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CAR REVIEW | Vauxhall Astra Elite: “The engine is current darling of the motoring world”

Here we have the 7th generation Vauxhall Astra. It’s been with us since 2015 and as a result it is still very much a Vauxhall designed product under General Motors. In 2017, Vauxhall was bought by PSA Groupe.

There are 8 models to choose from in the Astra range, priced from £18,905 to £26,295. The mid-range Elite starts at £23,95 before options. 

From the outside, the Astra is a good looking 5 door hatchback. As you would expect, it is an improvement over the previous generations and is now less nondescript than ever. Of note is the size of the boot opening. Finally it has become a bit more square at the bottom. Doesn’t sound much, but as practical hatchbacks go, having a narrow bottom on your opening can hinder loading and unloading. 

It’s around the back that you notice a design faux-pas. The stylish kick-up in the rear doors stretches into the 3/4 panel. Here sits a triangular piece of plastic. To be honest, I’m not a fan of this. It feels cheap and doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever. 

As well as a heated steering wheel, the Elite model also gives four heated leather seats and the leg room is comfortable all round, even for those sitting behind 6 foot tall drivers. There is even a touch of opulence with an attempt at illuminating the door cards. It’s a nice try and just needs a bit of work. Like many others, the rear doors are void of any such niceties though they do get largish rear door bins. 

The hottest item in this Astra Elite is the engine. The small capacity turbo is the current darling of the motoring world. Powering through 3 cylinders with a turbo, the engine makes for an interesting topic of conversation. You don’t need to rev the engine to its redline to get the maximum 145PS of power from it for it to feel sprightly and useful. In the day to day running around you also won’t need to use 3 of its 6 gears either. 

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And here is the strange driving style this Astra has to offer. The engine is its shining star. It surges forward with quite a lot of likeable charisma. Gear changes are effortless and ignoring the change up indicator, makes for an engaging power unit. Power delivery certainly doesn’t feel like that from a little engine. The only giveaway is the thrum emitted by the 3 cylinders. 

There is also enjoyment to be had with this when added to the chassis. The suspension set up is nothing out of the ordinary and it allows for enthusiastic driving. The chassis, while not being the most compliant in the ride department but not hard in an over sporty set up, whizzes along with aplomb. It’s quite sad then that when it gets to the twisty bits, the steering totally lets it down. 

This steering is the Astra’s Achilles Heel. In the straight line, it feels wooden. Give it a few flicks and it won’t inspire much confidence and it’s this confidence that takes sometime to build on because the level of adhesion from the 225/45 17 Conti’s is exceptional. With just a bit more feel, it would make for an inspiring drivers car wrapped in a simple hatchback body. Something you can’t say about many of today’s popular SUV’s.

And therein lies many of the Astra’s problems. It’s just a little too safe even down to the usual over paranoid parking sensors that seem to be inflicted on the Vauxhall owner. 

As cars go, the Astra Elite, in the cold light of day, is one of the best allrounders. It’s like a friend. You know the friend, the one who can be a little curt in conversation. The one you go to when you want to be told the truth. No bullshit, no messing, just straight up honesty. There is no fooling around. Trouble is, you don’t always want to be with that friend.

Love

Engines lively behaviour

Weight of the controls

Chassis balance

Loathe

Wooden steering

Dark interior 

Rear 3/4 trim

The Lowdown

Car –  Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav 1.2 Turbo

Price – £26,210 (as tested)

MPG – 51.4/54.3 mpg (WLTP low/high combined)

Power – 145ps

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0-62mph –  8.8 seconds

Top Speed –  137mph

Co2 – 99 (g/km)

All pictures (c) Stuart M Bird

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