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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Vauxhall Astra SRi 1.4 Turbo CVT

Click to view picture gallery“For decades Vauxhall has been
  the go-to brand for Brits buying
  a mainstream car. The latest Astra,
  powered by a wide range of new
  petrol and diesel engines, is in the
  showrooms now. So should you
  be moseying along there?”


YOU CAN PUT ONE of these five-door hatchbacks on your drive from a competitive £19K although if you really want to splash the cash you could lay out as much as £29K. To make it interesting, there are seven spec levels from the entry SE through to the Ultimate Nav.

This past week we've been putting one of the new petrol-drinkers — a 143bhp three-cylinder 1.4-litre unit partnered with a continuously variable transmission — through the hoops. Other powerplants include a 1.2-litre petrol with either 110 or 130hp or, if an oil-burner floats your boat, a 1.5 three-pot turbodiesel with a choice of 105 or 122hp that in the higher tune also offers the option of a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Three-cylinder engines
are three-a-penny these
days and the turboed
petrol three-pot nestling
in the Astra’s engine bay
is a lively little number
putting out 143bhp and a
gutsy 180lb ft of ‘twist’.
Flex your right foot and
you’ll quickly find it to be
a peppy free-revver that’s
eager to get its power
down through the front
wheels. Make full use of
it and you’ll see 62mph
in 9.3 seconds and top
out at a very naughty
130mph...”
Not everyone knows that Vauxhall is now owned by the PSA Peugeot Citroen group. As a consequence, all Vauxhall model ranges will eventually switch to using PSA platforms (the Crossland X and the Grandland X have already migrated to them). That noted, the current — seventh — generation Astra is still more Vauxhall than Peugeot although it has already benefited from significant updating, including some styling tweaks that have not only streamlined its lean looks but also its aerodynamics and in the process improved its drag coefficient to a class-leading 0.26. Good news visually, and also good news for economy.

The true heart of any car is its cabin and the Astra's makes you feel right at home — the styling is smart not showy, the dash cleanly ergonomic and neatly laid-out and with a decent mix of materials and smart finishing. Black cloth with contrasting patterned centre panels covers the chairs. The front seats are also sensibly bolstered — enough to keep you in situ without being trackday-hard — and as supportive as they are comfortable with plenty of surrounding personal space. There's also lots of leg room and a full fist of headroom which, given the Astra's sporty roofline, you might not have been expecting.

The driver comes in for some extra pampering with an Ergonomic Active Seat that adds powered height adjustment, four-way powered lumbar and an extending seat cushion. The leather-wrapped steering wheel's slim rim feels good in your hands and is as multifunction as they come. Three-stage seat heating and a heated steering wheel (both options on the SRi model) are sensible add-ons given the UK's bankable cold spells.

From behind the wheel there's A1 visibility in all directions thanks to narrow screen pillars and long, deep side windows. Worth a mention are the wipers — they sweep virtually the entire screen area which is a real boon in poor weather conditions; you'll be hard pressed to find many other cars that can do this. Reversing is doable without a rear-view camera which works out well because it's not standard-fit on the SRi.

The instrument panel features four dials, all with clear white-on-black markings: two small for temperature and fuel along with two larger main dials for speed and revs which sit in their own nacelles. All four are clustered around a multi-function trip computer that as well as all the usual data, mpg and range, etc, includes the posted speed limit and a digital readout of your actual road-speed.

Comms are faster and more intuitive, both for infotainment and navigation. A seven-inch touchscreen is your command-and-control centre and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with RDS Traffic information, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, a DAB digital radio, USB connection with iPod control, and handsfree calls via the remote steering wheel controls. Vauxhall also offer the now virtually indispensable dash cams — Road Angel models priced from £160 that can capture remarkable full HD footage. When connected to your mobile phone via built-in WiFi, these dash cams let you watch a real-time video preview on your Smartphone and download it if an accident happens.

The Astra serves up an
engaged drive that
s
marked by understated
agility: the average driver
going about their
everyday business will
probably take it all for
granted but keen drivers
will quickly realise they
have a well-planted and
puntable little number
at their beck and call.
The recent chassis and
suspension tweaks have
definitely lifted the
Astra
s handling abilities
and the accurate steering
is nicely weighted.
Light on its feet thanks
to a lean fighting weight,
its nose is keen to tuck-in
and go exactly where
it's aimed...”
In-cabin storage hasn't been forgotten and there's a lot of it, from deep and wide door bins that genuinely take large bottles, a practical coin box in the fascia which can hold all sorts of oddments (and not just coins of the realm), and dual-use siamesed cupholders; you'll also unearth more storage under the adjustable armrest between the front seats.

