Vauxhall Astra long-term review: how does it handle a big road trip?
It’s the question every dreadfully middle-class hatchback enthusiast has been asking: can you fit four people and their ski stuff in the new Vauxhall Astra, without recourse to sticking any stuff, or indeed people, or the roof?
And after extensive, selfless research, I’m pleased to report that the answer is… yes. Provided that two of those people – and indeed their skis – are very small. Both pairs of adult skis wedged through the load-through hatch (just, you wouldn’t get a third pair in), all the rest of the kit jammed into the boot and around the back-seat passengers. Not much room for any other luggage, not exactly comfy – especially for the rear-seat passenger forced to travel with the sharp end of a ski-pole up their nose – but it all fits.
This extensive, selfless research forms part of an extensive, selfless couple of winter weeks in the Alps, to discover exactly how the Astra handles a big family holiday. With great competence, as it turns out.
On the drive down across France – empty roads, generous Gallic speed limits – we see a steady 45mpg, which I don’t think you’d get in many petrol SUVs. Vauxhall says the Astra boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.26, which is impressive by the standards of the class – and in fact makes it the joint lowest-drag Vauxhall ever, matching the famously slippery Calibra of the Nineties.
In addition to its low frontal area – the roofline is unusually low, the new Astra standing some 5cm shorter than the last-gen car – and aerodynamic underbody, the Vauxhall’s other big aero trick is its active ‘shutter’, which closes off both sections of the front grille at speed. Seems to do a job: I manage nearly 500 miles between refills. With a lighter right foot I suspect you could get considerably further.
While we’re on the subject of clocking up the autoroute miles, big up to the Astra’s front seats, which are phenomenally comfy, and even include a slide-out section to extend under-thigh support. I generally end up with an achy back after a big continental drive. Not in the Astra. Good for spines, bad for the paracetamol industry.
Things aren’t quite so rosy in the rear. Legroom for second-row passengers is OK (especially if, as previously mentioned, they are very small passengers) but, as with so many modern hatches, the Astra’s pinched window line does make things feel a bit claustrophobic back there. It’s not, from memory, as bad as the Mazda3 – proper dingy basement flat, that one – but an SUV such as, say, the Kia Sportage is still going to give your kids a better view of the world outside.
Out in the mountains, wearing a decent set of winter tyres, the Astra gets everywhere we need it to get. OK, so the Alps aren’t especially snowy for our trip, and OK, I don’t attempt any impromptu WRC ice stages, but you’re not going to be doing that in a regular family crossover either, right? Obviously an Astra won’t reach the places that an Ineos Grenadier can, but against a front-wheel drive Sportage, or Qashqai, or Tucson, I’m not sure you’re giving much away.
No, for a big winter trip, the only thing I’d really want from my Astra is a little more bootspace. Though its 422-litre capacity is actually pretty generous by the standards of the hatch class (nearly 50 litres more than you get in a Focus, 40-odd more than a Golf), it’s still snug for a big family holiday, especially one involving many long, pointy skis. If you need a bit more space, I reckon the new Astra Tourer could be just the ticket…