We’d avoid the base 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol and move straight to 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 latter version of this engine, the Astra’s 0-62mph pace isn’t too far off that of some ‘warm’ hatches. Despite this, it’s capable of the same economy as the lower-powered 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, which makes for more relaxed progress. The most potent diesel has twin turbos and produces 158bhp, but emissions and economy suffer.
Vauxhall Astra ride comfort
While you’d never call the Astra uncomfortable, it doesn’t isolate you as much as cars like 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 cabin. At no point does it feel jarring, however.
As with any car, the ride isn’t helped by increasing the size of the wheels, which is something to remember when selecting your chosen model and options. Even so, a 17in wheel still provides a perfectly acceptable ride.
Vauxhall Astra handling
Get to a bend and you can really feel the weight reduction that Vauxhall has quite rightly been boasting about. Unlike its predecessor, the new 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 refinement
Although you might expect the extreme diet 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 never sounding 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 heardheard – more so in the 158bhp version than the lesser-powered examples.
Manual gearboxes are smooth to operate between the gears, but the gearlever’s action is a touch vague.
This is the entry-level engine and also one of the least efficient. At 99bhp, it’s the least powerful engine in the range yet still has emissions of 128g/km, the same as a non start-stop 1.4i turbo with another 50bhp. Economy is also the same at 51.4mpg. It isn’t terrible but there are better options.
Our pick 1.0i Turbo 105PS
This engine may be smaller than the 1.4i but a turbocharger means it’s more powerful, at 104bhp. It’s a more flexible unit that’s also cheaper to run. Start-stop tech means CO2 emissions are just 99g/km with claimed economy an impressive 64.2mpg. It’s well worth the relatively small extra cost it brings. An automatic gearbox is optional and makes it even cheaper to run.
1.4i Turbo 125PS
This engine may have an extra 25bhp over the non-turbocharged 1.4-litre, but it still manages to be just as efficient and clean. It’s also the cheapest engine in the range to get Vauxhall’s six-speed manual gearbox instead of the older five-speed unit. It feels more muscular but we’d be tempted by the more powerful version of this engine.
1.4i Turbo 150PS
With 148bhp, this engine offers a 7.8sec 0-60mph time while giving claimed combined economy of 51.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 128g/km. These figures are the same as the two lower-powered 1.4-litre engines despite making the car warm-hatch fast. CO2 figures drop by 1g/km if you opt for the optional automatic gearbox.
1.6i Turbo 200PS
This 197bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is currently the most powerful engine you can get in the Vauxhall Astra. A 0-60mph time of 6.6sec isn’t too far off the pace of many hot hatches although economy and emissions suffer. Fuel economy is a claimed 46.3mpg with 141g/km of CO2 emitted. It’s fast, but for most people, the 148bhp 1.4i will be more than enough.
Our pick 1.6CDTi 110PS
This is the entry-level diesel engine and, in ecoFLEX guise, also the most efficient. Available with a six-speed manual only, it offers CO2 emissions of 91g/km and claimed fuel consumption of 83.1mpg. Even the normal version manages 97g/km and 76.3mpg. A 0-60mph time of just over 10 seconds means it’s fairly brisk as well as refined. The best choice for business users.
With 134bhp, this engine is capable of 0-60mph in 9.0sec with the six-speed manual gearbox. It may be pretty nippy, but CO2 emissions are only 103g/km, with claimed economy of 72.4mpg. If you need a bit more performance from your diesel, it’s a good option. This is the only diesel available with an automatic gearbox but the figures drop to 62.8mpg and 119g/km.
1.6CDTi BiTurbo 160PS
Currently, this is the most powerful diesel you can get in the Astra. Despite being smaller than rivals, the 1.6-litre motor has two turbos to give 158bhp and a 0-60mph time of 8.1sec. Claimed economy is 67.3mpg with emissions at 111g/km. While these are competitive figures given the performance, most will find the 134bhp engine quick enough.