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Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Tech Line 1.6 CDTi 110PS ecoFLEX

Click to view picture gallery“We Brits love our estate cars and
  because Vauxhall
s new Astra Sports
  Tourer has won a fistful of ‘best
  estate
awards including European
  Car of the Year, is it the one we
  should all be rushing out to buy?”


ACTUALLY, IN THE SPORT TOURER'S CASE, a week in the hands of MotorBar's experienced testers has confirmed that on this occasion you can safely trust the informed vote.

Built in Britain — 'Up north' at Ellesmere Port — the Astra 'ST' is essentially one of Vauxhall's new 'European Car of the Year' Astra hatchbacks clothed in an athletic 'touring' bodyshell that has avoided any hint of traditional wagon 'boxiness'. Indeed it looks every inch the sporty thoroughbred. But it will still seat five in its roomy cabin while carrying 540 litres of their luggage in its boot.

And when the time comes for some full-on load-lugging, it steps up to offer an impressive and accommodating 1,630-litre, totally level-floored loadbay. Great for business or pleasure, buggies or bikes, or even a brace of Briards.

First choice for many
with an eye on the
running costs will be the
1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX diesel
unit as reviewed here
with tax-avoiding
emissions of just 92g/km
and a real-life 60.4mpg
recorded by us during a
week’s hard driving...”
The ability to carry big loads calls for ample power under the bonnet and this is ably provided by the 108bhp 1.6 ecoFLEX turbodiesel on duty in the engine bay. Of course, being a Vauxhall there's a big range of petrol and diesel powerplants to choose from ranging between 98 and 197bhp.

First choice for many with an eye on the running costs will be the 1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX diesel unit, as reviewed here, with tax-avoiding emissions of just 92g/km and an official EU fuel consumption rated at 80.7mpg, although in real-life expect to see the still excellent 60.4mpg we recorded during a week's hard driving. And with a 10.5-gallon tank, that's getting on for a convenient 600 miles between fill-ups.

Choosing economy no longer punishes you when it comes to performance — the ecoFLEX's 108bhp is backed up by a hefty wedge of torque that gets the Sports Tourer off the line and to the benchmark 60mph in 10.6 seconds; after that it will run on to 121mph. More importantly, that 221lb ft of tractable torque is crucial to in-gear flexibility and smooth running, particularly when you're making full use of the 1,630-litre cargo bay or all five seats.

These latest-generation turbodiesels from Vauxhall are eager but quiet, well-mannered units, pulling cleanly up to the redline without any of the gruffness usually associated with oil-burners; pick-up in the higher gears is also good and motorways can be cruised at a relaxing gait. In other words, you'll stay relaxed keeping up with traffic, and remain unruffled when there's overtaking to be done. The manual gearbox is a six-speeder with a light change action that won't leave you hanging.

Since the Sports Tourer shares its underpinnings with the Astra hatch, you know that the ST won't be backing off at the first sharp corner you happen to hustle into. And it doesn't — especially if you're travelling solo or have just a single passenger riding shotgun.

These latest-generation
turbodiesels from
Vauxhall are eager but
quiet, well-mannered
units, pulling cleanly up
to the redline without
any of the gruffness
usually associated with
oil-burners;
pick-up in the higher
gears is also good and
motorways can be cruised at a relaxing
gait...”
Vauxhall believes in carrying out its chassis development for UK cars on UK roads — the results can be experienced behind the wheel of the Sports Tourer: you'll like the feeling of being reassuringly planted, and it goes where you point it without any drama. Which brings us back to that first corner — the precise steering turns it in neatly and its underlying cornering balance will see you tidily through the apex and away.

Overall it handles far better that you might have been expecting of an estate car and all that a family workhorse implies. Push on past its comfort zone and there's no sudden smack on the wrist — just a progressive move to understeer that won't disturb your sleeping passengers or the Briards nodding in the boot. All the while, watching your back so to speak, is a competent stability and traction control system.

Overall it's an easy driver too, thanks to light controls and a willingness to change direction readily that make it as fluent to punt around the houses as it is easygoing on the open road, where its well-damped suspension and consistent grip keep it reliably predictable. The brakes, while seeming a tad sensitive on first acquaintance, are more than capable of scrubbing speed both smoothly in town and promptly when the need arises.

As you might expect of a wagon that will be expected to cope with some heavy-duty haulin', the ride is a tad on the firm side — although that doesn't stop there being a decent degree of comfort as bad blacktop is managed well. Our ST rode well on its optional 17-inch 10-spoke alloys and even eighteen-inch-wheeled Sports Tourers we've driven retain the Astra's ride integrity — so if big rims are your thing, option away.

