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Long-term review

Vauxhall Astra - long term review

£28,710 / £29,310 as tested
Published: 05 May 2023
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Bad news! Our long-term Vauxhall Astra has been in the wars

This month I am saddened to report that the Astra has been UNDER SIEGE.

Yes, in recent weeks, the poor Vaux has been physically assaulted in not one, but two separate incidents, neither of which could be blamed on the Astra or indeed its driver (me). Specifically because, on both occasions, its driver (me) was nowhere near the Astra, which was neatly parked up, minding its own business, only to be heartlessly pranged by careless members of Britain’s motoring public.

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Credit where credit’s due, both offenders actually left their contact details. And there’s no significant damage beyond some bodywork scuffs, but still, a scrape’s a scrape, and why do I still feel guilty even though it wasn’t my fault?

I’ve been trying to figure out why this keeps happening to the innocent Astra. Mostly, of course, it’s because UK motorists really, really need to learn to drive better. But also I wonder if it might have something to do with the Astra’s understated appearance.

I’ve noted before – as has m’learned colleague Esther Neve, repeatedly and forcefully – that its Vulcan Grey paintjob is just the ticket for blending into Britain’s greyish landscape. But even beyond the stealth-cloak livery, it’s a demure hatch.

Though base-spec Astras – Design trim, in Vauxhall-speak – get chrome-effect badges and front ‘visor’ trim, higher-grade cars do away with the brightwork in favour of black, black and more black. If there’s a less chromey car on the road, I’m yet to spot it. Even the wheels are black. Lights off, it’s basically a shadow.

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A low shadow, too. At just 144cm tall, the Astra stands nearly 20 centimetres shorter than a Nissan Qashqai. Which I know is an SUV, and the Astra isn’t, but point is, if everyone on the road is on the lookout for Qashqai-height things, could that explain why they keep bumping into Astra-height things?

Or maybe, more likely, it’s simply that all the drivers on this island are driving into everything else, all the time. Stop hitting stuff, Britain!  

Another frustration this month, and one that can’t be blamed on Everyone Else On The Road: the Astra’s infotainment system. (Yeah, I hate the word ‘infotainment’ too, but I’m yet to find a better word that neatly sums up ‘the screeny stuff’. Any suggestions, I’m all ears.) As modern touchscreen affairs go, it’s nowhere near modern VW Group levels of bafflement, but it’s been suffering a few curious glitches.

First, a bunch of white screen icons mysteriously colour-changed to red, giving the impression the Astra was becoming increasingly enraged by my presence. And then the Android Auto connection turned horribly flaky, whether through Bluetooth and by wire. Which is a bit of a pig when you’re stuck somewhere round the back of Heathrow, relying on Google Maps to get you to a flight on time. Same issue when my wife tried Apple CarPlay, so I don’t think it’s the phone’s fault.

However, a recent software update seems to have smoothed the infotainment issues out. Here’s to an incident-free future, in every sense.

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