First Drive : All-new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.6 SRi
Vauxhall’s new Astra scooped the 2016 European Car of the Year title earlier this month but does the just-launched Sports Tourer version really justify its name?
Mike Humble shares his views on this important new British-built Vauxhall…
With a range of engines from a 103bhp 1.0-litre to a 197bhp 1.6-litre, the all-new Astra
Sports Tourer is as good and enjoyable as the award-winning hatch – it’s British made, too!
Sports Tourer: that seems to be the new term for an estate car these days, though quite a few fail to conjure up any accent on the actual sporty bit. This new Astra, which rides on the success of the hatchback’s 2016 European Car of the Year award, is roomier, lighter and, in most cases, cheaper than the outgoing model which itself wasn’t a bad motor at all. So does this all-new five seater holdall impress in the same manner its award-winning sibling?
Absolutely, yes. There’s a range of super-efficient diesel and petrol power units on offer from a 1.0-litre turbo to a 1.6-litre 16v petrol turbo that squirts out a healthy 197bhp. We drove that version and came away very impressed indeed. In SRi trim, the Astra seemed well equipped and had a chassis that was every inch as well engineered as its fellow five-door models. The ride, which edges slightly on the firm side at lower speeds, balances out to become very smooth and sorted once the pace quickens and boy… it’s smooth!
Performance from the 1.6-litre turbo is what we’d describe as brisk, with a solid belt of torque from just below 1500rpm. Even in sixth gear pulling up the long climb from Luton Airport to the M1 at Junction 10, the car just pulls from its boots and brushed everything aside. Around town, the effortless and refined power delivery, light clutch, good brakes and sweet gear change make for soothing and enjoyable progress. See a sneaky gap at a roundabout? No problem – you point and fire and you’re away.
As a family hack there’s ample room for people or packages thanks to more head, leg and cargo space than the previous model despite the external dimensions being the same. The overall build quality is very impressive and the paint finish was exceptional. Vauxhall really is nailing a car together as well as the main class rivals like the Civic Tourer or Focus – it’s almost as rustic in feel as a Golf. Fuel economy and spirited handling are also very good indeed, but what’s really nice to know is that this body shape is uniquely assembled here at Ellesmere Port regardless of the country of sale.
More room for people and parcels than the old model despite the external dimensions being
the same. We like the twin-exhaust treatment and razor-sharp chassis.
A very fine and able car in all areas…
Some things are not so sweet, though. We don’t like the chunky, over-sized gear lever, at low speeds the steering is just a snitch too light and the column stalks could have a better damped feel, as could the driver’s pop down trinket tray in the lower dash. It feels really cheap and nasty. But, as a car in general? Well, to repeat what we have said before, it’s much, much more than the best Astra ever.
From also ran to front runner, it’s about time Vauxhall had a product that re-defines comfort and safety not to mention giving Uncle Henry and the Germans a bloody nose into the bargain. We’ll be spending a bit more time with the Astra Sports Tourer in the not-too-distant future, so we’ll let you know how it fares.