First Drive: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer
Still a great workhorse, but with a much-needed injection of desirability, says Alex Grant.
Sector: Lower Medium Price: £16,585–£24,810 Fuel: 45.6–83.1mpg CO2: 86–142g/km
For generations, Vauxhall has carved out a niche for the Astra estate within its fleet offering. Four out of five sell to businesses, often deployed as a capacious workhorse for end-users prioritising practicality over the car park cachet of a crossover.
But it’s not only soft-roaders which are challenging that patch. The Focus Estate is still the biggest seller, but the Octavia has taken second place in the UK. So Vauxhall’s latest Astra Sports Tourer is targeting cheaper running costs and an upmarket feel to broaden its appeal.
Sharing the hatchback’s huge generational improvements will certainly help. Widespread weight reduction means it offers the same performance with smaller, more fuel efficient engines, as well as downsizing tyres and brakes to cut running costs. Insurance groups are lower, and P11d pricing has come down across most of the range.
That lightness is noticeable on the road. It’s agile without needing heavily-sprung suspension, now riding and handling like the best in the class.
As in the hatch, all versions have a de-cluttered dashboard with improved material quality and a neat touchscreen setup including Apple and Android connectivity, in both cases capable of streaming their native navigation apps as if they were built into the car. The clever OnStar system is standard equipment on to SRi and Elite models.
Practicality remains the big selling point, though, and Vauxhall has maximised the available space within a near-identical footprint. The boot holds 540 litres, 1,630 with the rear bench folded, which is significantly more than the Focus, but smaller than the Octavia – a bigger car overall. There’s no step over the folded rear bench, no intrusion from chassis braces or suspension and a 1.7-metre maximum load length.
However, the Astra lacks clever features. So there’s no under-floor storage and folding passenger seat as on the Octavia, only Elite versions have additional handles to drop the rear bench from the back of the boot, and the new hands-free powered tailgate is an option on top of the non-standard keyless entry.
Most UK cars will get one of the three 1.6-litre diesel engines, weighted towards the 108bhp version offered on all trim levels. This returns up to 78.5mpg and 96g/km, or 83.1mpg and 89g/km with the £500 ecoFLEX package. There’s a small economy compromise for the larger wheels on SRi and Elite models, but, at up to 80.7mpg and 92g/km, both are impressively frugal.
As are the other engine options. The 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel offers 2.0-litre performance and up to 74.3mpg, while the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol comes in at 65.7mpg and 100g/km (or 97g/km with the Easytronic gearbox). The latter is surprisingly potent and very tax efficient, though perhaps not the best fit for drivers regularly stretching the Astra’s load-carrying abilities.
Its potential to radically alter its sales mix is lower than the hatchback, but the workhorse of the range now looks, feels and drives much better than its predecessor, without compromising its best-loved qualities.