Vauxhall Astra SRi Nav Review
It seems like the Vauxhall Astra has been around since the invention of the wheel. Now in its seventh generation and with almost 40 years of on-road presence, the latest model is better than ever.
- Sporty design with performance figures to match
- Competitively priced with good choice of engines and trim levels
- OnStar connection for all the information you could possibly need
- Rivals such as the Ford Focus and VW Golf have really upped their game
- Steering feels a little light and at times
- Some hard plastics
When the latest seventh generation Vauxhall Astra made its debut back in 2015, it was viewed as quite a game-changer for General Motors. While the Astra name has been around for nearly four decades, the new car really upped the stakes. It shed some weight and that, in conjunction with a range of punchy efficient engines, resulted in vast improvements in fuel efficiency with one version offering more than 90mpg.
Customers can also choose from a range of richly equipped trim levels at launch with a wealth of on-board technology as standard.
The new Astra also boasts a more dynamic style with extra space for occupants and all their luggage. Most models sold are in hatchback guise, but there is a Sports Tourer version available too.
On the Road
Customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the Astra with trim levels called Design, Tech Line Nav, SRi, SE, SRi Nav, Elite Nav, SRi VX-Line, SRi VX-Line Nav and Ultimate. Prices start at £18,350 and rise to £25,530 and there is also a range of efficient petrol or diesel engines mated to manual or automatic gearboxes.
We opted for the mid-range SRi Nav model powered by a dynamic 1.4-litre 150PS turbo petrol engine delivering 245Nm of torque. This model could complete the 0-62mph sprint in an impressive 7.8 seconds and maxed out at 134mph. But it’s more about the manner in which these figures are achieved that impresses the most. I’ve driven cars billed as ‘hot hatches’ that are an inferior drive to the Astra.
The acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox is very rapid and the power at your disposal seems endless, which means overtaking at short notice is a breeze. The steering offered enough feedback and the car gripped the road like glue so could be driven at pace into long sweeping curves. New Astra has also been on a strict diet and shed almost 200kg compared to the outgoing model so the ride feels more controlled, albeit a little firm at times.
Despite its powerful, sporty new looks with more dynamic styling cues, the Astra rides very well. The car’s chassis has been fine-tuned for UK roads so it is perfectly weighted and balanced at all times. It offers a far more engaging ride than its predecessor with minimal body sway even when driven with enthusiasm into tight bends.
There is a Sport button which enables the driver to adjust the throttle response and change the steering feel for a sportier driving style. Our car was sitting on 17-inch wheels which were the perfect size and didn’t cause the car to deviate or jump about at all.
Vauxhall has clearly given plenty of consideration to the way the latest generation Astra handles and it has paid off. In the past, the emphasis has been more on ride comfort and easy driving capabilities. Now, dynamism and driver engagement are far more prominent in the company’s thought process. It’s a car that can quickly reach national speed limits on motorways and cruise at 70mph with ease. It’s also agile enough to weave through busy city centre congestion. But the area that’s improved the most is out on the open road where the Astra seems to have had a new lease of life. It’s actually become a fun car to drive and whilst it’s not as punchy as the VW Golf it’s a whole lot closer than the sixth-gen model was.
There are literally dozens of trim, engine and transmission combinations for buyers to select from. But one thing is guaranteed – the new Astra is a marked improvement on the outgoing car and has really put its marker down in the sector. It looks far more elegant in its design thanks to dark tinted windows, a sculpted bumper, LED daytime running lights and a rear spoiler. There is a distinctive grille - housing the Vauxhall Griffin badge - that flows into the headlight clusters to accentuate the car’s width and sporty prowess. The divided C-pillars help create the impression of a floating roof.
The interior of the Astra is upmarket and well laid out with lots of techno treats to be found, including a first-rate navigation system and an OnStar function that connects you to a real person in Luton who can assist with directions to restaurants, filling stations, parking spaces and much, much more.
There are soft-touch surfaces, plenty of smart trim and piano black decorative inlays and our cloth seats were really supportive.
The cabin is well insulated from any road surface, engine or wind noise and the ultra-efficient suspension system guarantees a relatively smooth ride even on our pothole-ridden roads.
