Our Cars : Thirsty Astra
I like the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. It’s an honest car, that’s well-made, well-designed and which performs well on the UK’s motorway network. And over the months, I’ve really grown to appreciate some of those clever little touches that make life so much easier. But I really wish it was more economical.
In average driving, I’m getting between 47-49mpg out of the Astra, which isn’t bad for a hack that spends much of its time on the motorway, but it’s not as good as I’d hoped for. Of course, we know that car manufacturers are working hard to produce vehicles that score well in emissions and fuel consumption tests, but can this sometimes be at the expense of real world mpg – and should we even be using the official figures as a guide at all?
It’s clear that I’m not alone in struggling to crack 50mpg in daily driving. The figures suggest an average of 48.5mpg, which is 77 per cent of the claimed combined figure. When reader Michael Sum got in touch about his Sports Tourer, his findings echoed mine completely. ‘I’ve had the 1.7CDTI Ecoflex for three months and it’s covered just short of 6000 miles, averaging 50mpg, which is disappointing given the claimed combined figure of 62.8mpg. I spoke to Vauxhall about the situation and was told it takes 8000 miles to ‘break in’ a diesel engine and that 50mpg was ‘acceptable’.’
He goes on. ‘They also told me that they don’t conduct these tests, and that they are conducted at 50mph on a rolling road, so nothing like real life! Reviewers say that the equivalent Golf gets easy over 60mpg, which over 40,000 miles makes a big difference…’
I called Vauxhall and had a chat with a spokesman for the company, citing the mpg figures of Michael and myself. I explained that although the car is an excellent all-rounder that I’d not hesitate to recommend, the fuel consumption isn’t where it ought to be. ‘Remember that these are comparative figures and not delivered in the real world,’ he said. ‘The Astra does have the potential economy. Remember that it is also a 119g/km car, which introduces significant taxation benefits.’ And in the latter, he’s right.
But although most cars will fail to meet their claimed combined consumption in real world driving (I ran a Golf BlueMotion for 12 months in 2009 and averaged 55mpg), amazing fuel figures can be coaxed out of them if you try (I saw an easy 78mpg on a hypermiling run down to Monaco in the same car).
So with that in mind, I took the Astra on a gentle 100-mile cross-country run to see what it could do using those same hypermiling techniques. So, coasting down hills, maintaining momentum at all costs, making sure I’m in the right gear at all times (using the in-built gear change indicator) and keeping to below 60mph, I tried to eke the absolute maximum out of the Astra.
And by journey’s end, I’d manage to average 59.8mpg. The computer had – for a moment or two – displayed an average of 60.1mpg, but settled back down at the merest sight of a hill. It was an exhausting run and because I’d not managed to hit that all important 60mpg average, rather unsatisfying. Especially as I was late for my appointment. And all this, as I’ve said before, is a crying shame because in just about every other way, the Astra’s a very satisfying car to own and drive.
I’ll put this rather average performance at the pumps down to its common-rail 16-valve Ecotec engine, a Polish-built engine made in a Joint Venture with Isuzu that’s been around since the late 1980s, even though it’s received a fair raft of updates along the way. I suspect that the same car with the impressive new 2.0-litre 16-valve Ecotec engine will beat it handsomely in the real world. On paper it’s close – 124g/km and 60.1mpg combined (with stop-start). But on the road, with all that additional power and torque, it’s going to be a whole lot more effortless to drive. And more economical at the pumps.