Monday, 19 November 2018

Redesigned Astra sits far more comfortably with me

Redesigned Astra sits far more comfortably with me

THE Vauxhall Astra has come a long way since the days — now receding into the distant past — where in my eyes at least the car was a questionable medium-sized family
all-rounder.

I used to have a problem with the seats. Whether or not it was the particular affliction of an old war wound (all right, squash injury) or my reluctance to praise the brand, I thought for a start that the cabin ergonomics of the Astra were seriously wanting.

But fast forward to 2017 and it is worth remembering that this is a car that has been around a long time — its makers should by now have ironed out any imperfections.

And indeed, I think that the early 21st century Astra is a vastly improved product. The judges of the respectable European Car of the Year award think so too, making it their car of the year for 2016. And there has likewise been praise from Autocar magazine.

So last year was a good year for the Vauxhall Astra. And just a drive of the new car confirms that it deserves the “game-changing” accolades, as Vauxhall puts it, that the car picked up in 2016.

As if finally to lay to rest my aforementioned misgivings about the model, this new year is again proving to be a good one for the Astra — it having been named the best family car at the Carbuyer Best Cars 2017 Awards. Stuart Milne, editor of Carbuyer, said: “The latest Vauxhall Astra has been on sale since late 2015 and it’s fair to say it’s the best family hatchback the company has ever made. The Astra is better built, more aesthetically pleasing and more economical than any of its predecessors.”

So there you have it. And with renewed expectations this week I have been driving the Astra Sports Tourer. I have to report that I concur with Mr Milne — on all fronts the improvements are palpable.

I like that phrase “more aesthetically pleasing” too, simply because in the old days I would never have linked those words with such a car as the Vauxhall Astra.

Of course, you have to up your game if you are going to survive in any form of commercial enterprise today, and with the Astra Vauxhall has at last delivered.

My old nemesis — the seats — appears to have been redesigned and restructured by someone who cares personally about the welfare of my back.

And this does not just apply to the driver’s seat. “There are other people in the car,” I have often wanted to shout at car designers. Especially those passengers in the back. So there is more room in this new Astra and not just to swing the proverbial cat.

There is also a lot more luggage space. While the driver can enjoy 26 millimetres of additional headroom, passengers in the rear have 28 millimetres more legroom. The new Astra Sports Tourer can take up to three child seats in the rear and can also carry up to 1,630 litres of luggage.

Technology is there in abundance thanks to Vauxhall OnStar. The infotainment offering includes two latest-generation devices of Vauxhall’s award-winning IntelliLink system, bringing the connected world of smartphones and apps into the car. One is already compatible with the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop and Apple iOS 8 (or higher) smartphones.

With the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, users can access maps, message reading and third-party apps (depending on the integration system) via the car controls and its large touchscreens (up to eight inches).

OnStar, launched in the summer of 2015, turns the car into a 4G/LTE
wi-fi hotspot, enabling up to seven devices to be connected to the car network.

The built-in 4G LTE structure is integrated into the vehicle’s electrical system. As OnStar comprises an independent SIM card encapsulated in its module, customers are not required to have a smartphone to use connected services. One reason the car drives better (though plucky Vauxhall engines have never really been a problem for me) is the advanced powertrains available.

The new Astra Sports Tourer features a range of fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines. Lightweight construction sets the latest engine range apart from previous generations.

The engines are smaller, more compact and lighter, while simultaneously being more powerful and frugal. The new Astra Sports Tourer diesel with 110PS, for example, achieves 83.1mpg while only emitting 89g/km of CO2.

All diesel units have a displacement of 1.6 litres — including Vauxhall’s top of the range BiTurbo engine, which was in the test car and was very efficient. In combination with six-speed manual transmission, Start/Stop, the 1.6 BiTurbo CDTi with 160PS can achieve up to 67.3mpg and emits as little as 112g/km of CO2.

Performance and power generation of the BiTurbo engine are comparable to that of a 2.0-litre engine. The top of the range engine develops a maximum torque of 350Nm from just 1,500 rpm.

The Astra Sports Tourer with the 1.6-litre BiTurbo can reach a top speed of 137mph. Its performance is almost identical to that of the 35PS more powerful and higher displacement 2.0-litre predecessor.

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer

l Priced from £16,585 on the road

l Up to £1,870 less expensive than the outgoing model

l Class-leading powertrains achieve up to 83.1mpg and as low as 89g/km

l Vauxhall OnStar services and powerful wi-fi hotspot

l Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration

l Next-generation IntelliLink systems cover all bases

Motoring

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