The Vauxhall Astra is on the precipice of some big changes. The 21-plate facelifted model that’s just arrived on the Diesel Car fleet will in future be known as one of Vauxhall’s last pre-Stellantis cars. More than that, pub quiz hosts will try and catch out car geeks with the fact it comes with a super rare 1.5-litre three-cylinder Vauxhall/Opel designed diesel unit. If you can call one of Britain’s best-selling cars rare…
We don’t yet know if it could also be the last generation of Astra built in Britain at the Ellesmere Port plant. Under Vauxhall’s new ownership, production of the Astra, near Liverpool, has only been confirmed until the end of the current generation. Stellantis and the UK Government are still locked in negotiations over the future of the plant, which has been placed into doubt because of the 2030 combustion engine car ban.
The Astra is designed by a Brit too, with Mark Adams and his team displaying a knack for penning consistently attractive family cars over the years. His brush strokes have been pretty light for this facelift, which gets more expressive headlights – not unlike those of the Clio that the Astra replaces on my driveway – along with changes to make the Astra as slippery as possible.
With a drag coefficient of 0.26, the Astra is class-leading in this regard and a new ‘full-face shutter’ and aerodynamic underbody net the biggest reductions. The shutters can close the upper and lower grille independently, reducing drag by up to 10% and allowing the engine to heat up quicker in winter. Even before I spotted this in the press pack, I’d already noticed the surprising speed the temperature gauge jets around to the middle marker after you set off. Park the car for a few hours and get back in, and the temperature quickly gets back to 90 degrees Celsius again too. Attention to detail is impressive, with engineers even redesigning the rear suspension control arms to give them a more aerodynamic shape.
Our Astra boasts 121bhp, official economy figures of between 57.7 and 64.2mpg and CO2 of 115g/km. According to the trip computer (I’ll be able to work out brim-to-brim figures for the next report), I’ve averaged just over 50mpg so far, which is impressive considering the car is still running in and has been used mostly on short trips.
The Astra range consists of Business Edition Nav, SRi Nav, Griffin Edition and Elite Nav Premium models, and we think the naming of the entry-level version is slightly misleading, as it’s a great choice for private family buyers, too, thanks to plentiful standard kit. We plumped for SRi Nav specification, as not only do we think it’s the sweet spot in the range, but it’s likely to be the best-seller, too. Notable upgrades include 17-inch alloy wheels that better fit the wheel arches, LED headlights, an alarm system, autonomous emergency braking and dual-zone climate control.
We added Hot Red paintwork costing £650, Vauxhall’s Winter Pack 1 (heated steering wheel, heated front seats and rear heating ducts) for £460 and all-round parking sensors for £480, along with a spacesaver spare wheel at £110. Costing from £23,970, the Astra SRi Nav 1.5 D Turbo handily undercuts the equivalent Golf, and has a price of £25,670 with all our options fitted. We reckon it’s great value.
The interior is starting to show its age, with a far more traditional look than the Golf or A-Class. If you aren’t a fan of everything being controlled by a touchscreen, this is actually rather refreshing, and you should grab one while you can – the next-generation Astra is likely to have fewer physical controls, like most Stellantis Group products. Its analogue gauges look simple, but come alive at night, where a backlit border gives them an attractive glow.