Vauxhall’s Astra has been one of the UK’s best-selling cars for more than forty years, but this eighth generation model is going to make you think again about the Luton’s firm’s family hatchback.
Together with an all-new look, the new Astra gets two plug-in hybrid versions following in the footsteps of its Peugeot 308 Stellantis stablemate, with a fully electric Astra-e model arriving in 2023.
VAUXHALL ASTRA PHEV – DESIGN
Like its smaller Corsa supermini, Vauxhall has chosen a familiar route with the new Astra. Whether you choose a petrol or diesel engine, a plug-in hybrid or even that forthcoming all-electric Astra-e, the look is essentially the same whether you go for the hatchback or the Sports Tourer estate.
The downside is that it means your choice of power won’t necessarily be obvious, but the upside means those moving into a plug-in hybrid like this or eventually a full EV, don’t have a huge transition.
The other good news is that this new Astra is a looker too. Featuring the same flat-fronted Vauxhall Vizor as the Mokka-e, there are sleek LED lights and a sharp tight shape that leads back to narrow rear lights via a black roof. Some smart alloy wheel designs and a slightly longer wheelbase complete the look of what we think is a good-looking car overall.
VAUXHALL ASTRA PHEV – POWER AND RANGE
As with the Peugeot 308 plug-in hybrid, there will eventually be two versions of the Vauxhall Astra PHEV to choose from. Both feature the same 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with a 12.4kW battery, with a 180bhp model initially available and a more powerful 225bhp version (as also in the DS4 E-Tense) joining the range later.
With an all-electric range of up to 43 miles and emissions from 24g/km, the 180bhp model gets from 0 to 60mph in 7.9 seconds with a 140mph top speed. Vauxhall is using a specific EV mileage figure for the Astra called the Equivalent All Electric Range (EAER) which is an ideal-world type figure, although openly admits than 37 miles – the number quoted by Peugeot for effectively the same car – is a more realistic figure for real-world driving, but it does give the Astra a very tempting 8 per cent Benefit-in-Kind company car tax rate for 22/23.
As with some EVs, the Astra plug-in hybrid boasts an E-Save mode to retain a level of charge in the battery. Slightly unusually though, this has three settings enabling the driver to determine the level of that charge, from maximum to 12 miles or down to six miles. While we would always applaud greater customer choice, we can’t imagine many owners will use or need the function to retain just six miles of charge.
Talking of charging, the 180bhp Astra gets a 3.7kW on-board charger as standard, with a 7.4kW charger available as an option, giving the opportunity for a full charge in less than two hours. Pre-scheduled charging and cabin pre-conditioning are both also available via the MyVauxhall App.
Vauxhall claims a 201mpg average fuel economy for the 180bhp plug-in hybrid, although as ever these aren’t realistic compared to what you’ll return in the real world. By comparison, we averaged 70.6mpg during our time with the car even after there was little battery power remaining.
VAUXHALL ASTRA PHEV – ON THE ROAD
So with sharper styling both inside and out, can the new Vauxhall Astra live up to those looks in how it drives? The answer is both yes and no.
Refinement levels are good with a decent ride quality – even on 18in wheels and on fairly rough roads – and there’s little wind or road noise. The Astra offers three driving modes – Sport, Hybrid and Electric – with Sport improving the response of the pedals, steering and gearchanges via the steering wheel paddles. Sport mode also changes the colour of the digital dashboard details to red.
While those changes are noticeable on the move it can’t entirely mask the fact that the Astra just isn’t all that fun or involving to drive. Yes, it’s responsive enough to be hustled down a twisty B road, but it’s not what you’d call exciting. The other problem, of course, is that there’s a direct comparison available with the Peugeot 308 which definitely does feel more involving for a keen driver. Hopefully the more powerful 225bhp plug-in hybrid will provide a sportier drive.
That said, for the rest of your driving time, the Astra is perfectly inoffensive. When in hybrid or electric modes, the digital speed reading switches from white to blue which sounds gimmicky, but is an easy way to quickly tell if you’re running on electric or not. Also, even when the battery charge level is low, a small handy arrow on the Charge/ Eco/ Power meter shows at which point the engine will fire up.
The only adaption available for the regenerative braking is to press the B mode button which gives a firm but not too harsh level of braking.
VAUXHALL ASTRA PHEV – INTERIOR
As with the outside styling, there’s no question that the interior is where any past Astra owners might have something of a shock. There’s an entirely new interior dominated by two 10-inch screens in front of the driver and centrally on the dashboard with classy gloss-black trim running down the transmission tunnel.
Two large cupholders, a handy hidden storage pocket for glasses and two USB C charging points (there’s a third point for those in the rear) finish off what is a very impressive interior. There is also wireless phone charging and also the ability to wirelessly connect your phone via Apple Carplay or Android Auto. Some of the frequently used controls such as heating and ventilation and the heated seats have real buttons under that central screen, but generally it works well and the touchscreen can be swiped like a smartphone or tablet.
In more practical terms, rear seat space for head and legroom is just about ok for adults, although space for your feet is a little tight if the front seats are in their lowest position. Boot space is depleted for this PHEV version compared to the petrol or diesel models by 70 litres in the hatchback, although the Sports Tourer still boasts an impressive 548 litre boot with the seats up and 1574 litres with them lowered.
VAUXHALL ASTRA PHEV – SUMMARY
With the wide choices of powerplant available, from petrol and diesel to two plug-in hybrids and then fully-electric in 2023, Vauxhall has to be recognised for tempting customers towards electrified motoring in all its forms.
The popularity of the Astra historically and also of that Vauxhall badge will be enough to convince many customers to take a test drive. After eight generations, there’s little question that this latest Vauxhall Astra is the best yet with good looks, the latest technology and a decent, if not outstanding, driving experience. And when the Astra-e arrives in 2023, that appeal will only be widened still further.