The 99bhp 1.4 feels a bit out of its depth, and although the 113bhp 1.6 is still pretty slow, it’s a lot better. The diesel range includes a slow 94bhp 1.3, two flexible 1.7-litre units with either 108bhp or 128bhp and a couple of pacy 2.0-litres with either 163bhp or 192bhp. Of the lot, the higher powered 1.7 is the pick.
The Astra's ride is smooth on standard suspension, but although there’s lots of grip in bends, it’s not as sharp to drive as the best cars in the class. There’s too much body roll and the steering feels lethargic. The sports suspension on SRi models gives better body control, but maintains a healthy measure of comfort. The optional Flexride adaptive suspension feels appreciably different in its various modes, but it doesn't make the Astra any better.
You'll barely hear a peep out of the Astra's suspension over a bumpy road, and road noise is also extremely well suppressed. Wind noise can be an issue at high speed, though, and some of the engines, particularly the diesels, can be a rather boomy. You can occasionally feel vibrations through the pedals, too.
The Astra Sports Tourer’s list prices are high compared to many rivals, which is a big issue because many will be run as company cars (and taxed accordingly). On the other hand, private buyers will get substantial showroom discounts, which is vital as the Astra doesn’t hold its value particularly well. At least the fuel economy, CO2 emissions and leasing rates are affordable, if not a match for the class leaders'.
The Astra's cabin has wow-factor, but once you start poking at the plastics, you'll realise that they aren't quite as sumptuous as they first appear. It's still very smart, though, and the slick switchgear helps the general feeling of high quality. Vauxhall's reliability record is very questionable, though, with poor showings in our reliability survey and the JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
All models have stability control to help you avoid getting into a pickle, but in case you do, there are also front, side and curtain airbags to help keep you safe from harm. Active head restraints should help minimise whiplash injuries in a rear-end shunt as well. All the security measures you'd expect are present and correct, too.
The swooshy dashboard design is interesting to look at, and with all the gadgets on show, it looks quite high-tech. However, that does mean there are lots of buttons on the dash, and most of them are small and poorly marked. Visibility isn’t great at either end of the car, but at least there's plenty of adjustment for the seats and steering wheel to help you get comfortable.
Despite its sleek styling, the Astra Sports Tourer is impressively practical. The boot – with the optional tyre inflation kit – will take 500 litres, which is on a par with the VW Golf and Ford Focus. It’s well shaped, too, and there’s a handy two-stage load cover. The rear seats fold to create a long, level space and the top two trim levels have handy seat-release buttons on the sides of the boot. You can even lift the rear seat bases out to give you a total of 1550 litres of space.
There’s a dizzying array of trims available with the Astra Sports Tourer. All versions have air-conditioning, electric front windows and remote locking, while top-end Elite trim comes with niceties like climate control and heated leather seats that move electrically. Tech Line trim is the best, it provides alloys, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio, but costs far less than trims with less kit. Go figure.
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The Astra Sports Tourer of choice for company car drivers thanks to low emissions and strong fuel economy.