The Vauxhall Astra is no stranger to the affordable family hatchback market. Over 36 years it's been one of the most popular cars on our roads, and now in its seventh generation, this latest model is one of the best yet.
We've already driven most of the engines, but this is our first chance to try the 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex. It's the most efficient in the range, promising 85.6mpg and pumping out 88g/km if you stick with the standard 16in wheels. That should mean cheap fuel costs but, perhaps even more importantly, cheap tax bills for company car drivers.
This frugal Astra has a lot going for it on paper, then, but does it work as an overall package?
What’s the 2016 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex like to drive?
The new Astra is much better to drive than its predecessor. It’s a lot lighter, and this helps make it noticeably more agile through the corners. However, the steering lets the car down a bit, because it doesn’t offer much feedback and ultimately means the Astra isn’t quite as good to drive as some of its rivals, including the Golf and Focus.
The low speed ride can be a bit unsettled over rough surfaces, but when it’s up to speed the Astra it feels stable and planted – and it's fairly hushed too. Some wind noise creeps into the interior at speed and the engine sends a few vibrations through the pedals, but otherwise the Astra is a peaceful cruiser.
As for the engine, it provides decent performance compared with similarly powerful rivals, including as the Renault Mégane 1.5 dCi 110. It comes with a slightly longer gearing than other Astras to help fuel economy, and this also keeps the revs low at motorway speeds. It does mean you need to work through the gears a bit more to get the best performance out of the car at slower speeds, but at least the six-speed gearbox is light and slick. Meanwhile, the engine only gets noisy if you rev it really hard.
The return for a bit more work shifting through the gears is very good fuel economy. In our real-world True MPG tests, it average 56.3mpg, which admittedly is well down on its claimed 85.6mpg, but it’s better than every rivals we've tested.
Our test car was fitted with optional 17in alloys, which raise CO2 emissions from 88g/km to 91g/km, but the former is still low enough to quality for the cheapest band of company car tax available to diesel-powered cars.
What’s the 2016 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex like inside?
Thanks to some clever work in the design of the seventh-generation Astra, it’s smaller on the outside than its predecessor but roomier on the inside. In fact, it’s one of the most practical cars in this class. Rear passengers get almost as much leg and head room as in the class-leading Skoda Octavia, and boot space is decent, too. True, the Skoda Octavia has a much bigger boot, but the Astra’s is a useful size and will fit in more than more a VW Golf’s.
Like all Astras, the 1.6 CDTi 110 comes with a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system. It might not be the most intuitive unit to use – the one in the VW Golf and Seat Leon are a bit easier – but if you go for our preferred Tech Line trim you get plenty of gadgets, including sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio.
The Astra also has plenty of safety equipment and was awarded a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. There's also a feature called Vauxhall calls Onstar, which gives you 24-hour access to a call centre that can input sat-nav destinations and provide vehicle diagnostics or help out in emergencies. This comes as standard on SRi trim and above and is a £395 option on cheaper trims.
Should I buy one?
This will be the best-selling diesel engine in the Vauxhall Astra line-up, and it isn't hard to see why. With its blend of good performance and great fuel economy, this is a car that’s easy to live with and should prove cheap to run. And it's priced lower than its key rivals, too.
Some rivals are better to drive, and private buyers might want to take a look at one of the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engines for a bit more poke. But if you’re a company car driver looking for plenty of space and maximum value for money, the Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex has an awful lot going for it. Especially in Tech Line trim.
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Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £17,645
Torque 221lb ft
0-62mph 10.2 seconds
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 85.6mpg
CO2/BIK band 88g/km/18%