The current Vauxhall Astra model has been around for a while, however recent updates have included the promise of improved economy, so how did the combination of a 1.5-litre diesel engine and automatic transmission fare?
We’ve tested this current generation of Vauxhall Astra before – quite a while ago back in 2016 – with a turbocharged petrol engine. The Astra has recently had some tweaks, along with the promise of improved economy, so we thought we should put this to a real-world test.
Our test car featured a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. There are no major changes to the exterior and interior compared to previous models.
The Astra hatchback is a size that should be big enough to fit a family, but small enough to be agile. This was true for the last (petrol turbo) Astra that we tested, unfortunately it wasn’t possible to make the most of any potential agility due to the combination of Vauxhall’s 122PS 1.5-litre diesel engine and 9-speed automatic transmission. The Astra had no drive mode choices so there was no way to alter the revs at which gear changes happened, with the result that the revs were too low when gears changed, which meant there was little response from the engine.
The solution would be to have the option to select different drive modes, for example, Eco, Comfort and Sport. In the absence of this, it felt like the automatic gearbox and its ratios needed to be better tuned to the 1.5-litre diesel engine.
As well as having poor responses, the engine was also noisy, which didn’t create a refined driving experience, either around town, on the motorway, or on country roads. As well as engine noise, there was also road noise at motorway speeds.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the ride quality wasn’t particularly good on poor road surfaces, and the brakes weren’t confidence-inspiring.
One bit of good news is that the infomedia system, while not being as sophisticated as offerings from some manufacturers, basically worked perfectly well, and the dashboard had clear controls.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Vauxhall Astra Elite NAV 1.5 Turbo D (122PS) Auto is 51.4 – 54.3 mpg, with CO2 emissions of 120 g/km (based on the old NEDC test).
On long motorway runs the Astra almost identically matched these figures, at 54.6mpg over a distance of 200 miles. This is respectable, but many of the latest diesels could improve on this. Overall, after a week of mixed driving, the Astra averaged 46.5mpg. The driving range was useful, at 646 miles on a full tank.
The Vauxhall Astra Elite NAV 1.5 Turbo D (122PS) Auto costs £26,510. Our test car also had the options of steel emergency spare wheel (£110), Vauxhall Emergency Call (£415), Front and Rear Parking Sensors (£480), Heated Windscreen (£320), Traffic Sign Recognition and Pedestrian Protection (£275) and Summit White Paint (£285), taking the total price of the car to £28,395.
Vauxhall is now part of the PSA Group, which is producing some good cars. This is reassuring, because the Astra – at least when fitted with the 1.5-litre diesel engine and 9-speed automatic transmission – doesn’t have much performance, the economy isn’t class-leading, the driving experience isn’t rewarding, and the overall package is only average. A key issue is that the engine revs are kept too low – a range of drive modes such as Eco, Comfort and Sport would help to resolve this. The last Astra that we tested – a petrol manual – was much better to drive, as it felt lighter, agile and more responsive.
In light of all this you’d hope that this Astra was excellent value for money, but at £26,510 before options even this isn’t the case. Interestingly, the forthcoming Corsa-e will cost £26,490 – almost identical to the Astra. We’d certainly go for the zero tailpipe emission electric Corsa rather than the noisy and unrefined diesel Astra; in the meantime the Astra Elite NAV 1.5 Turbo D Auto gains a Green Car Guide rating of 6 out of 10.