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Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Exclusiv 1.7 CDTi 110 ecoFlex

Click to view picture gallery“The new British designed and built
  Astra Sports Tourer from Vauxhall,
  which has all the styling and practical
  hallmarks of its
Insignia big brother,
  is a born winner

THE REAL GOOD NEWS, of course, is that it is totally designed and built in Britain. All the design engineering work was carried at GM's Millbrook facility and the production, like the Astra five-door Hatch, is carried out at GM's Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire.

In UK showrooms from 26 November (2010), the Astra Sports Tourer, with a choice of seven engines and four levels of trim and equipment, has pricing ranging from 16,575 to 24,300. Whilst some models are actually 500 cheaper than those they replace, all models have more load space, higher levels of equipment, an interior of a much higher quality and design and seem to have a better on road driving refinement for UK roads than the old version.

Traditionally in the UK, Astra sales are 90 per cent to the fleet and business user-chooser sectors but Vauxhall expects the new generation of Hatch and Sports Tourer models to increasingly appeal to cost and style conscious retail buyers — just as the Insignia has done.

Rear seatbacks are
lowered at the press
of a button.
With all the rear seats
in use, cargo space
is 500 litres; with the
rear seats folded
this goes up to a huge
1,500 litres
Interestingly, 60 per cent of Astra Hatch customers choose a petrol engine but because the Sports Tourer is used for carrying loads the split between petrol and diesel models is 50:50. The best-selling Astra Sports Tourer model is predicted to be the 1.7-litre CDTi 110 turbodiesel with Exclusiv specification (as reviewed here), priced at 19,375.

All models in the new range are equipped with an electronic stability programme (ESP), six airbags, air conditioning, daytime running lights, front electric windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, 60:40 spilt rear folding seats, central locking and a good stereo radio / CD / MP3 / Aux-in sound system.

Alloy road wheels appear as standard on SRi and SE models, as does the very smart FlexFold 60:40 split-fold rear seatbacks which are lowered at the press of a button housed in the sides of the load area. With all the rear seats in use, cargo space is 500 litres; with the rear seats folded this goes up to a huge 1,500 litres. And the floor is completely flat for the loading of long items of up to 1,835mm — impressive space in a family estate that's only 4,698mm in length.

There is a huge array of extra-cost options which includes the return of FlexRide, a rarity in this sector. FlexRide allows the driver to choose between Standard, Sport and Tour settings which continually adapt to changes in driving style and cornering speed. That said, the Millbrook design team's tuning of the steering and suspension settings specifically for the UK's poor roads has more or less done away with the need for this option — unless real-life users have a very real need for speed.

The new Astra Sports Tourer is impressive in most ways. The sports styling, swept-back Astra family front-end, coupe side silhouette, discretely elevated roof and wrap-around tail section follow the style of the Insignia's proven and popular design.

The interior has the same Insignia wrap-around dashboard linking nicely to the front door panels. The quality of the interior is hugely improved — it's just like a smaller version of the Insignia, so this will appeal to retail customers as well. The instruments are comprehensive and the controls generally well laid out although a few of the stalks hide behind the steering wheel rim and spokes. Ride comfort is good, handling precise and the uprated rear suspension dampers (because it's an estate) result in a better ride that feels more planted.

The 1.7-litre turbodiesel
unit in the ecoFlex
specification returns
62.8mpg in the Combined
Cycle with 119g/km of
CO2 emissions — road
tax costs 0 for the First
Year and just 30
annually thereafter
The engine line-up is already well known. The interesting addition is the 138bhp 1.4-litre turboed petrol unit with 147lb ft of torque from 1,850rpm and a six-speed manual gearbox.

It's another of the new generation of small capacity turbocharged petrol units that respond like a diesel and also return good fuel economy — 46.3mpg in the Combined Cycle with CO2 emissions of 144g/km for a road tax bill of just 125 a year.

However the bread-and-butter and best-selling engine is the long-serving 1.7-litre 108bhp turbodiesel unit with 191lb ft of torque from 1,700rpm and which in the ecoFlex specification returns 62.8mpg in the Combined Cycle (51.8mpg on test) with 119g/km of CO2 emissions! Plus a road tax cost of 0 for the First Year then 30 annually thereafter.

With the standard-fit six-speed manual 'box, the top speed is 113mph and 0-62mph takes 12.2 seconds. This engine is not the most refined or quiet diesel engine on the market today, but it is strong, durable and fuel efficient. On start-up it is noisy but the refinement of the new body masks the engine clatter when underway.

The 'nays' first: Alloy wheels are extra cost, noisy diesel engine at start-up and idling and, as on the Astra five-door Hatch, large front-quarter blind spots.

Reasons to buy: Designed and built in Britain, classy and sporty styling, hugely practical fold-flat seating and load carrying capacity, UK-tuned handling, good ride comfort, low running costs, vastly improved interior quality and modern styling, new higher pride of ownership factor and competitive pricing.

The design brief for the new Astra Sports Tourer was 'great style with functionality and a vastly improved, high quality interior'. And I can tell you that all those boxes have been well and truly ticked. — David Miles

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Exclusiv 1.7 CDTi 110 ecoFlex
| 19,375
Maximum speed: 113mph | 0-62mph: 12.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 51.8mpg
Power: 108bhp | Torque: 191lb ft | CO2 119g/km