Vauxhall Astra EcoFlex Road Test

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ECO-FLEXIBLE FRIEND


Over the past few months I’ve had the chance to try a few of Vauxhall's newest models and have walked away impressed. The unusual aspect of this is that for many years I wasn't especially enthusiastic about the brand or its products. But as the saying goes, times change. The quality and design that's now been built into Vauxhall's has transformed them, the OnStar system one of the most intuitive you're likely to become connected. And then there's the comfort of the cabin, the latest crop of Vauxhall's both big and small some of the most physically relaxing on the road.


The one aspect of Vauxhall that now concerns me is the fact they've now become part of the PSA family. Granted, Peugeot and Citroen manufacture some of the most eye catching modern cars currently available. Similarly, Vauxhall's new Crossland SUV sits on a Citroen floor pan and over time there will be a commonality of parts. All I hope is that GM and Vauxhall in particular are left with a degree of anonymity and allowed to continues in the direction the company is travelling.


One of Vauxhall's most successful models is without doubt the Astra. First introduced in 1979 and nothing more than a RHD Opel Kadett with the griffin badge fitted, the Astra has been through numerous incarnations including reappearing as an early Kia. The one continuous Astra factor is that the name and the various models have endured something few others apart from VW's Golf and Porsche's 911 can lay claim to.


Vauxhall's latest Astra has almost crept up on the market, the new more refined styling, the fact its 200kg lighter, the latest ecoFLEX engines, integrated wifi and improved economy almost appearing under the radar. It isn't however my task to ask as to why, instead to report on the fact that one of the UK's most popular hatchbacks has now been noticeably elevated from one of many to a mid-sized hatch worth taking notice of.


As usual all the various engine types and sizes are o be had along with estate and more sporting alternatives. This review however concentrates on the SRi NAV fitted with the 1-litre turbo petrol unit. Visually, the Astra has adopted a more svelte look, tapering waistlines, detailing around the arches and Intellilux LED matrix front and rear lights that now mound themselves into place, the famous griffin badge the fronts only real bright work. Inside the cabin, Vauxhall's latest innovations are there but in most instances kept well out of sight.

Airy and extremely comfortable, trim level on the SRi instantly highlights Vauxhall's elevated attention to detail. Textured surfaces and well laid out instrumentation greet the driver and passengers. More than ample room for five adults along with 370 litres of cargo capacity, the luggage spaces more than doubles with the rear seats folded.


Fitted with Driving Assist package, unlike other similar systems, should the driver digress the Astra will gently prompt vehicular adjustment without having to resort to flashing lights and alarms. Now a feature of most new Vauxhalls, the car as tested featured Vauxhall's wifi facility along with OnStar all of which is controlled through the European spec, Navi900 8" touch screen and satnav system. One of the most remarkable systems of recent times, OnStar main aim in life is to take the utmost care of the car and occupants. I've written many lines about Vauxhall's OnStar personal connectivity and service assistant so I'll refrain from going over it but still remains about the best of its type.


The truly impressive aspect of the Astra was the 999cc petrol engine. Placing 105hp and 170Nm of torque at the driver's disposal, mated to a smooth 5-speed manual transmission, at no point does the Astra feel underpowered. Driven in conjunction with the Stop/Start facility and over varied roads and speeds, the car consistently delivered between 44 and 45 mpg or approximately 300 miles minimum per 48 litre tank full of unleaded.


Irrespective of which trim level or engine size or type you might prefer, it now comes as no surprise that the new Astra is now at the front of the cue when it comes to attracting family buyers looking for style, economy, ease of driving, practicality and value for money. On the road the basic cost of the basic SRi model is £20,375 rising to £22,125 for the slightly better spec car as tested. But even with the extras the Astra ecoFLEX still represents sensible value for money.



 By; Mark Stone



The Vauxhall Astra EcoFlex Road Test