VAUXHALL ASTRA: gently does it

1546155__SCP9895TALK about hiding your light under a bushel. A quick glance at the latest Astra gives no hint whatsoever of its capabilities.

It’s almost as anonymous as Donald Trump’s hair stylist, another neat family hatch from Vauxhall to add to the many more neat family hatchbacks plying for sales.

1546159__SCP9966But in this one, the sit-up-and-take-notice moment occurs a fraction of a second after you press just that bit too firmly on the accelerator.

Because then it takes off just like a rat I’ve found nonchalantly munching the peanuts I put out for the birds in the cage on our bird table. And that means swiftly.

Its 1.6 turbocharged engine serves up 200PS and 300Nm of torque, sending it on to a 6.6 second sprint to 62mph and a top speed of 146mph. All the more remarkable when you consider that standard fare a few years back in your average Astra was a 1.4 lump that didn’t the energy to stir a cup of tea, never mind your senses.

Vauxhall certainly got most of the right ingredients together when it came to cooking up their all-new Astra – because it’s a car that is destined to sell like hot cakes.

1546161__SMC6223They’ve managed to improve the car in every way over the old model and it now drives just as well as any other hatchback that it’s ranged against on the market.

Good driving dynamics and a distinct shift upwards in overall quality will click Vauxhall’s compact hatch up on the radar of far more motorists.

A quick glance at the new version will give you the impression of a decent sized car – which it is.

There’s a commendable amount of front cabin space, and those in the rear aren’t unnecessarily cramped either. The longer wheelbase helps in that area, and also pays you a dividend in the comfort stakes because the ride quality is so much better than before.

Years ago I was a dissenting voice in the regular office debate over Escort v Astra.
Even when it switched to Focus v Astra I was unwavering in my opinion (for what it counts for) and could never fully understand or appreciate why everyone banged on about the Ford – competent as it was – when the Vauxhall was patently a better family car.

Nothing that came out of Dagenham swayed my opinion and just for good measure, I thought the Astra was neater looking too.

1079028__DLS4167Astra is now right up there with the best in the class, and It’s a huge improvement over its predecessor. It’s got a great, well-planted feel on the road and is sure-footed to drive, displaying all the necessary attributes you need for safe 21st century motoring.

Dynamically the ride quality is every bit as good as you’d expect from a car that has been heavily revised to improve it over its predecessor.

Astra is an important car to Vauxhall’s fortunes – one of their UK Top 10 sellers, along with Corsa and Insignia. It’s not just a fleet car either, finding favour with a lot of user-choosers for its tidy looks and user friendly antics.

It has an interior quality that gives it a true premium feel. The classy finish it now has puts it a few steps ahead of its class rivals and there’s no overtly plastic feel here any more. It’s even got its own built in wifi zone and Vauxhall’s award winning Onstar package, and in Ultimate trim there are plenty standard features on board.

Past generations of Astras have been sales successes for Vauxhall and while the opposition have raised the bar, so does the new model. And quite successfully too.

The Ultimate Astra? Probably the best yet.

Vauxhall Astra Ultimate

Price: £27,235 (£29,985 as tested)
Engine: 1.6 litre, turbocharged, four cylinder, petrol
Power: 200PS
Torque: 300Nm
Transmission: six speed manual
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 6.6secs
Economy: 45.6
CO2 emissions: 142g/km

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