Like your bed, the driver's seat will be in close contact with your body for a long time during ownership, so the importance of getting a good 'un can't be over-emphasised. Fortunately the well-shaped, pleasantly firm chairs in the Sports Tourer provide the essential support, particularly on long journeys; and upholstered in a smart fabric they'll be warm in the winter and won't heat up like leather on hot summer days.

Making it an agreeable
car to live with isn’t
just down to the
plentiful cabin storage
but to the slim,
logically laid-out dash
with minimised
switchgear. At its centre
sits a large touchscreen
that’s ground zero
for the infotainment,
navigation and
connectivity systems...”
Setting the perfect personal driving position is quickly done; once set the driver enjoys good visibility all round so parking up is easy even without the optional (405) front and rear parking sensors.

A decent seat is one thing; personal space is another. And the ST delivers here too, with amazingly good headroom as well as shoulder and elbow room. The central armrest can be extended forwards (but doesn't cramp the trad handbrake) and the outer armrests on the doors are very usable.

More good news: the dials are clear with unbeatable white-on-black figures, as are those displayed on the driver's information screen between them (including the digital speed read-out). And the three-spoke multifunction wheel (cruise, voice, driver's information centre, audio) is good-to-hold with a meaty leather rim.

Making it an agreeable car to live with isn't just down to the plentiful cabin storage (deep bottle-holding door bins and cubbies, trays and cupholders) but to the slim, logically laid-out dash with minimised switchgear. At its centre sits a large (8-inch) touchscreen that's ground zero for the infotainment, navigation and connectivity systems.

The automatic AirCon controls are located below the screen, separated from it by a slim strip of hardwired shortcut buttons for a quick jump to the most important functions. Vauxhall's OnStar personal connectivity and mobility assistant is a 405 option — and almost impossible not to specify given that it comes with a brilliant 4G Wi-Fi hotspot as well as an SOS emergency hotline plus more everyday help such as downloading a destination to the navigation unit.

Tech Line models come with all the essentials including Comfort front seats, auto AirCon, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear powered windows (all four are one-shot up/down), electrically-adjustable & heated door mirrors, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with SatNav, Bluetooth, Vauxhall's IntelliLink connectivity system (Apple CarPlay, smartphone projection and voice recognition), a six-speaker sound system with DAB tuner, multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, multifunction driver's trip computer, and automatic lighting control.

The standout feature of
the rear cabin is the very
generous headroom —
a key ‘feel-good’ factor
when travelling in the
back of any car.
And it’s something that
makes the ST’s truly
spacious rear cabin
genuinely suitable for
family-car duties.
You also get bags of
knee-room and legs can
be properly stretched...”
Additionally you get drive-off auto door locking, tyre pressure monitoring, a complete set of airbags (driver's and front passenger's, front seat side-impact airbags, and full-size curtain airbags). Externally there are LED daytime running lights, a rear spoiler, black roof rails, and 16-inch alloy wheels, plus driver aids such as a Stability Programme (ESP) and Hill Start assist.

The standout feature of the rear cabin is the very generous headroom — a key 'feel-good' factor when travelling in the back of any car. And it's something that makes the ST's truly spacious rear cabin genuinely suitable for family-car duties. You also get bags of knee-room and legs can be properly stretched. Two adults will be very much at ease; alternatively, three children will fit without territorial disputes erupting.

The long side windows ensure interesting views out and, unusually, even the Astra's rear door bins will hold a bottle. Those with smaller children will be pleased to know that ISOFIX child seat fixtures are fitted to the outer rear seats.

Commodious enough to rival Ford and Volkswagen estates, the Sport Touring's 540-litre boot is easily accessed through the high-opening tailgate's large, wide opening. An all-of-a-level loading sill/boot floor makes exploiting the full loadbay's straight-sided 1,630-litre cargo hold (with the 60:40-split rear seats folded down) an untaxing and hassle-free job.

You'll also find more storage space beneath the floor that's easily accessed as the rearmost section of the boot floor lifts. A nice touch is the dedicated space for the luggage roller blind under the boot floor when you've loaded above the window line.

Fairly priced, roomy, comfortable, and with 60mpg economy and spiffing good looks, the Astra Sports Tourer offers a hard-to-beat mix of features for family drivers with a need for space. ~ MotorBar

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Tech Line 1.6 CDTi 110PS ecoFLEX | 20,105
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-60mph: 10.6 seconds | Test Average: 60.4mpg
Power: 108bhp | Torque: 221lb ft | CO2: 92g/km