Vauxhall Astra hatchback (2019 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The Astra is deservedly one of Britain’s best-selling cars, and the changes for 2019 and onward keep it very competitive against its arch-rival, the Ford Focus. It’s an excellent performer that drives well and is nicely thought-out inside, and the new engine line-up improves fuel efficiency without compromising performance. If you’re in the market for a hatchback, make sure you add the Astra to your list.

Pros

  • Comfortable and good to drive
  • New engines improve efficiency
  • Well-equipped

Cons

  • Some rivals are a bit nicer inside
  • Rear visibility isn’t great
  • Entry-level versions missing some safety features

Interested in buying a Vauxhall Astra?

How good does it look? 4/5

This version of the Astra might have all new engines under the bonnet, but it’s visually very similar to its predecessor, with new lights and a revised grille the only real differences. We don’t anticipate too many complaints though, as even though the design dates back to 2015, it still looks every inch the contemporary hatchback.

Trim levels are plentiful, with the entry-level SE model and fleet-aimed Business Edition Nav coming with 16-inch alloy wheels and tinted rear windows. The SRi and SRi Nav models lose the tinted windows but have 17-inch alloys and LED headlights, while the SRi VX Line Nav rides on big 18-inch alloys and has gloss black exterior bits. The Elite Nav drops the wheel size back down to 17 inches, and the top-of-the-range Ultimate Nav has upgraded Matrix headlights – which can keep high beam on without dazzling oncoming traffic – and LED taillights, and 18-inch wheels.

What's the interior like? 4/5

It’s rather nice inside the Astra, with the dashboard hosting a 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, depending on which model you get. Both get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Elite and Ultimate models also get an 8.0-inch digital display in place of the traditional instrument dials, which look rather snazzy. We’ve found the seats comfortable, with a driving position that has plenty of adjustment. SRi models get different sports seats, which we’ve not tried yet. The materials used around the cabin feel very nice: not quite as premium as something like a (more expensive) Volkswagen Golf, but a bit nicer than in Ford’s Focus.

How practical is it? 4/5

Not every hatchback of this size can house four adults in comfort, but there shouldn’t be any such issues with the Astra with plenty of head and legroom in the back. The middle seat is cramped, but that’s the same with almost any car of this size. The boot, at 370 litres, is bigger than the Focus and close in size to cars like the Golf and the Kia Ceed. However, it does have a big lip at the boot entrance that you’ll have to lug stuff over.

What's it like to drive? 5/5

Vauxhall has tweaked the suspension for this model of Astra, and it’s created a set-up that’s comfortable and supple over 95% of road surfaces, although we did find that on particularly gnarled B-roads, it could be a bit busy and bobbly. But it’s largely fine, and has the added bonus of being engaging behind the wheel too. The steering is nicely weighted and communicative, and the Astra feels nimble and confidence-inspiring when changing direction. If it wasn’t for the Ford Focus, which in our book is the driver’s hatchback of choice, this would be right up there.

How powerful is it? 4/5

This is the big change in this version of the Astra, with all the previous engines ditched in favour of new ones. Reflecting the changes in the car industry, the new engines are small, turbocharged and with three cylinders, rather than the more traditional four cylinders. There are petrol and diesel versions, starting with a 1.2-litre petrol that comes 110, 130 or 145 horsepower. There’s also a 1.4-litre turbo engine, also with 145 horsepower but available only with a CVT automatic gearbox.

We’ve tried the 145-horsepower 1.2 with the manual gearbox, and it’s impressive, with plenty of pep and punch. You never feel like you’re missing that fourth cylinder.

Diesel engines are all 1.5-litres in size, with 105 or 122 horsepower. The more powerful version can be specified with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, and that’s the one we’ve tried. It’s quite loud and chuggy, but it pulls well, with a sprightly, responsive feel to the accelerator. The auto box, based on our relatively short time with it, feels smooth and unobtrusive.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

Purchase prices for the Astra remain largely unchanged from the previous version, which makes it very competitive against its rivals. The diesel version particularly looks like a very solid option for business users, as its low CO2 emissions make it far cheaper on company car tax than its predecessor, or the equivalent Golf or Focus. But with its smaller capacity engines, most versions should be impressively easy on fuel, which will keep running costs down. One note of caution is with resale values, which may not be quite as strong as the Astra’s main rivals.

How reliable is it? 3/5

Vauxhall has had a very decent record for reliability in recent years, sitting sixth in JD Power’s 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study, and it’s maintained a similar status in previous years’ studies too. That said, other surveys have been less kind to Vauxhall as a whole, and some have singled out the Astra as a particularly poor performer. We’d hope that these new engines would start to make amends for that. Should anything go wrong with your Astra, Vauxhall offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, which is fairly standard for the industry but is dwarfed by five-year warranties offered by Toyota on the Corolla and Hyundai i30, and the massive seven-year warranty that Kia will give you on a Ceed.

How safe is it? 3/5

The Astra scored the maximum five stars in crash tests by safety organisation Euro NCAP, but that was back in 2015 and the criteria for such a score have moved on since then. Vauxhall includes six airbags as standard, as well as Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats. An alarm isn’t included as standard on entry-level models, and automatic emergency braking is only included on cars from SRi trim upwards, which is disappointing.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

There are plenty of features available in the Astra, including some that you might not expect in a car at this price point. The entry-level SE has dark-tinted rear windows, DAB radio and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, as well as cruise control and electric mirrors, air-conditioning and remote central locking. Business Edition Nav upgrades to an infotainment system with satellite-navigation, as well as a leather-covered steering wheel.

SRi and SRi Nav add a sports front seats and finally adds an alarm system, as well as a camera system for ease of manoeuvring, as well as sat-nav in the SRi Nav (as the name suggests. The SRi VX Line Nav brings in some exterior cosmetic embellishments, while the Elite Nav brings in climate control and leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats and two rear USB chargers, as well as a Bose premium sound system, wireless phone charger and the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen.

The top-of-the-range trim is the Ultimate, which as you’d expect gets pretty much everything thrown in. On top of the Elite you’ll get front and rear parking sensors, a heated windscreen to make life easier on frosty mornings, and a traffic sign recognition system that displays the current speed limit on the dashboard.

Why buy? 4/5

The Astra is one of the best-driving hatchbacks on the market, and with the latest tweaks to its engine range, it’s now more efficient than ever without compromising performance. It remains a solid all-rounder that should be affordable to run, and is available in a range of specs to suit different needs.

Interested in buying a Vauxhall Astra?

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Hatchback