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Long-term review

Vauxhall Astra - long term review

£28,710 / £29,310 as tested
Published: 26 Jun 2023
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Vauxhall Astra long-term verdict: worth buying?

So as the Astra is released after half a year’s hard labour in the Top Gear gulag, here’s the million-dollar question (OK, the twenty-something-thousand-pound question): should you actually buy one?

It’s a question I’d answer with an important preliminary question: are you, in fact, in the market for a twenty-something-thousand-pound five-door hatchback? Because if not, and you’re instead in the market for, say, a small family dog, no, you shouldn’t buy an Astra. Insufficiently cuddly, and also very difficult to find a collar to fit.

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But if you are in the market for a twenty-something-something-pound five-door hatchback, should you go Astra? And to that vital question, my big, decisive, definitive answer is… maybe?

It should be on your shortlist, for sure. Not least because the list of new hatches isn’t so long as it once was. If you can find a dealer prepared to offer you a chunky discount, stick it towards the top of that shortlist. No, the Astra might not be a game-changer, but it’s a good car.

Which I realise is, as verdicts go, a bit inconclusive. Apologies. I’d love to have given the Astra the full Emperor Commodus thumbs-up or thumbs-down. But the reality is, boringly, a little more nuanced.

If I was buying an Astra, I’d be fussy on the spec. The 1.2-litre three-pot I’d keep. Cracking little engine, never feels underpowered even when the Astra’s fully loaded.

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I’d go manual, however. The eight-speed Aisin automatic is smooth at pace – if not sporty enough to ever encourage you to bang a couple of downshifts for pleasure alone – but sometimes a touch lumpy with the really low-speed stuff, especially when the stop-start system gets involved, too.

Plus the auto box robs a degree of connection from what is a fairly driver-focused car. And it costs £1500. Save the cash, go stick.

I’d give that Vulcan Grey paintjob a swerve, too. It’s a shade I can only assume was cooked up as a plot by Big Car Wax: looks great for the first few hours after a clean, then quickly descends into flat grubbiness. The Astra’s a handsome bit of design, and Electric Yellow, Cobalt Blue or Arctic White all show off its smart lines to far better effect.

Purely on aesthetic grounds, I’d go for bigger wheels than the 17-inchers of our test car, too, and to hell with the ride quality.

I’d also want to be sure that Vauxhall had fixed the infotainment gremlins that afflicted BP22 EXJ. Sure, any new car can have its computer foibles, but this one seemed to suffer more than its share. All solvable through software updates, I’m sure, but still frustrating.

All of which might make me sound a bit down on the Astra. I’m not. In the right spec, it’s a fine car, a properly credible contender in its class. No, it’s not doing anything revolutionary, but that’s fine. When it comes to family hatches, predictable is definitely preferable to ‘unexpectedly tippy’.

Let’s be honest, for many years the Astra wasn’t a hatch you’d have considered in quite the same breath as, say, a Golf or Focus. Now it very much is. And it’s welcome proof, too, there’s life in the good ol’ hatchback yet. Long live the low-roofed five-door!

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