The big news about the new Vauxhall Astra is that it has been designed to be as lightweight as possible; when combined with a 1-litre engine, surely that must result in excellent fuel economy?
Vauxhall has traditionally had its cars in the UK best sellers list for years, but today everyone wants premium brands and SUVs. With weight saving as one of the key selling points for this new Astra, is this enough to retain buyers?
To accompany the new lightweight Astra, our test car had a ‘lightweight’ engine option, a 105PS, 3 cylinder, 1-litre turbo petrol mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox.
In terms of exterior looks, we thought that the last Astra looked okay, and we’re not sure how much of a step forward the new styling is.
The interior design is pleasant enough, with more dashboard curves than rivals from Volkswagen, which is a good thing in our eyes.
We’re off to a good start: there’s no real complaints about the Astra’s driving position.
Once underway, you can genuinely feel that this is a lightweight car, and this is a good thing. Lighter weight should result in better handling, better steering, better braking, better performance and better economy. It certainly results in an agile driving experience.
The 1-litre engine is also light, and this helps with keeping the car’s overall mass to a minimum; our test car weighed in at just 1,188kg, which is indeed lighter than the average car in this class.
Perhaps one result of the focus on lightweighting is that soundproofing around the engine bay has been minimised. You can hear the thrummy 3-cylinder engine at most times, including at low speed, when accelerating, and on motorways.
We’re not convinced that the brake pedal feel was quite right. It felt very sharp, resulting in it being difficult to brake smoothly.
In terms of interior technology, the satnav mapping was clear, but there were no reversing sensors (or reversing camera). Virtually all press cars have reversing sensors; this may be a reflection on the reversing skills of motoring journalists. The danger is, when you’re accustomed to beeps, if you don’t have them, you’re likely to keep reversing until you hit something (no this didn’t (quite) happen in case you’re wondering).
The official combined fuel economy figure for the Astra 1.0T is 64.2 mpg, equating to 102g/km CO2 emissions. This sounds impressive; we all know that we won’t be matching that figure in real-life driving, but we have an expectation of what we should achieve. The best we enjoyed was 45.6mpg on a long motorway run. But after a week of mixed driving we ended up with an average of 40.6mpg. Compared to 64.2mpg this is disappointing. And we’re pretty sure why this was so low.
Although ‘downsized’ petrol engines perform well on the NEDC test, in real-life, when they’re operating outside of their optimised drive cycle for the NEDC test, they’re having to work too hard to propel the car around. Even though this Astra is sub-1200kg, this is still a lot of weight for a 1-litre engine. So unless you drive as though you’re in an economy competition at all times, it’s hard to come close to the official mpg figures with downsized engines.
Here’s some good news for the Astra: our 1-litre model cost £16,695 (plus £395 for the 17-inch alloy wheels). As a general rule it’s hard to find a decent car in the small family saloon class for less than £20,000, so the Astra is well-priced.
As well as the 1-litre petrol engine, there are 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrol engines, and 1.6 diesels. There’s also a range of trim levels to choose from.
The Vauxhall Astra is a competent car overall, and it’s very competitive in terms of its price. Its main party trick is its light weight, and this does make it more agile to drive. However the big benefit from the lightweighting should be excellent real-life economy – but this didn’t happen, in our view because downsized petrol engines don’t perform well when driven out of the NEDC cycle. So if you want a decent all-round five-door, five-seat family hatchback, and you’re prepared to drive like an eco-driver, then this could be the car for you. If you’re going to drive normally, then this is still essentially a good car, but you’re likely to be disappointed with the real-life fuel economy with this engine. The issue for Vauxhall is that there are many other good cars to choose from, and some of these can be very efficient in real-life driving. The Vauxhall Astra 1.0T gets a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.