Vauxhall Astra long-term test: report 1

Our sub-editor wanted a car that would relax him on his lengthy commute and be as fuel-efficient as possible. Is his plug-in hybrid Vauxhall Astra delivering?...

Vauxhall Astra 2022 long-term Haining and Astra

The car Vauxhall Astra Ultimate 180 plug-in hybrid Run by Chris Haining, sub-editor

Why it’s here To find out if a plug-in hybrid family hatchback is the answer to a varied motoring regime, while keeping an eye on running costs

Needs to Soothe in motorway traffic, sip petrol, and entertain on a twisty road

Mileage 385 List price £38,850 Target Price £38,519 Price as tested £39,550 Test economy 45.6mpg Official economy 256mpg Options fitted Electric Yellow metallic paint (£700), 7.4kW on-board charger (£500)

4 January 2023 – Hatching a plan

At the end of my 120-mile commute to the What Car? office, I have to thread my car around a tight multi-storey car park. And after a few months in a bulky SUV, my overriding thought was “my next car will be smaller”. This brings us neatly to the Vauxhall Astra that's sitting on my drive right now. 

Quite a change, you might say, from my previous Mazda CX-5 to a family hatchback, but it's one that follows a certain logic. Firstly, size. I don’t need anything enormous; most of the time, I’m travelling on my own and don’t need acres of space in the car, so long as my cumbersome frame fits behind the wheel without contortion. The Astra fits that bill, with space left over for my wife and a friend or two every now and again.

Vauxhall Astra 2022 long-term charging port

And with that reduction in size comes a drop in weight, and that should help with economy on my lengthy commute. In fact, mine is no ordinary Astra but a plug-in hybrid one, with an official range of 42 miles when running on battery power alone. In theory, once I’ve reached Junction 12 of the M25 using petrol power, I should be able to tackle the stop-start traffic from there to our Twickenham HQ in electric mode, to the benefit of fuel economy.

And that two-cars-in-one thing really appeals to me. While my weekday commute is, by any standards, ridiculous, my weekends mainly involve shorter trips. I live in the middle of a triangle that puts Colchester, Ipswich and Frinton-on-Sea (home to my parents) at each point, and the Astra’s battery should get me to any of those destinations and back on a charge.

And it just so happens that many of the roads between those places are absolutely glorious, so a nippy hatchback could well be a fine machine in which to enjoy them. On paper, the plug-in hybrid Astra looks like just the job; its 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor join forces to generate 177bhp, and it can officially launch to 62mph in 7.7sec. What’s more, it can reach motorway speeds on electricity alone, so zero-emissions local trips shouldn’t be at all frustrating.

Vauxhall Astra 2022 long-term infotainment

So, it’s compact and offers the promise of economy without miserable performance. What else did I fancy? Well, the kind of on-board technology and comfort features that take the effort out of journeys, whatever length they might be. And in range-topping Ultimate trim, the Astra has the lot. It’s easier to list the features it doesn’t have – there’s no ability to hover, for example. However, there’s a 10in infotainment touchscreen, a matching digital instrument display and colour head-up-display, and that’s something I consider a must-have these days for how it serves up crucial information without taking your eyes off the road.

The front seats and steering wheel are heated, as is the front windscreen, and there’s a panoramic glass roof for those moments when the sun burns through the clouds. There’s also a full suite of driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist, all of which should make life that much easier from the beginning to the very end of each journey I make.

In fact, the Astra Ultimate is so fully equipped that the options list is a very short one, and my car has two of the four offered. It doesn’t have Nappa leather seats (£2100) or a tow bar (£605), but it does have a 7.4kW on-board charger (£500) and metallic paint (£700) – and what more appropriate colour than Electric Yellow.

Vauxhall Astra 2022 long-term front wheelarch

And I’m really glad it’s that colour. To my eyes, this is the best looking Astra since the teardrop-shaped Mk2 of 1984, and the yellow really helps its boxed arches and contoured bonnet to pop. I also think that Vauxhall’s latest corporate nose (which recalls the 1970 Opel Manta) is at its most handsome on the Astra.

Over the next few months I’ll be finding out if the way the Astra drives matches its peppy looks, and whether it combines the comfort and economy I'm after. And I can answer one question already – with help from its 360deg camera, it’s a lot easier to park than a bulky SUV.

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