You’d be hard pushed to define the Astra’s looks over the years – swinging from angular and edgy to downright dull. Fortunately, the latest model combines sleek, aerodynamic styling with the sort of classy looks that will have owners of the Skoda Octavia or Volkswagen Golf glancing over with a touch of envy.
Not only does it look neat, it’s based on a newer platform than its predecessor, so manages the Tardis trick of being slightly smaller on the outside, but considerably bigger on the inside. And it’s lighter into the bargain. No wonder initial Vauxhall Astra reviews were very positive - to the extent that it was named European Car of the Year in 2016.
Even lower-spec models feature alloy wheels, and these get larger and more attractive as you progress up the range. Little splashes of extra chrome and touches such as LED running lights give the Astra a genuinely classy air.
Little splashes of extra chrome and touches such as LED running lights give the Astra a genuinely classy air.
What’s it like to drive?
The Vauxhall Astra is a car that feels properly enjoyable to drive. Urban backroad? Those potholes and speed bumps pose no great issue. Motorway? The suspension is firm enough to keep any floating sensation in check, but supple enough to deal with the worst bumps and ridges. Twisty country road? The Astra is nimble and firm enough to change direction well without too much lean into corners.
The sweet spot in the petrol engine range lies with the 124bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which is brisk and revvy. The 104bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is also well worth a look, as is the 128bhp 1.2 in current cars.
If diesel is your fuel of choice, you’d be well advised to consider the 134bhp 1.6-litre, which will suit those who clock up the miles driving long distances. If you’re looking at a post-facelift car from 2019, the 120bhp 1.5-litre diesel is a cracker.
The Vauxhall Astra is a car that feels properly enjoyable to drive.
Vauxhall pushed the boat out with the interior of the Astra Mk7. The plastics feel suitably sumptuous on the bits that you touch on a daily basis, and elsewhere they’re thick and robust so shouldn’t scratch too easily. There are smatterings of chrome on the instrument surrounds, the ventilation controls and the infotainment system to give it high end look.
The instruments are very definitely of the old-school analogue variety, but are clear and easy to understand at a glance. A simple display between them shows information on driving data, sat-nav instructions or what you’re listening to.
Vauxhall Astras feature a central touchscreen, but you’ll need to buy a version with Nav in the name to make sure it has satellite-navigation fitted.
Every new model Astra has Bluetooth and cruise control as a minimum. As you head up the trim levels, you also get dual-zone climate control, heated seats and electrically adjustable and folding door mirrors, as well as rear parking sensors and a self-dimming interior mirror.
Even the longest of leg will have little issue getting comfortable in the front of a Vauxhall Astra. There’s plenty of adjustment, for the seats, and lots of space around them. The back-seat area is generous enough for two adults or gangly teens. You’ll be able to sit behind a tall driver without feeling hemmed in at all, and your head will be well clear of the roof-lining.
A central passenger in the rear won’t feel quite so good but, in reality, there’s enough space to squeeze three in there for short journeys.
The boot is a fair 370 litres, so will take the family’s weekly shopping. This expands to a decent 1,210 litres with the rear seats folded down. When folded, the rear seats leave a large step in the boot floor, so you won’t be able to slide heavy items in easily.
Running costs and reliability
Most models of Vauxhall Astra are fairly affordable to run. The petrol engines work brilliantly in town, where they have a pretty light thirst, no matter whether they’re linked up to the standard manual gearbox or the optional automatic.
The diesels have developed a taste for fuel, but perform well on the motorway where they could take you from the Yorkshire Moors to the bright lights of London without having to stop to refuel.
What cinch loves
This generation of Astra is Vauxhall’s best ever, by some margin. It’s truly competitive in all areas because it’s decently spacious, really comfortable, handles precisely and won’t cost you a fortune to run. Far from it, in fact. Fuel costs are low, insurance prices are entirely acceptable and you shouldn’t have to replace parts very often.
It’s the sort of car that will make you feel good when you take a second to look around the interior, and just as good when you glance back at it as you’re walking away at journey’s end.