Little Vauxhall Astra engine has capacity to amaze and charm
Vauxhall's new Astra is undoubtedly good, but does it make sense in 1.0-litre petrol guise?
When Vauxhall reinvented the Astra in 2015, everyone was pleasantly surprised. Mixing impressive comfort with solid driving dynamics, top tech and decent build quality, the Astra is now a truly credible alternative to the segment-leading Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.
In trying to squeeze economy from a petrol derivative, Vauxhall has placed its 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo engine under the bonnet. An official 64.2mpg and a 10.5-second 0-60mph time would suggest the combination works, but does the reality stack up?
Looks and image
The Astra used to be a bland euro-box but has become something of a looker. The last generation was a sleeker and more curvaceous attempt, but the new model is a more grown-up effort.
It looks modern yet restrained, with our mid-spec test car offering trimmings of chrome to add a dash of class.
Inside, it’s less button-heavy than some rivals, with our test car’s touchscreen dominating proceedings. Build quality is solid and the cabin plastics generally good.
Space and practicality
Dark plastics and austere expanses of cloth trim make the cabin feel slightly more cramped than it is. In reality, there’s bags of space up front, and only tall passengers will feel cramped in the back.
The decent 370-litre boot is 10 litres short of the Golf’s but is very useable and can take a family’s weekend luggage.
Behind the wheel
Some drivers are still not convinced a 1.0-litre engine can propel a family car but, amazingly, the Astra is perfectly adequate and far better than you might expect. The 105PS output is never going to set the world on fire, and the chances of achieving the claimed economy slim, but it’s a serviceable little engine that borders on being characterful.
It also offers a very comfortable ride and handles well enough to offer up a little driver enjoyment when pressing on – not an easy balance.
Value for money
Our mid-range 1.0-litre Astra test car included 17in alloys, air conditioning, satellite navigation and the OnStar connectivity and service assistant – something usually reserved for more premium cars.
OnStar allows the driver to call an in-house call centre 24 hours a day to ask for assistance, but it also hosts a connectivity suite including a mobile WiFi hotspot that offers an internet connection for up to seven devices. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included, providing an added dimension of connectivity.
Who would buy one?
The Astra is aimed squarely at young families in need of something practical and affordable. This 1.0-litre version isn’t without its charms, but those seeking real-world efficiency and performance will probably be better served by the impressive 1.6-litre diesels.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Vauxhall Astra SRi Nav 1.0 EcoFlex £20,515 (range from £16,535)
Engine: 999cc, 105Ps, three-cylinder turbo petrol with five-speed manual transmission
Performance: 0-60mph 10.5 seconds; top speed 124mph
MPG: 64.2 combined
CO2 emissions: 104g/km