News : Vauxhall reveals new UK-built seventh-generation Astra

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

astra front and back

These are the first images of Vauxhall’s seventh-generation Astra, which will go into production later this year at the company’s Ellesmere Port manufacturing plant in Cheshire.

Based on an all-new lightweight vehicle architecture with a new design, powertrains and technology, the latest Astra will receive its world premiere at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show (17-27 September).

One the UK’s top-selling and best-loved cars, the Astra is a household name for British car buyers with over 2.9 million sold in the UK over the last 36 years with over 50,000 last year.

Depending on the model and trim level it will be up to 200kg (130kg on average) lighter than its predecessor. The completely new vehicle architecture plays a major role in the weight reduction. Every component was checked for compact design and lightweight materials. The body shell weight alone was reduced by 20 per cent from 357kg to 280kg.

Additional, chassis-related measures resulted in a further 50kg weight loss. These include high-strength and ultra-high-strength low-weight steels, compact subframes as well as weight reductions to the front and rear axle.

Powertrains

The all-new Astra features a powertrain portfolio including petrol and diesel units ranging from 100PS to 200PS.

The highlight of the engine range is the all-new 1.4-litre (145PS) ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo, a four-cylinder unit from the same family as the one-litre, three-cylinder engine seen in Corsa, ADAM and VIVA. The engine delivers maximum torque of up to 250Nm, with maximum power available between 1,800rpm and 4,000rpm.

Based on its construction, the new 1.4 ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo also adds less weight to the car. The aluminium engine block weighs in at 10kg less than the forged steel block of the current 1.4-litre turbo.

There’s also a base-level 1.0 ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo (105PS) petrol engine and a 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel’ range with outputs starting from 110PS up to 160PS.

Design

Inspired by 2013’s Monza Concept, the lean design makes the new Astra look more athletic than ever before thanks to work carried out by a design team led by Brit Mark Adams.

Evolution of the Vauxhall design philosophy ‘sculptural artistry meets technical precision’ ensures that the new Astra catches the eye with a lighter, more agile appearance.

The Griffin in the centre of the chrome bar on the grille and the characteristic ‘blade’ raising towards the rear make the new Astra immediately recognisable as a member of the Vauxhall family. The front headlamps melt into the radiator grille to form a graphic unity.

The most significant design cue is the divided C-pillar, creating the impression of a floating roof. The interplay of light and shadow is emphasised by the horizontal crossbar above the brand logo linking the rear lights.

astra side

Smaller outside, bigger inside

The Astra does not just look smaller – it is smaller. With a total length of 4.37m it is almost 5cm shorter than its predecessor. With a height of 1.46m it is also 2.6cm lower. The dimensions have an impact on aerodynamics and efficiency with the new Astra boasting a drag coefficient below 0.30.

The wheelbase may have been reduced by 2cm but the amount of space inside has increased. In combination with newly-designed seats, the passengers in the rear can enjoy an additional 35mm legroom. The distance between the front- and rear-seats is increased providing comfort and space.

The high-quality cockpit and the instrument panel seamlessly transfer the characteristic and aesthetic exterior design to the interior, ensuring that a new interior design generation is introduced in the new Astra. It features a clean look which includes a large colour touchscreen in the centre stack and a reduced amount of control switches and buttons.

Vauxhall OnStar

The new Astra is the first new Vauxhall model that will be available with the personal connectivity and service assistant OnStar from its launch.

OnStar offers customers a broad range of safety and comfort services. If an airbag deploys, OnStar will be alerted automatically. An adviser will then contact the vehicle to determine whether help is required. If there is no response, emergency responders are immediately sent to the exact location of the vehicle.

Drivers and passengers can reach OnStar 24/7 and 365 days a year. No matter whether they need roadside assistance or any other service – an OnStar adviser is always ready to help. OnStar also turns the new Astra into a 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Up to seven devices, from smartphones to tablets, can be connected simultaneously.

IntelliLink

Making its debut in new Astra is the new generation IntelliLink infotainment system that is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Each system builds off of the features smartphone users rely on most. Android Auto is built around Google Maps, Google Now and the ability to talk to Google, as well as a growing audio and messaging app ecosystem that includes WhatsApp, Skype, Google Play Music, Spotify, and podcast players. A full list of supported apps is available at Android.com/auto.

Apple CarPlay takes the iPhone features you’d want to access while driving and puts them on the vehicle’s display in a smart, simple manner, allowing drivers to make calls, send and receive messages and listen to music right from the touchscreen or by voice via Siri. Apple CarPlay supported apps include Phone, Messages, Maps, Music and compatible third party apps. A full list of those apps can be found at Apple.com/ios/carplay.

The functions can be controlled via the large, up to eight-inch touchscreen located high on the center stack, via remote control on the steering wheel (volume) or via voice control.

IntelliLux LED Matrix Light Headlights

The all-new Brit-built Astra will be the first Vauxhall to get glare-free IntelliLux LED Matrix Light.

