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Long-term review

Vauxhall Astra - long term review

£28,710 / £29,310 as tested
Published: 29 May 2023

Our Astra’s screens have left us in the dark. Literally

So here’s a weird glitch. Returned to the Astra after a day in the office to discover that the cabin screens had mysteriously descended to their lowest level of brightness, and were thus utterly unreadable in anything but total darkness.

A dim sat nav screen might not, in the grand sweep of things, sound an especially catastrophic problem. Problem is, in the Astra, the instrument-binnacle-thingy is also a screen. No physical speedo dial here. Which meant that, if it was sunny – it was – I literally wouldn’t be able to see how fast I was going. This is not, I believe, an excuse that plays especially well with the local constabulary.

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Though the screens still seemed to be functioning properly – albeit incredibly dimly – the Astra’s clock had also frozen, which had the curious effect of knocking out Android Auto for good measure, as car and phone decided they were in separate time-zones and thus couldn’t communicate. Strange, huh?

Tried all the obvious stuff – shouting, prodding buttons, locking and unlocking the car several dozen times while also shouting – but no cigar. Dimness, locked-in. So I heroically braved the drive home with basically no idea how fast I was going (bad) and also no banging Spotify tunes (even worse).

But, the next day, just as I was preparing to phone my local Vauxhall dealer and explain that, yes, I am aware there’s a ‘screen brightness’ setting, and yes, I’d already tried switching everything off and on again – yeah, obviously the Astra decided to magically return to full brightness and functionality. Everything back to normal, and it’s been absolutely fine since. The clock’s even remembered what time it is.

I’ve since chatted to Vauxhall, and they’re confident a software update will banish any lingering bugs. Here’s hoping. Any other Astra-owners suffering similar issues?

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The gremlins are a pain. Because, when you’re not being distracted by the capricious screens, the Astra is a fine drive. No, it’s no hot hatch – at least not with the one-litre three-cylinder engine of our test car – but it still punts along with noticeably more enthusiasm than your average modern five-door.

On the road, it feels low. It is low. Take a look at the photo above, of the Astra parked next to Greg Potts’ long-term Ora Funky Gibbon. In my head, the Ora was a dinky Fiat 500 rival, but look how much taller than the Astra it is! The Vaux is vertically challenged.

Such lowness definitely contributes to a (mild) sense of vim in the bends. I realise few buyers will be planning to test the ragged edge of grip in their new Astra, but you’ll be pleased to know that, if you do lean on the tyres a little, there’s a pleasing sense of both ends of the car evenly loading up, rather than defaulting straight to catastrophic understeer.

I’d still prefer it with a manual gearbox, mind: though the eight-speed auto is fine at speed, it’s less than perfectly smooth in on-off traffic, particularly in conjunction with the stop-start system.

Maybe the Astra’s not quite so eager as, say, a Ford Focus of old, but by modern class standards, it’s a smart thing to drive. Even when you’ve got no clue how fast you’re actually driving…

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