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Vauxhall Astra SRi NAV 1.5 TURBO D

Report 2

While exterior changes to the facelifted Astra were fairly minimal, some big alterations were made under the skin. The most notable is the 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo diesel engine, which isn’t to be mistaken with the four-cylinder 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel unit fitted in many other models across the Stellantis brands.

Instead, the Astra’s 1.5-litre was designed and engineered before Vauxhall came under new ownership. I’d only driven one three-cylinder diesel before the Astra arrived – the engine fitted in an earlier generation of the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion – and while it was undeniably frugal, it was also lacking power and refinement, and it was very noisy. My first impressions of the Astra engine were a bit of a worry too, because after twisting the key and cranking the starter motor for just a fraction longer than expected, it thumped into life sending a faint judder through the car and emitting a louder noise than most four-cylinder rivals. Sat at idle, there’s the subtle sensation of the engine pulsating through your seat and the steering wheel, a bit like there’s a tiny hot-rodded V8 burbling away up front.

Get underway, however, and so long as you keep the revs above 1,000rpm, the engine settles down nicely – it’s smooth and quiet, with a balancing shaft in the engine block to improve refinement. Our car is fitted with a smooth six-speed manual gearbox, but in this 121bhp version (a 103bhp diesel is also offered) a nine-speed automatic transmission is also available to buy.Considering it arrived with just delivery miles from leaving the factory, I was conscious not to use too many revs to begin with and feared I may have a queue of cars behind me for the first month. But not a bit of it, even just ambling through the gears, the Astra feels perfectly happy zipping up to the speed limit. As soon as the first country road appeared, I realised it would be hard to stick to those rules too, because this engine loves to rev. And by that, I don’t mean that high revs are necessary, but that it revs freely and if you don’t keep a close eye on the tachometer, the Astra soon zips up to a speed you weren’t expecting. It also emits a rather characterful growl in the mid-range, giving it a unique character in the class.

Power figures of 121bhp and 221lb ft of torque (with a maximum from 1,750 to 2,500rpm) means that the Turbo D Astra can get from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds; figures that just pip the equivalent Ford Focus 1.5-litre EcoBlue. Plant your right foot at low revs, and there’s an impressive amount of shove for a small engine. This is helped by an electrically activated turbocharger with variable geometry turbine vanes, designed to reduce turbo lag and improve response and efficiency. All-round performance is also helped by a respectable 1,371kg kerb weight – not too heavy for a diesel family hatchback.

With 17-inch alloy wheels and well-judged suspension, the SRi Nav version has a supple ride given the connotations of its badge. Some may wonder if the ‘SRi’ name has been rather too diluted over the years, but there are no complaints from me, as local roads increasingly resemble a network of heavily rutted farm tracks.

Date arrived 23rd March 2021
Mileage 916
Economy (WLTP combined) 57.7-64.2mpg
Economy (On test) 50.9mpg

What's Hot

A clever turbocharger reduces lag, and the three-pot engine has character.

What's Not

I’m not convinced that the Astra SRi looks as sporty as rivals like the Focus ST-Line.

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