Bringing premium technology to the mainstream, these new LED headlights provide outstanding night time performance enhancing safety for the driver and those around them.

Consisting of 16 LED segments (eight on each side of the vehicle) the LED matrix system automatically and constantly adapts the length and distribution of the light beam to every traffic situation.

It works in conjunction with the front camera system which detects the presence of other vehicles and then switches off the individual LED segments, preventing other road users from being dazzled.

As soon as the vehicle exits urban areas, the high-beam lighting is automatically switched on and it always remains on. This leads to a considerable increase in safety, as confirmed in a study conducted by the Technical University of Darmstadt and the European LightSightSafety Initiative.

The study showed that at driving speeds of 50mph, drivers detect objects at the side of the road around 30m to 40m sooner than with conventional halogen or xenon dipped beam lighting. This gives them around 1.5 seconds more time to react, for example when an animal walks into the vehicles path.

When the camera detects light sources from oncoming or preceding traffic, individual LEDs in the relevant zone are deactivated, simply “cutting out” the area around the vehicles. The rest of the road and its surroundings remain brightly illuminated.

In addition to the many automatic low and high beam pattern variations, IntelliLux LED also provides a special highway light mode that further increases safety at night. A special welcome light function makes entering and exiting the Astra more comfortable in the dark.

Not only does the system illuminate the surroundings brighter than conventional lighting systems, it also has a considerably longer running life than headlamps with halogen or xenon lamps.

Another advantage is that mechanical movements are no longer necessary in the headlight – the individual LED segments turn on or off according to the situation, which also contributes to a durability that far exceeds the lifespan of a car.

 

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

31 Comments

  1. A friend had a 1987 Astra GTE when it was new. It had this digital dashboard with a graphical rev counter. I wonder if any still exist. It was a seriously quick car.

    • Very high attrition rate on these, with many killed off by joyriders, neglect, and the rust monster. Those that survive are worth a few thousand now, as the retro hot hatch boom continues.

      The digital dash was great.

  2. Very interesting Mike… at first (quick) glance it looks like the current model, but is definitely “all new”. From the rear, it has shades of Alfa, Nissan Pulsar / Hyundai i30 due to the rear light clusters… not a bad thing though.

    That new 1.4 engine sounds promising, as does the 1.6CDTi. The exterior size being less is welcome too. Coupled with the current Astra’s success and the good news that it will be built at Ellesmere Port, I wish Vauxhall well. – I may consider it as a future purchase.

  3. I bet the only cars to get that intelilux stuff will be 100% of press cars and around 0.5% of the rest of production. Bound to be a £2Kish option. Other than that though a fine looking car. Certainly more appealing inside and out than the current Focus. Another reason to ditch Spanish/German Fords for British Vauxhalls (well A couple of British Vauxhalls if you count the Vivaro as well)

  4. A good looking car and full credit to GM for reducing the size and weight of the car when their competitor Ford just makes each car bigger with every generation.

    I’ve had a couple of Astra company cars in the past and liked them.

  5. Quote: “The most significant design cue is the divided C-pillar, creating the impression of a floating roof. The interplay of light and shadow is emphasised by the horizontal crossbar above the brand logo linking the rear lights.”

    I think Vauxhall must mean the D-pillar, not the C-pillar, as the C pillar is actually the attached rearward end of the B-pillar where the rear door hinges attach to.

    • Sadly, Vauxhall being an American company, uses American terms and part names. Hence they have pillars instead of posts (and count the B/C post as one – giving us the C pillar the article discusses), sills and rockers, shotguns, and a host of others. Ford did the same thing to Jaguar – giving us the abomination that is the ‘rear qtr otr’ in place of the correct Pnl-Tonneau.

      You should see their abreviations!

      • Many thanks for clarifying this about the B/C post (pillar).

        Do you know of a web link to Vauxhall’s (or Ford’s) list of abbreviations?

  6. Never been a big GM/Vauxhall fan – always seen them as existing in Ford’s shadow, relying more than Ford on discounting and incentives.

    But this looks good. And they’re one of the first adopters of CarPlay in this sector, which is a MASSIVE deal to younger folk, and should help Vauxhall attract customers.

  7. This is a distinct improvement on the current bland oversized Astra.

    I had the model before whic looked the part, both internally & externally, & also had decent handling & ride characteristics. Permance, refinement & fuel economy let it down however.

    In fact, this is probably the best Astra since the Mark 2 with the Mark 3 looking like a Maestro for the nineties, even down so the side profile, & the Mark 4 looking decent enough only to be eclipsed shortly after launch by the original Focus.

  8. Amazing that nobody’s complained about the site publishing a press release verbatim. Oh, wait, it’s not from MG!

  9. Always good news when a replacement model is shorter than the previous generation.

    The current Astra is decent, it’s got good publicity from of all shows Top Gear as the “star in an ordinary car” vehicle!

  10. Current and previous gen Astra saloons, as sold in Ireland, are stunning small saloons. Looking forward to see what this version looks like in 4 door form.

