion is 128bhp, though the range-topping GSe PHEV (which shares its powertrain with the Peugeot 308 Hybrid 225 and DS 4 E-Tense 225) hits 223bhp. That’s the one you see in white in the gallery above – more on that in a bit.
An estate (sorry, Sports Tourer) is also available. It has a longer wheelbase, so people as well as luggage get more space. It also gets the same powertrains, including electric (eventually). Click these blue words for our full review.
How does it go?
It handles well (even if it doesn't encourage you to take corners with gusto) and runs true on the motorway. As a mainstream hatch, it walks the tightrope between agility and stability. If we're comparing, it's a bit more tautly sprung and stiffer in roll than the mainstream-model Golfs or the 308. That means a ride that's busy but not jarring.
The 1.2 engine can get noisy if you ask too much of it, though we've heard less pleasurable tunes before now, and it’s not quite as chattery as the diesel. The hybrid gets along well enough, although real-world, electric-only range doesn't live up to the 43 miles promised on paper.
Then we’re into GSe territory, which gets a bit of warm hatch identity including recalibrated steering, a tweaked chassis including 10mm lower ride height, and special dampers. Sadly it doesn’t quite live up to the promise, lacking in driver engagement and performance. More on that over on the Driving tab.
How much does it cost?
Prices start at £26,810 for the petrol, £37,785 for the plug-in hybrid (putting it in the lower price bracket compared to rivals), and £41,050 for the GSe. At time of writing, the diesel is unavailable. Head over to the Buying section for more.
What's the verdict?
There's nothing eccentric about the Astra formula. It competes in one of the most rigidly defined parts of the car market, and it pretty much matches all the benchmarks, even if it busts through none.
It's decent to drive, smart looking and is finished to a high standard. And Vauxhall has clamped down on ownership costs, so it's accessible too. The Astra's not a car to set your heart on fire, or your pants, but it feels satisfyingly well sorted.