- The car Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.4T 150 Elite Nav
- Run by Simon Strang, contributor
- Why it's here To see if a small estate car can fit into family and work life as well as an SUV
- Needs to Make light work of the suburban commute and the school run; deal with long motorway trips and fully laden family holidays; handle weekly supermarket trips
Price £22,685 Price as tested £25,320 Miles 9296 Official economy 50.4mpg Test economy 36.2mpg Options fitted Intellilux LED Matrix headlights and Driving Assistance pack 1 (£1815); parking pack (£615); ergonomic sports-style front seats (£205)
23 November 2017 – Testing fuel economy
Switching to petrol. It's become a thing you discuss at the school gates these days. After years of building my family's transport needs around ultra-efficient, lightweight diesel five-doors (we have two), now seemingly all of a sudden, they are in the doghouse.
So the specter of residual values on cars I've invested thousands in – and let's be honest, that is a reality for many of us – is influencing my next car purchase. It's certainly one of the reasons were keen to live with the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer for a sensible period of time. Being powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine, it represents a very realistic example of what might be coming next for us, and its fuel consumption has been vaunted elsewhere.
The reality, though, is that it can't beat a good diesel for economy figures. And while its reasonable fuel tank (50 litres) provides an average run of around 350-400 miles between each fill-up (my figures and not scientific ones), I can't help but feel I'm visiting the fuel station more often – and therefore spending more money. And certainly, when employed on the weekly school runs, the needle seems magnetically drawn to the empty zone.
However, the truth is that I think this is largely illusionary, and that we've been spoilt by long-running diesels for the past decade. It's an adjustment we're coming around to.
In other news, the Astra's handling is growing on me. It's a light-touch thing, and it rewards precise inputs from the user, but it feels simple and uncomplicated to drive. Wind the clock back some 30 years, when the Astra's main rival was the Ford Escort, and one of its strongest assets was its direct and uncomplicated handling - and I find myself reminded of that driving the new Astra Sports Tourer.
I've also found that it's able to deliver an entertaining drive if you push the engine above 3500rpm, at which point the turbo comes into its own. This, combined with the lightness of the chassis, allows the car to dance merrily down country lanes.
But still, there are times when the car trips over itself with unnecessary little moments, like an overly helpful coffee shop assistant when you’re not quite ready to be charming in the morning.
For example, there is the immobiliser's insistence on hooting the horn - attracting attention in your direction no matter where you are. Or the electric handbrake, which, while clever, is fussy to use if you're parallel parking on an incline, particularly as it automatically disengages as you push the throttle if you don't pull the button at the same time. What's wrong with an old-style handbrake lever? And then there is the apocalyptic and over-sensitive 'impending crash' alarm, which has nearly caused a couple of accidents of its own by making me jump.
Still, all in all, the Astra Sports Tourer is becoming a generally loved part of the family. Two new car seats were purchased only last week and snapped seamlessly into the Isofix connectors as easily as putting a couple of cushions onto the back seat. And as autumn metamorphoses into a typically wet and windy winter, it rather sweetly warms your hands and bottom with heated steering wheel and seats (not something you would have found on that Astra from 30 years ago).
It's a thoughtful car – I just wish it didn't try to be so clever all the time.