  11. @ Rich, the Astra GTE 16 valve, 137 mph in 1987, still very respectable now, but groundbreaking for a hot hatch then. This was the era when Vauxhall really led Ford: the third generation Senator with its 24 valve engine, the Lotus Carlton, the Mk 3 Cavalier making the Sierra look redundant and competent smaller cars.

    • Ah the Mk3 Cav. Far, far better than any of its competitors and also better than many of the cars that followed it particularly the dreadful Vectra. 250,000 miles on the same clutch and same engine, with barely any servicing. The Senator… a wonderful high powered cruiser…. Now people buy a car and seem to accept that if they don’t drive it exactly the right way, it will blow up the engine after a couple of years.

  12. @ Paul comment 3. I totally agree the next Astra looks promising, but going back to the current Astra V Focus… I own a MK3 Focus and have to say I’m happy with its design and build quality, externally & internally. The dashboard layout and trim is at least as good as current Astra’s and I’ve been in a few.

    It shouldn’t be forgotten that although the Focus is not built in UK, at least many of its engines are – and the Dealer network supports hundreds of jobs. Both Manufacturers are now producing competitive products. Good for the customers!

  13. Hats off to GM for making Ellesmere Port the home of the Astra.
    Still begs the question why Ford can’t make cars in the UK anymore???
    Ford make enough profit in the UK to prop-up their German manufacturing arm.
    Ford may do development in the UK, but since they started making Transits in Turkey they have also opened a Design centre there as well & will probably in the future shift more work from Dunton there.

    • The simple fact is that when Ford needed to close a European manufacturing site, UK employment laws (or more accurately, it’s lack of employment laws) made the UK the only realistic option. Allied with the demise of UK unions, this has made UK manufacturing very vulnerable. Sadly, this is the inevitable consequence of Thatcherite policies applied across 30 years, allied to the Labour Party’s abandonment of UK workers.

      • I didn’t know that there were still people that believed that kind of nonsense.

        We have a thriving manufacturing industry precisely because many of the barriers to employment were removed at that time. That government’s successful intervention in the Nissan negotiations paved the way for the Washington investment and the subsequent investment in UK suppliers that created the opportunity for the likes of Toyota, Honda, Mini, JLR etc. to open and expand their UK production facilities.

        The simple fact with Ford is that they are a global company and will operate factories where it suits them – they are a private company. Happily, it suits them to build one in four of all the engines fitted to Ford vehicles worldwide in the UK as well as substantial other design and research capabilities.

        Rather than blathering on about workers’ rights it is more helpful to deal in facts and celebrate the fast expanding employment in the UK automotive sector.

        • Peter,

          I’m employed in s senior engineering role at a well known UK car maker. I’ve been in the industry for almost 39 years, including 12 years at, what was at the time, a part of Ford. I’m not “blathering on about worker’s rights”, and what I said was not “nonsense”. No matter how much you may deny it, Ford ceased vehicle production in the UK simply because it was the easiest place in Europe to do so. This is because most European nations have enacted legislation (with the co-operation of their unions) that makes it very difficult and expensive to make large-scale redundancies. All of your objections don’t change the facts.

          • What about Ford Genk, closed with 4300 job losses. Opel Bochum, closed with 3000 job losses. Peugoet Alnay, near Paris, closed with 3000 job losses plus other job losses across France, etc

            It’s simplistic to say that only the UK has had job losses.

          • One cannot deny the job losses. Happily, jobs lost in failing companies have been replaced by those in expanding enterprises. That’s the free market working to create wealth for everyday people in a dynamic way. We cannot cling on to 1970 for ever…

  14. Genk was the next in line after the UK sites went (the last to go will be Germany). Luton went before Bochum (Ellesmere Port was only retained after huge concessions by the UK workforce). Peugoet closed it’s UK operations long ago (remember Ryton?).

  15. Isn’t it ironic; & I’m not taking political sides, but all the car plant closures (Dagenham,Luton,Ryton & LDV & MG Rover ) were under a Labour Government.
    All the important car plant “openings” (Nissan,Honda,Toyota)were under a Conservative Government.
    Plus GM could have easily opted to close Ellmere Port instead of Bochum.
    Look at what Ford did to JLR!!!!
    The problem with the “British” car industry is it’s in Foreign hands & will always be affected by global decisions & any car plant has no long term security since all investment decisions are only based on the lifespan of the vehicle produced at the plant.

  16. In two years’ time the model name ‘Astra’ will have been around longer in continuous use (1979-?) than Hillman’s ‘Minx’ (1932-70).

  17. I quite like the styling of this new Astra- interesting enough without being fussy, although the dipping rear roof might make rear headroom tight, and I wouldn’t expect rear visibility to be very good either.

    Hope it is built better than some recent Vauxhalls- I got to drive many brand new Vauxhalls last year with virtually zero miles on the clock, delivering them to customers, and quite a few were unacceptably rattly inside. Admittedly this didn’t apply so much to Astras and Insignias, mostly to Mokkas, Merivas and Zafiras- none of them built here.

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