Gold-coloured Vauxhall Astra PHEV being washed

Living with a Vauxhall Astra PHEV – Reports 6-9


Model: Vauxhall Astra Ultimate PHEV

Price: from £40,400

Power: Petrol – 1.6-litre, turbo; Electric – 12.4kWh

Range/ official mpg: 42 miles / 256mpg

CO2 emissions: 24g/km


Gold Vauxhall Astra and paddle board

If nothing else, as I come to the end of my six months with the Vauxhall Astra Plug-In Hybrid, it’s certainly been eventful.

During that time, it has been everything from a workhorse to move furniture and numerous Ikea trips, a daily commuter car, motorway transport to and from Wales during my numerous stages of Offa’s Dyke (see previous reports) and has also had its own small share of mechanical and electronic hiccups.

But despite all that, one thing has remained constant about the Astra. It has consistently and unfailingly continued to perform at what it does best. And what does it do best? Well for starters there’s its looks. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the Electric Yellow paintwork to start with, but it has made it easy to spot in busy car parks. The combination of the black grille and black badging has grown on me too.

After a series of crossovers, I’ve welcomed the return to a conventional family hatchback (though I’m back into a crossover again next) and the driving involvement that that has bought with it. I’d argue that this generation of Astra is probably the best handling Vauxhall Astra ever, with minimal body roll, sharp accurate steering and a decent level of feedback – even in this PHEV version.

Talking of the PHEV element too, the mechanical hiccups we’ve mentioned before aside, we still can’t help but be amazed with this car’s average mpg. No matter what you think about PHEVs and their technology, you can criticise all you like, but it’s pretty hard to argue against 6076 miles and 82.9mpg. Even the best diesels driven by a nun couldn’t hope to get close to that.

Those are pretty convincing stats for any fleet manager too. Yes, they’re backed up by my regular charging and trying to leave home with a full charge whenever possible (meaning that my commute to the train station is always entirely done on electric), but even so, we’ve done our fair share of motorway miles during that time too. And, whichever way you cut it, charging or not, motorways or not, that 82.9mpg figure doesn’t lie.

Yes, we’d like the rear seats to offer a little more space, but in reality the amount of times it’s been an inconvenience in six months has been minimal. Yes, too, Apple Carplay has been a little glitchy at times, but again that’s been better of late and we could name many other manufacturers who suffer from far worse issues with their infotainment systems.

And, as Vauxhall starts to introduced the fully-electric Astra into showrooms, it’s hard not to see this PHEV model as anything other than a great stepping stone towards full EV ownership for individuals and fleets. On a corporate level, Stellantis is covering all its bases with full EV and PHEV and conventional ICE – something that’s to the benefit of them and drivers as we all adapt towards increased electric mobility.


Gold Vauxhall Astra front parked

Just how on earth could you be so incredibly stupid? The words aimed at myself from my own mouth after possibly the stupidest and slowest accident in the history of the car.

The location was a Sunday morning in a car park in mid-Wales. Tackling another stage of Offa’s Dyke meant a very early start to get to my finish point and catch a taxi to my start point. Having parked in the middle of the deserted car park, I decided to move the car to one of the empty spaces on the side, where I figured it might be safer.

That didn’t account however for the idiot behind the steering wheel (me). In backing into another space and concentrating on the side of the car while not concentrating the rear parking sensors, I tapped the stone wall just behind me at a breakneck speed of around 1mph.

Frustrating yes, but while normally that might have meant a light scratch it didn’t account for the rusty metal peg mounted in the wall that had punched a perfect 1cm square hole in the rear bumper. Unbelievable. I swore at myself. A lot.

I almost felt sorry for the car too, because I’d been enjoying its handling so much until that point. Over the years, Vauxhall has always been perceived as being behind Ford, particularly with the Focus, but this new Astra can be hustled with a respectable degree of enthusiasm when required.

Usual behaviour for a plug-in hybrid? Perhaps not, but as my Offa’s Dyke trek takes me further into mid-Wales, I’m now getting more and more cross-country driving to my start point. And, better yet, it’s often early morning with little traffic, so the Astra can show off its sharp, accurate steering, good turn-in and plentiful grip. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this generation of Astra is possibly the best-handling one yet. It’s just a shame that this generation of the Barnes family hasn’t learned how to properly park it yet….


Vauxhall Astra Plug-In Hybrid display screen

Nobody likes being told off. Least of all when you’re being told off by your car. In fairness, it was probably deserved.

I’ve been doing a lot of non-PHEV friendly miles in my Vauxhall Astra PHEV of late. More stages of Offa’s Dyke have meant lots of motorway miles, but the real kick in the front grille to the Astra came with my late summer holidays.

A week down in North Devon in a rented cottage with no charging facilities (the lettings document even outright banned use of granny cables to charge) meant that aside from leaving my Marlow home with a full charge, the Astra was being driven in a standard hybrid mode, rather than being plugged in, for the entire week.

Apart from meeting some friends mid-way on the return and grabbing a few hours on a hotel car park charger (slow at 3kW, but free), we did no charging whatsoever. The result was a notification about the fact that I’d taken 17 journeys and five days without charging. Fair enough as a reminder, but it still made me feel guilty.

The result, inevitably, is that it has put a dent in my average fuel economy to 80.6mpg. However, for my seven day trip away, over the 650 or so miles we did in those seven days, the average for that alone was 61mpg, which I was still quite impressed by.

A lot of EV fans will gladly knock plug-in hybrids for their continued use of petrol engines but I remain a big fan of them. As a stepping stone to full EV ownership, I still believe there’s a place for them – and that kind of average mpg for that trip alone (as well as that continued overall figure) is to be praised.

It’s a good example of how Vauxhall is to be applauded too. With the fully-electric Astra on its way to showrooms, it’s offering a great breadth of choice of technology to customers, exactly what a mass market manufacturer should be doing and a rarity outside of the Stellantis and Korean brands.


Gold Vauxhall Astra Plug-In Hybrid in petrol station

Wow, you’re hot. No, I’m not having brain fade and repeating our second report, but once again I was having issues with my temperature in the Astra Plug-In Hybrid.

It occurred on one of my road trips for another leg of Offa’s Dyke (see previous report). Heading down the M4, having started out with a full charge, the moment the charge from the battery was used up and the engine kicked in, things started heating up in the cabin. No amount of turning down the temperature controls (already on 17 as it was) or switching on the air con would stop boiling hot air from coming through the vents.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but driving at motorway speeds with the windows open is not my idea of enjoyment, but it was the only option to avoid the Astra turning into a mobile sauna. A quick comfort stop and the problem had disappeared, so I thought it was a one off…

Except, of course, I wasn’t that lucky. The same trip two days later for the next leg and the problem returned. And this time, just turning the car briefly off and on again, didn’t solve the issue. Vauxhall asked for it back, but unfortunately – and frustratingly – couldn’t find anything wrong. Instead, they did a hard reset which seems to have solved the problem for the moment. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

Along with the previous outlined issues, the Astra hasn’t been entirely niggle-free elsewhere either, especially the infotainment system, which seems to have a mind of its own. Apple Carplay can be very hit and miss, even if I connect my phone via a cable, and can work one moment and not the next, with no logical explanation.

All that said however, while our average mpg has dropped a bit with all of our longer journeys, at 87.4mpg, that is still highly impressive in my book. We’ve got some long journeys over the rest of the summer, but hopefully we can get that back above 90mpg again.