Kit is pretty comprehensive given the SRi is only number three on the Astra hatchback's seven-step trim ladder. In addition to items already mentioned, it also comes with automatic dual-zone AirCon (with a particulate filter that removes dust, airborne particles and pollen from the cabin), cruise control with speed limiter, privacy rear glass with tinted glass to the front, four one-shot up/down power windows, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic lighting with tunnel detection, rain-sensing wipers, a solar heat-absorbing windscreen, and a set of alloy wheels.

Safety is well covered too with a Forward Collision Alert system with automatic city emergency braking with pedestrian recognition. You can also depend on Lane Departure Warning with Lane Assist. Added to that are items such as tyre pressure monitoring and LED daytime running lights. If you tick the box for the optional Vauxhall Connect (£415) it will be there for you 24/7, 365 days a year: in an emergency, just touch the button and it will connect you directly to a trained adviser.

The Astra's rear cabin is family-friendly — three side-by-side is not a problem although the likelihood is that most of the time it will be youngsters travelling in the back. Isofix child-seat fittings can be found on the outer seats and making it easier to strap children into them (as well as for grown-ups to get in and out) is the fact that the rear seats are set about six inches higher than those in front and the consequent higher hip-points really do make a difference.

Once there adults enjoy decent foot room, made better by the absence of a space-stealing central tunnel; there's good knee room too, and light between the top of passengers' heads and the roof. More importantly, there's decent wriggle-room. Add in relaxing backrest angles and seats as shapely as those in the front, pouch pockets on the front seatbacks, and usable boor bins that take small bottles along with outer armrests on the doors, and the Astra's rear cabin provides a nice space in which to travel.

Hatchbacks of the Astra's size are often bought to serve as uncomplaining family transport and ride comfort is an important consideration. Astra buyers won't find themselves short-changed — revised spring and damper rates deliver a decent, well-controlled ride that accommodates bumps and potholes with notable disdain but is not so soft as to compromise handling control. Your passengers may well decide that they're happier along for the ride in your Vauxhall than in a Golf or Focus.

Three-cylinder engines are three-a-penny these days and the turboed petrol three-pot nestling in the Astra's engine bay is a lively little number putting out 143bhp and a gutsy 180lb ft of torque. Flex your right foot and you'll quickly find it to be a peppy free-revver that's eager to get its power down through the front wheels. Make full use of it and it'll take you past the 62mph post from standstill in 9.3 seconds; keep the pedal to the metal and it'll top out at a very naughty 130mph.

The CVT is a smooth-
changer (Vauxhall call it
‘stepless’ and it really
does feel seamless)
so you do need to keep
an eye on the speedo
because on country
roads this 1.4 SRi auto
zips up to 60mph
deceptively quickly and
quietly. Should you feel
in a DIY mood, the CVT
also offers a manual
mode with seven

‘gears’...”
The CVT is a smooth-changer (Vauxhall call it 'stepless' and it really does feel seamless) so you do need to keep an eye on the speedo because on country roads this 1.4 SRi auto zips up to 60mph deceptively quickly and quietly. Should you feel in a DIY mood, the CVT also offers a manual mode with seven 'gears'.

It's no gas-guzzler either. Among the wind-cheating tweaks are automatically opening and closing upper and lower front grille sections and an equally smart underbody engine compartment cover. Together with a Stop/Start system they contribute to an official combined consumption figure of 49.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 115g/km. A week's pretty hard test driving saw our 1.4 auto record an average of 44.9mpg — good enough to raise a smile and indicative that everyday drivers with a smidgen more consideration should beat our numbers and achieve that Big Five-O.

The Astra serves up an engaged drive that's marked by understated agility: the average driver going about their everyday business will probably take it all for granted but keen drivers will quickly realise they have a well-planted and puntable little number at their beck and call. The recent chassis and suspension tweaks have definitely lifted the Astra's handling abilities and the accurate steering is nicely weighted. Light on its feet thanks to a lean fighting weight, its nose is keen to tuck-in and go exactly where it's aimed.

At 370 litres, the Astra's boot is a 'clean' and regular shape and a particularly good size for this sector. Drop the 60:40-split rear seats (they do fold flat) and you can accommodate up to 1,210 litres of cargo. Access is easy thanks to the high-lifting tailgate with parcel shelf luggage cover and the drop to the boot floor over the load sill is barely a couple of inches so no hassle when loading/unloading. Sliding items all the way into the opened up loadbay is not a problem because the extended floor is seamless and flat.

The Astra family hatch is long-time best-seller for Vauxhall and this latest one has upped its game with powerful and economical new drivetrains and improved suspension and ride comfort, making it competitive against key rivals including VW's über-competent Golf. Once sampled, for plenty of drivers an Astra it will 'ave to be! ~ MotorBar
.
Vauxhall Astra SRi 1.4 Turbo CVT | £24,510
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds | Test Average: 44.9mpg
Power: 143bhp | Torque: 180lb ft | CO2: 115g/km

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