In the car
Getting comfy in the new Astra is a simple process with ample seat and steering wheel adjustment and the driver benefits from a great view of the road ahead. Due to the sporty design of the SRi Nav model with its rising window line, the rear visibility is not quite so impressive, but that’s the price you pay for a dynamic profile.
The dashboard layout has been well thought out with easy access to all the car’s creature comforts. And our SRi Nav model was packed with technology, including full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and a Navi 900 IntelliLink system with a larger eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, USB connection with iPod control, Bluetooth and plenty more besides.
The SRi Nav also boasts OnStar, which at the press of a button near the rear-view mirror, connects you with a concierge in Luton. This person can offer information about your current location such as the nearest parking spaces, garages, restaurants and much more. When you have decided where you want to go they will download the directions straight to the car’s navigation system and away you go.
It’s a superb service and OnStar also makes the car a hotspot for up to seven mobile devices. It can be used to check safety features such as tyre pressures and oil levels, prompt when services are due, but possibly most importantly of all, it can come to your aid in an emergency. It detects if an airbag is deployed in your car. If the operator cannot get a response from you, then the emergency services are alerted and given your exact GPS location. The system is free for the first year, after which there is a charge. OnStar will be discontinued at the end of 2020.
Whilst the space within the Astra is not as impressive as the likes of the Skoda Octavia, there is enough room for five adults to travel in comfort. The car is 4.37 metres in length and more than two metres wide so it’s considerably larger than the VW Golf and that translates into extra space within the car.
Up front, there's bags of room to stretch out and a trio of six-footers can sit in relative comfort in the back. The wide opening doors make getting in and out of the Astra a simple process, and gaining access to fit a child seat would be simple enough.
The boot capacity is generous and ranges from 370 litres to 1,210 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats folded flat. The boot opening is nice and wide and although there is a slight lip, loading bulky items wouldn’t pose too many problems.
There is also a decent glovebox, door bins, cup holders and a few other convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the car. But in all honesty, if carrying vast amounts of luggage is a necessity, then possibly the Astra Sports Tourer may be preferable with its whopping 1,630-litre boot limit.
The vast Vauxhall Astra line-up is priced between £18,350 for the entry-level Design model and £25,530 for the range-topping Ultimate car. Our SRi Nav test car was mid-range and carried a price-tag of £21,910 (£23,930 with options). Across the range, the Astra is cheaper than the VW Golf although it will depreciate quicker.
According to official figures, our SRi NAV 1.4 turbo Astra could deliver combined fuel efficiency of 47.9mpg with carbon emissions of 136g/km and this would result in a first-year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £200 reducing to £140 for each following year.
The insurance rating for the test car is group 16.
Like all Vauxhalls, the Astra comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
The interior of the latest Astra certainly feels a lot more refined than its predecessor and the cloth seats, infotainment system and switchgear look and feel like they will last the test of time.
There is a fair amount of hard plastic that is quite practical and can be wiped clean easily.
The Vauxhall Astra was awarded the maximum five stars for safety when it was tested for its Euro NCAP rating with standard kit including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, hill start assist and six airbags.
Our car also included a Driving Assistance Pack which introduced the likes of traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning with lane assist, following distance indicator and forward collision alert with automatic city emergency braking.
The pack also meant the car boasted IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights which provide superb illumination. There are 16 LED segments (eight each side of the car) and the matrix system automatically adapts the length and distribution of the light beam according to the traffic situation. It works in conjunction with a front camera that detects other vehicles and then switches off the individual LED segments so as to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers while still providing the maximum lighting. There are numerous beam patterns that deal with varying conditions such as town lighting, tight bends, motorway light, country light and even tourist mode to alter the beam direction when travelling in Europe and driving on the right-hand side of the road.
And it’s worth mentioning the excellent OnStar system once more because it does have a valuable part to play in safety. If the car is involved in any sort of accident that results in the airbags being deployed, the OnStar representative will attempt to contact you to see if you’re okay. If they fail to get any response, then the emergency services are alerted and your GPS position is given. OnStar can also help track the vehicle if it is stolen. Unfortunately, the OnStar facility will be dropped at the end of 2020.