Vauxhall Astra hatchback performance
We’d avoid the base 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol because it needs revving hard to make reasonable progress, making plenty of noise in the process. Instead, we’d consider the range of turbocharged engines, starting with the three-cylinder 1.0-litre with 104bhp. This has adequate performance, although it does need to be worked fairly hard over hilly terrain and when overtaking on faster roads.
Much more flexible are the pair of 1.4-litre turbocharged petrols with either 123bhp or 148bhp. With the higher-powered version, the Astra’s 0-62mph pace isn’t too far off that of some ‘warm’ hatches. Despite this, it’s capable of the same fuel economy as the 123bhp variant. If you’re after even more power, there’s a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that’s certainly worthy of warm hatch status.
Those after the cheapest running costs will be more interested in the trio of diesel engines Vauxhall offers. The entry-level version has 108bhp, which is enough to give respectable pace, although we’d be tempted by the more powerful 134bhp diesel. It’s still capable of returning good MPG but is more flexible, making for more relaxed progress. The most potent diesel has twin turbos and produces 158bhp, but emissions and economy suffer.
Vauxhall Astra hatchback ride
While you’d never call the Astra uncomfortable, it doesn’t isolate you as much as cars such as the Volkswagen Golf, especially at low speeds. The suspension is firm, so you feel the undulations of the road, while broken surfaces can cause the odd thump to enter the interior. At no point does it feel jarring, however.
As with any car, the ride isn’t helped by increasing the size of the wheels – something to remember when selecting your chosen model and options. Even so, 17in wheels still provide a perfectly acceptable ride.
Vauxhall Astra hatchback handling
Get to a bend and you can really feel the weight reduction that Vauxhall has quite rightly been boasting about. Unlike its predecessor, this Astra is alert and engaged in the process of cornering. It feels keen to change direction, and while there’s some body roll, it’s not excessive.
Unfortunately, the Astra’s steering lets it down, with little feedback and weighting that is too light on lower trim levels. SRi models do receive a Sport button that adds welcome weight to the helm. It’s good, but hasn’t quite done enough to beat the Ford Focus.
Vauxhall Astra hatchback refinement
Although you might expect Vauxhall to have jettisoned much of the car's sound deadening material in the quest for weight loss, the Astra proves more than adequate in terms of refinement. There is some wind noise from around the door mirrors at motorway speeds but road noise is better suppressed.
The four-cylinder petrol engines are smooth, only becoming vocal when pushed towards the top of the rev range, but even then they never sound harsh. The three-cylinder models aren’t bad either, but they do transmit some vibration through the wheel and pedals and can sound harsh when pushed.
There’s also a bit of vibration from the diesels, while some of the expected diesel clatter also makes itself heard – more so in the 158bhp version than the lower-powered models.
Manual gearboxes are smooth to operate between the gears, but the gearlever’s action is a touch vague.