Vauxhall Astra 2015 review
Vauxhall have stepped up to the big leagues of tech innovation with the new Astra 2015. Combining sophisticated electronics with a slimmer waistline and more active style, the seventh-generation Astra sets a new benchmark for Vauxhall. The refreshed new version will be welcomed by anyone looking for a sleeker, sportier, affordable family car.
Rather than a complete overhaul of exterior design features, Vauxhall have tightened up the look of the previous Astra, with a few subtle extras that give a higher quality feel. The model is 5cm shorter and 2.6cm lower, making it more aerodynamic and effective at handling. The new lines make the car appear wider and more hunkered down to the road, giving it a sportier profile.
Vauxhall have re-stylised the grille with the addition of a chrome bar that frames the classic griffin badge, while the rear-end has also been spruced up with sculpted angular panelling, and the blacked-out C-pillar window makes the roof appear to be floating unsupported.
The reduction in size has meant some small sacrifices, mainly noticeable in the reduction in wheel size, with 18-inches now the limit across the range. The integrated front headlights with standard LED daytime running give visibility at all hours, while the optional new signature ‘wing’ taillights are a definitive design feature.
The basic ‘Expression’ trim package misses most of what makes the new Vauxhall Astra punch above its weight, keeping the improved bodywork but losing some of the technological innovations and comfortable cabin features. However, the car quickly becomes more proportionately economical when you step up, with the extra navigational features, bodywork and overall driving experience of the Tech Line GT making it stand out as a class leader.
One sacrifice that has not had to be made in Vauxhall’s quest for a smaller and lighter body is cabin space. Passengers in the back enjoy an additional 3.5cm legroom, while Vauxhall’s improved ‘wellness seating’ (available with the ‘Elite’ spec) gives those in the front breathable leather upholstery, heating and massage functionality. The car has a mid-range boot-space, with 351-litre standard capacity that can be increased through some clever rear-seat adjustments.
Owners of the previous model would immediately appreciate Vauxhall’s new IntelliLink infotainment and OnStar systems as evidence of the Astra’s technological revolution. Providing additional phone signal through the aerial, OnStar can put a call through to a Vauxhall call centre to run diagnostics on your car, download sat-nav directions, or call the emergency services automatically in the event of an accident. OnStar turns your car in to a Wi-Fi hotspot, while the accompanying app lets you lock and unlock your car remotely, keep an eye on your tyre pressures and fuel range and even help you find your car in the most crowded of settings by flashing the lights and sounding the horn.
The buttons and switches seen on the central console of the old Astra have been replaced with a sleek new touchscreen panel, which links Apple and Android devices to enable users to control navigational functions, make calls and use a whole range of apps including Spotify, Skype and WhatsApp.
On the road
Both ride quality and fuel efficiency have been improved by shaving up to 200kg off the Astra 2015. The car now does 0 – 60mph in just 7.8 seconds, with peak torque coming in to play at 2000rpm and maximum power from 5000rpm, meaning that an incremental burst of speed in the mid-range can pay dividends.
With 148bhp, the 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with turbo (from the same design school as the three cylinder Corsa and Viva ranges) can muscle all the way up to a top speed of 134mph. Other engine variants in the new portfolio include a more lightweight 104bhp 1.0-litre turbo petrol 1.6-litre diesel, which can crank from 109bhp – 158bph.
The new technological inclusions have also brought convenience to the driving experience, with LED headlights that switch off automatically when an oncoming vehicle is sensed and the addition of cruise control with speed limiter. Vauxhall designers have also improved on engine efficiency, with a respectable (near-top of its class) fuel economy of 51.4mpg and CO2 emission rate of 128g/km.
Although the responsiveness of the pedals has been questioned, there’s no doubt that the overall quality of driver experience has improved exponentially, with Vauxhall casting off the shackles of mid-range monotony in favour of a more tactile, sportier experience.
Vauxhall have made a definitive step up with the new Astra, focusing on technological integration and a slimmed down chassis as the route to improved driver experience. This enhanced functionality, in tandem with the more luxurious cabin materials and nippier ride, have pushed this latest model into the same league as long-time class favourite, the Ford Focus. Starting at just £19,995 and with a 5-star NCAP safety rating, you would be hard pushed to ask more for your money. If you’re looking for a family car that is safe and will entertain, but also has the capacity to evolve with the times, the Astra 2015 could just be the model for you.