The new Vauxhall Astra has been received with a warm glow of commendation into the hard-fought family hatch class. It even bettered the Skoda Octavia and Ford Focus when we tested it with the very same engine that we have here in the new Astra Sports Tourer – or estate, to most of us outside the Vauxhall boardroom.
Up from 370 litres in the hatch to 500 litres (with five seats in place) in the wagon, and with more room for those in the back, too, the Astra Sports Tourer also undercuts its rivals in a big way. This 1.6 CDTi 136 engine is the heartland of the range, and here we find out how it copes on UK roads.
What’s the 2016 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 136 Sports Tourer like to drive?
Almost as accomplished the hatch, if a little less eager through corners. The light steering has a fairly quick initial response that makes the Astra feel darty and nimble as you initially turn into a corner, and body lean is kept in check better than in most rivals, too. It’s just a slight niggle that the steering’s weight doesn’t remain consistent as you build forces through a corner, so sometimes it’s a bit tricky to place to car precisely where you want it. Regardless, it tracks steadily on the motorway and is no hassle at all to wield around an awkward car park or traffic-clogged town roads.
Ride comfort is adequate, settling quickly at high speeds and softening sharp-edged bumps better than the fairly busy-feeling suspension in the Skoda Octavia Estate, but it is fairly choppy over undulating or rough town roads, when fitted with the 17in wheels we tried, at least.
As we found in the hatch, this 1.6 diesel serves up gutsy performance that outstrips comparable 1.6 rivals in the Skoda Octavia and VW Golf. It builds pace without any unexpected surges and doesn’t feel choked at low revs, delivering generally really easygoing performance. Where it does disappoint a little is in refinement, since it sends noticeable vibrations up through the steering wheel and pedals, and allows quite a bit of reverberant diesel noise into the cabin when you accelerate.
What’s the 2016 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 136 Sports Tourer like inside?
All that talk of extra interior space plays out in practice, as the Astra Sports Tourer feels far roomier than a Ford Focus Estate inside, but it falls a bit short of the Skoda Octavia Estate, which offers up 610 litres of boot space (claimed) compared with the Astra’s 500. Still, the Astra’s boot is conveniently squared-off, the floor is flush with the low load lip, and dropping the 60/40 split rear seats extends the boot floor without leaving a step.
It’s just a shame that there’s no through-loading hatch in the back seats (which would mean you could load a long item into the rear passenger space and still seat four people), and you have to pay £95 to get hooks in the boot, both of which are standard fit to plenty of rivals. You also can’t get a variable-height boot floor or underfloor storage space.
Even if you are of above average height there’s plenty of room in the front seats, and the range of adjustment, including from the steering wheel, should enable you to find a fine driving position. Only the top Elite trim gets electric lumbar adjustment as standard; it’s worth adding as an option (£250) further down the range if you want the seats to be as supportive as possible.
Front and rear parking sensors (£450) are another valuable option because the sculpted design of the rear pillars really hampers your vision around the rear corners. Rear seat passengers get a decent view out though, and lots of space thanks to the excellent head and leg room, which rivals that of the Octavia. Some will find the lack of a central rear armrest annoying, though.
Standard equipment is generous and includes cruise control, air-con, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a 7.0in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink, even on the entry-level Design trim. However, we’d suggest going for the Tech Line trim, which adds an 8.0in screen and sat-nav. SRi models gain bigger wheels and OnStar, which adds a number of features including an SOS response and onboard wifi, plus emergency city braking. Elite trim adds luxuries such as front and rear heated leather seats.
Should I buy one?
There’s plenty of reason to, given that the Astra is really keenly priced and generally well equipped, as well as being mostly quite practical and very pleasant to drive. For those buyers looking to purchase the car up front, and for company car drivers, this engine in fleet-biased Tech Line trim is a no-brainer, as it’s really competitive on company car costs (£134 per month for 40% tax payers) and is the cheapest way into a car with sat-nav.
Private buyers wanting finance will likely find that SRi Nav will cost a very similar amount per month to Tech Line despite being better equipped. Having said that, it is worth doing your homework carefully if you’re buying on PCP finance, as we found a number of key rivals – including the more powerful 2.0 TDI 150 Skoda Octavia Estate – that were usefully cheaper on monthly payments.
Ultimately, the Astra is a really competent estate car that's relaxing to drive and easy to live with. It’s just a shame that PCP costs aren’t a bit better and that a few practicality niggles let the side down, which is why we’d still rate a Skoda Octavia or even a VW Golf Estate over the Astra, if only just.
What Car? says...
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 136 Sports Tourer Engine size 1.6-litre diesel Price from £19,470 Power 134bhp Torque 236lb ft 0-60mph 9.5 seconds Top speed 127mph Fuel economy 74.3mpg CO2 101g/km