What is it?
It’s hard to say how important the Vauxhall Astra is to the UK. It’s a household name that has proven time and time again to be the ideal mode of transport for all kinds of drivers thanks to its value-focused approach and durable yet practical interior.
Now there is a new one. Not only does it come with a striking new look, but it also has a plug-in hybrid powertrain for increased efficiency and lower emissions. Now we’ve already driven the Astra on European soil, but this is the first time we’ve been able to test it out in the UK. So let’s see what it has to offer.
What is new?
Apart from a bold new look, the new Astra has been packed with new technology and features, while Vauxhall has looked to increase the levels of sophistication and comfort you get. We also have an impressive array of safety assist features, including lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and forward collision warning.
The plug-in hybrid powertrain is of course the big new addition here, and if you need more space, a practical Sports Tourer version is available. It provides a larger boot – although the regular Astra’s load space is still respectable in size.
What’s under the hood?
Vauxhall has continued to offer a range of powertrain options with the Astra, so that’s why you have petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid setups available. Here we focus on the latest, most electrified option – although an all-electric version will arrive next year – which uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor to produce 178bhp and 360Nm of torque. That equates to a 0-60 mph time of 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph, which is pretty respectable for a car in this class.
Sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission, this set-up can provide up to 43 miles of electric-only range, while with the batteries fully charged, Vauxhall says you could see up to 256mpg alongside low CO2 emissions of between 24 and 26g/km depending on specification.
How is it to drive?
As we’ve already mentioned, Vauxhall has worked to make the new Astra a more refined prospect than its predecessor. For the most part, this is a success, with the bulk of road and wind noise isolated from entering the cabin. The well-cushioned seats also tie into this comfort-focused approach.
However, we found the ride in this plug-in hybrid to be a little on the hard side, which is no doubt a byproduct of the extra weight added by the electric motor and batteries and the stiff suspension used to accommodate it. . We tested a regular petrol model for comparison and found it far more comfortable on broken surfaces, so we’d go for it if you’re looking for the best ride quality.
How does it look?
It’s hard to fault Vauxhall’s efforts to inject some real flair into its mainstream models. It’s already proven it can make ‘everyday cars’ look the part with the latest Mokka, and it’s now made the most of that momentum with the new Astra. To our eyes, at least, it’s one of the best-looking cars in the segment, with the latest interpretation of Vauxhall’s ‘Vizor’ front-end design successfully implemented.
Around back it’s much the same story, with thin lights and a large central badge that also houses the boot opening mechanism. It feels like Vauxhall are finding their stride with these models, that’s for sure.
What’s it like inside?
The Vauxhall Astra is a car that needs to be spacious and reliable on a daily basis, with families being the most likely target buyers for this vehicle. In that sense, the plug-in hybrid may not be the strongest choice as, despite the lower running costs, it suffers from a significant boot space penalty compared to the petrol and diesel versions. In fact, there’s 352 liters available in the PHEV – compared to 422 liters in the regular car – so there’s a significant disadvantage in terms of practicality.
We also found that it was a bit cramped in the back, while the openings in the rear door are reasonably narrow, which can make loading a child seat in the back of the car a bit more difficult than you’d like it to be.
How is the specification?
Our test car came in high-end Ultimate specification which came with all the bells and whistles you could want. At £39,115 after options, our Astra model certainly sat at the more premium end of the spectrum, although features such as dual-zone climate control, a heated leather steering wheel and a 10in head-up display go some way to justifying that price tag.
The 10-inch infotainment system on the latest Astra isn’t the most intuitive to use, although it’s handy to have physical shortcut buttons for many of the functions. Some areas of the cabin were let down by cheap-feeling plastics, mind you, which contrasted the overall premium feel that Vauxhall seems to be aiming for with the Astra.
Vauxhall has managed to move the game along with its new Astra. One of the biggest aspects of this latest car is its design, which will no doubt attract buyers looking for something a little different. However, it is still supported by a comfortable interior and – in the case of the plug-in hybrid – low running costs as well.
It’s a shame it doesn’t feel quite as roomy as its rivals, mind you, while the boot on this PHEV version is considerably smaller than on regular versions. At a premium price this Astra starts to make less sense, but opt for a lower – but still very well equipped – specification and this is a Vauxhall that will impress.
Model: Vauxhall Astra
Model tested: Astra Ultimate Plug-in Hybrid
Price as tested: £39,115
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol engine with electric motor
Power: 178 hp
Torque: 360 Nm
0-60 mph: 7.7
Top speed: 140 mph
Emissions: 24-26g/km CO2
Electric-only range: 43 miles