Used test: Skoda Octavia Estate vs Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer

The supremely practical Skoda Octavia Estate has always been one of our favourite family cars, but does the cheaper Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer make more sense as a used buy? Read on to find out...

Used Octavia vs Astra
Used Octavia vs Astra

The Contenders

Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SE Business

List price when new £21,735
Price today £12,500
Available from 2013-present

One of our favourite low-cost estate cars, it has a huge boot, lots of kit and a punchy engine.

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.6 CDTi 136 Tech Line

List price when new £20,170
Price today £11,700
Available from 2015-present

With sleek looks, a big boot and masses of passenger space, it's a good used buy.

Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

It’s a simple remit: deliver enough space and practicality to cater for luggage-laden family breaks, but also be enjoyable and comfortable enough for everyday commuting. The Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer has always looked promising on both of these fronts and the 1.6-litre diesel, tested here, is now also great value as a used purchase.

However, any car putting itself forward in this class has the cavernous Skoda Octavia Estate to beat, which we’ve lined up here in its more powerful, but also more expensive, 2.0 TDI 150 form. This has been one of our favourite family cars for years, being as good to drive in its many versions as it is practical and efficient. We’ve chosen to pit two 2016 versions of these cars against each other, to see which one makes more sense as a used buy at this price level. Read on to find out which we recommend.   

What are they like to drive? 

The Astra 1.6 CDTi 136 doesn’t have a direct equivalent in the Octavia range, so here we thought we’d line the Skoda up in more potent 148bhp 2.0 TDI form.

Used Skoda

Unsurprisingly, this means the Octavia is the faster car; in our tests it dispatched the 30-70mph sprint in 7.9sec, compared with the Astra's 9.0sec. The Octavia's engine is also stronger at low revs, although the Astra’s doesn’t feel at all choked in the higher gears around town, and it’s responsive enough for relaxed everyday use. Both these cars will easily keep up with fast-moving traffic on A-roads and motorways, and both accelerate smoothly, without any unpredictable surges.

Try to corner quickly and the Astra feels more agile; its front tyres grip the road better than the Octavia’s and there’s less body lean. However, while the Astra's quick, light steering makes the car feel quite darty, the steering becomes numb and vague midway through corners and therefore fails to inspire confidence. The Octavia’s steering is slower, but it weights up more consistently.

Both cars are composed on the motorway and are easy to thread through traffic, but the Astra rides marginally better. It’s a bit choppy over patchy town roads, but it deals with sharp-edged potholes more adroitly than the Octavia and is more settled at high speeds.

Used Astra

Refinement is a mixed bag in both cars. Wind noise is kept to a minimum in the Astra, but road and engine noise are a noticeable background din at all times, and too much engine vibration can be felt through the pedals and steering wheel. Meanwhile, the Octavia generates a lot of suspension boom around town, although the noise fades away at higher speeds. Overall, the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer loses out to the Skoda Octavia Estate for refinement, due to its noisier cruising manners and more recalcitrant gearshift.

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