Vauxhall released the Astra under the impression it was in the same league as the Insignia. But measuring up to a former European Car of the Year takes more than packing in integrity, performance, and quality in a compact car. On the outset, the Astra offers a confusing range of choices: from six-petrol engines, four diesels, to trim levels that cover both cut-price retail promos and fleet buyers, we’re not exactly sure where the Astra is going with its image.
Compared to the previous generation, the latest Astra is much larger and is even bigger than its competitors. The wheelbase is longer at 1.5 metres. The steep price tag is primarily found in the length of the metal parts. The latest generation also makes other marked improvements: it evolves from dull lines and into a cleaner yet sculpted look that is derived from the Insignia. Rear styling carries on the sculpting the car successfully pulls off. The design also boasts of prime function: the engine is found so low in the car so that weight is distributed and that pedestrians are assured safety.
The Astra boasts of smooth standard suspension and the Sri models’ sports suspension provides enhanced body control and enough comfort. The ride is also quite refined even on a bumpy road. Road noise is kept at a minimum, but wind noise does increase when going at increased speeds. There’s also a slight distraction from the pedals’ vibrations.
Although the Astra provides smoothness on the standard suspension and grip on the bends, competitors still boast off better sharpness while driving. There’s a Flexride adaptive suspension option that improves certain modes, but it still doesn’t enhance the Astra’s ride significantly.
The interior does sport a beautiful dashboard, but it lacks in achieving proper functions. Switches are scattered about and are difficult to find. Drivers will have to get used to the control’s layout before getting the hang of it. And even with its large size, the fastback roofline still doesn’t achieve enough room for the boot.
The Astra’s Sri six-speed gearbox comes as a standard. Be warned that there have been complains about the lever and the clutch progression. Ratios are also not as impressive and even questionable. Fifth and sixth gears require overdrive, and also demand an overtake that doesn’t measure up to the real-world performance the Astra promises. The 1.4 petrol’s 86bhp is way too small for this car’s large size; stretch the power any further and you’ll have to maintain high revs. The 1.6-litre is equally unimpressive, with its sluggish engine performance and 60mph done at a slow mark of 10.9 seconds. Another engine that fails in keeping up is the 1.3 CDTI turbodiesel motor, which slugs through traffic by making you go over 2500rpm to maintain the right speed. The 2.0 CDTi also joins the engines’ unimpressive ranks with its noise at low speeds and diesel clatter. You can only expect the quiet to start at about the fifth or sixth gears, but only on motorway speeds.
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