What's the used Vauxhall Astra saloon like?
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Astra is just what a good drive it is, and far better than its styling might suggest. All models have a fine blend of a smooth ride and sharp handling, but one of the drawbacks of going for this saloon model rather than the hatchback is that performance versions such as the SRi simply don't exist.
Similarly, the cabin styling may be uninspiring - the dash is certainly functional rather than fashionable - but what the Astra lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in practicality. True, the cabin looks a little cramped by modern standards (although this saloon has more rear legroom than the hatch), but there's enough space for four adults - and five at a push - as well as a very good boot, with split/fold rear seats on all models.
Most, but not all, models also have height adjustment on the driver's seat as well as reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel, allowing anyone to make themselves comfortable behind the wheel.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Vauxhall Astra saloon?
The most important thing to check is that the cambelt change (due every 40,000 miles) has been carried out. Failures can lead to big bills.
Otherwise, the Astra is a tough little car, and figures from Warranty Direct put the Astra in the top 20 most reliable cars in our 2005 Reliability Survey. Electrical items are the biggest area of complaint, responsible for almost one in three of all claims.
The 2005 JD Power survey also echoed these findings, giving the Astra good marks for build quality and mechanical reliability. However, just as the Astra scored lower than its arch rival, the Ford Focus, so Vauxhall as a company finished behind Ford.
Although there has been one service bulletin over possible brake fluid contamination, there has been just one recall on the Astra. It affected only three-door models built in 1998, and required a part to be replaced on the front seats so that they did not become insecure.
What are the most common problems with a used Vauxhall Astra saloon?
Is a used Vauxhall Astra saloon reliable?
What used Vauxhall Astra saloon will I get for my budget?
How much does it cost to run a Vauxhall Astra saloon?
In common with models from other mass-market manufacturers such as Ford, cars from Vauxhall suffer steep depreciation from new, which makes them ideal used buys.
The Astra is a perfect illustration of that, much cheaper than the equivalent VW Golf or Toyota Corolla. And, as it's already suffered the biggest hit of depreciation, you needn't worry too much about how it will lose value in the future.
You won't have to worry about economy, either. Most petrol engines return more than 30mpg - on a par with their rivals - but there was also a range of bi-fuel cars that ran on both petrol and LPG. They're no more fuel-efficient, but they are cheaper to run, because LPG is cheaper to buy. For the best fuel economy, a diesel is the only choice, and some versions return over 60mpg on the combined cycle.
Finally, there are no unexpected horror stories in insurance costs and, likewise, servicing costs are no worse than for the equivalent Ford Focus.
Which used Vauxhall Astra saloon should I buy?
The Astra was blessed with fine petrol engines, and our favourite is the 1.6 16v, which revs with a delightful eagerness and pushes the car along at a fair old rate. However, if you're after something more sporty, the 1.8 is worth a look.
By contrast, the diesels are something of a disappointment. Of course, they have the attraction of better fuel economy, but their lack of performance and refinement means we'd steer clear of them.
As far as equipment goes, the Astra range was updated throughout its life, so buy the latest model you can. All have power steering, but early base models were poorly equipped, and a passenger airbag only became standard across the range in 1999. Further improvements came in January 2000 and August 2001, and we'd recommend the LS as the best blend of costs and equipment.
The biggest difficulty may be simply finding a saloon. Although Astras are easy to find at all outlets, most are hatchbacks or estates. If you really want a saloon, you'll have to hunt that little bit harder.