Vauxhall Astra vs DS 4: same car underneath, *very* different results
EN: Sam! How lovely to see you. Did you bring your invisible car with you?
SP: Ouch. But fair. On a greyish spring morning in a greyish corner of Hertfordshire countryside, the greyish Astra doesn't exactly stand out, does it? Especially not next to your shiny-white-as-a-Love-Island-contestant's-grin DS 4.
EN: The 4 is indeed a thing of beauty. No two ways about it, in that particular shade of misery the Astra does disappear next to the DS’s glorious design. Hard to believe they're related.
SP: If you'd told me these two cars were twins, I'm not sure I'd have believed you. But twins they are, both built on Stellantis's EMP2 V3 platform. It's the first DS 4 I've seen up close, and my first impressions are a) it looks smart, b) it looks big, and c) it looks expensive.
EN: Off the bat, we do need to acknowledge that the DS is a few rungs up the ladder from the Vauxhall. And this particular variant is almost the most top dollar spec. A ‘base’ DS 4 starts from £28,000; this particular car costs £41k. I will agree this makes KP22OPZ look very pricey compared to your lower-spec £29 grand Astra.
SP: Over 40 grand for a medium-size French hatchback from a company no one's ever heard of? That's... punchy. Didn't think I'd ever see the day I'd be heralding a nearly-30k Astra as value for money, but here we are in glorious, inflationary 2023.
EN: Let’s move on from cost (while still remembering the DS 4 does have a like-for-like entry price) and discuss the even larger gap between the two. Style.
SP: Seeing these two side-by-side does make me realise one thing: I'd definitely spend a bit more to get bigger wheels on the Astra. It's wearing the 17-inchers that come as standard on GS trim, but you can upgrade to 18-inch diamond-cut alloys (with not-entirely-tasteful coloured inserts) for an extra £300.
EN: I would suggest that is a necessary move. Alongside the DS 4, the Astra looks woefully under-wheeled. The words ‘sofa castors’ spring to mind. And that colour? Well, let’s just say the Astra looks a totally different machine in that eye-popping yellow we had in recently. It not only made the car look indescribably better, it somehow made it seem more pumped-up as well.
SP: Talking of pumped-up, doesn't the DS 4 look hefty? Like it’s boxing in a bigger weight division than the Astra. I've dug into the stats, and the DS is only about an inch longer and taller than the low-slung Vauxhall, but visually it's just far more imposing.
EN: More presence, more gravitas, more charisma, more self assurance. The Astra feels apologetic next to it. No, it feels, quieter. Like it had terrible skin as a teenager and still hasn’t built up its self confidence. Same story in the cabin.
SP: ‘Confident’ is one word for the DS 4’s interior. Wow, there’s a lot going on in there. Where Vauxhall's clearly gone for uncluttered understatement in the Astra, DS very much... hasn't. Look closely and there's some small evidence of part sharing, but fair to say they're channelling, very, very different interior vibes.
EN: One word: jealous. The Astra is rocking the borstal spec and the 4 is full-on sparkle-chic. Oh, and if chic is not a word you are familiar with, just look it up in the dictionary.
SP: I'm generally a fan of a muted, restrained interior, but I'll concede the Astra could do with a dash more sparkle-chic. Might you not concede the DS 4 has slightly overdone it in the cabin-glitter department?
SP: Fair enough. So let’s talk driving manners. Even acknowledging that they've got quite different powertrains – the Astra is a straightforward three-cylinder petrol, while the DS4 uses a more potent (and pricier) hybrid set-up – it's interesting how diverse these two feel on the road. Even on those vast wheels, the DS feels set up to waft, while in comparison the Astra seems far lighter. Pointier.
EN: Waft – apt word, very apt. I’d say the DS feels relaxing to drive, like it’s doing all the hard graft for you. The Astra you actually have to drive – no quarter is given. You say pointy, I say nibbly. Not in road tester language, more like it’s trying to eat a packet of crumbly biscuits and not get crumbs in its steering column kind of way. So what's the buying advice we're giving here?
SP: I think we're saying, if you’re considering an Astra but finding it all a bit too demure, it’s worth looking at the DS4. And if you’re, say, a private detective wanting to fly under the radar, but with a hankering for a DS4, maybe consider a stealth-grey Astra instead.
EN: Absolutely spot on. Both excellent in their own way, well built and solid, and, best of all, enjoyable. Anything else?
SP: I guess the cheery, big-picture takeaway is how very… individual these twins really are. If you’ve ever worried this era of global platform-sharing risks creating a world of clone cars, here's proof that two cars spun off the same skeleton can look – and feel – radically distinct. Vive la difference, as they say down at DS.