Driven : Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer SRi 1.6i Turbo

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The estate car is dead… Long live the Sports Tourer.

Vauxhall has recently extended its CoTY 2016 award-winning Astra range with the addition of some all-new load-luggers, but are they worthy of the Sports Tourer name?

Its part of an award winning range of British made cars and rightly deserves its title. Its the new Astra SRi Sports Tourer 1.6i Turbo with 200PS
It’s part of an award-winning range of British-made cars – the new Astra SRi Sports Tourer 1.6i Turbo comes with 200PS and rightly deserves its title

The Astra is most definitely Vauxhall’s answer to perpetual motion, isn’t it? Rather like post boxes and corner shops, they have been street furniture for years – decades, in fact, as it was 1981 when the very first Astra dropped off the Ellesmere Port assembly plant’s tracks. At the launches of the hatch and now this more capacious model, Vauxhall very much traded on the heritage aspect of Astra, and rightly so too. However, this all-new Astra is a car for today and tomorrow, not only that but it’s the second time this model has won the coveted Car of the Year in its lifetime.

We’ve spent a lot of time with the new Astra in hatchback form and formed the opinion of it being good… in fact, very good. It doesn’t hit you right away and we can imagine a few potential test drivers not cottoning on – especially with a French-polished and blow-dried salesman chuntering away in the ear like a toddler who has just learnt to talk. A day, maybe a couple, is what’s required to appreciate this all-new car. The problem is that Vauxhall has been retailing worthy but very much also-ran vehicles for so many years in a world where second best doesn’t cut it.

Many AROnline readers may know that Mike Humble sold new Vauxhall cars for some time. Even though they have always been easy-going cars to sell and own, they have previously lacked the driving talent of offerings like Ford Focus and the perceived all-round quality package of a Golf. Back in the day, the Astra always used to sell in good numbers to retail and fleet consumers purely on cost rather than any real distinction or ability. However, this has changed and, if he was still selling in that Middlesboro’ dealership today, he would be in for making some serious commission.

The Sports Tourer features a comprehensive range of petrol and diesel drivelines from a spirited 1.0 turbo triple with 105PS through to this model featured – the 200PS 1.6 SRi Turbo. For those old enough to recall, the SRi title conjures up mental images of nippy Novas and other fuel-injected rapid Vauxhalls – halcyon days of fast motoring for the masses. However, in recent years the title has been diluted to little more than just a trim level, but we’re pleased to say that the Vauxhall SRi is back… even if it doesn’t quite emulate a Carmine Red five-door Cavalier with an optional Irmscher styling kit.

The 1.6 turbo pushes out 200PS and 300Nm of torque and is attached to one of the nicest gearboxes encountered. Its flexible, smooth, refined and pretty fair on the fuel.
The 1.6 turbo pushes out 200PS and 300Nm of torque and is attached to one of the nicest gearboxes we have recently encountered – it’s a flexible, smooth, refined and pretty fair on the fuel driveline

The advantages of the new Tourer include a shedding of up to 180kg of weight and the standard-fit OnStar driver support feature – you need to Google this as its more far reaching than you could imagine and is worthy of an article of its own. The car also features a few more inches of interior space and more room for the luggage thanks to its restyled cabin and all-new seat design – despite the exterior dimensions being the same as the outgoing model. Even the raw steel used to form the shell is a new product especially created by GM and TATA engineers.

It’s a clever and talented vehicle in which most of the tech-spec hides under the skin but, for the driver, it represents a driving environment which is possibly the safest and technologically advanced ever known for a volume mass-produced car. When it comes to driving, the Astra has performance that was once only the privilege of the VX-R model. The tried and tested sprint to 60mph is claimed in 7.2 seconds and the car will knuckle down and blast onwards to a maximum of well over 140mph – and, boy, is it smooth with it, too!

An easy to use facia and decent driving position is worthy of note. Superb level of technology and safety criteria is to be found nowhere else in this class of car.
An easy-to-use facia and decent driving position are worthy of note. Superb level of technology and safety criteria are to be found nowhere else in this class of car. The gear knob is a bit too large and could be shaped better but at least the shift action is superb – aided by a nice short and light clutch pedal

Refinement is very good indeed though slightly spoilt for rear passengers on rough surfaced roads. My passengers often complained about road noise in the back on broken or rough surfaces – that’s often symptomatic of estate cars generally, but I think it can be improved on. An ergonomically sound facia, snug and supportive seats and a really sweet gear change quality with nigh on perfect pedal positioning make for a cracking drive be it around town or along the motorway but budding back-road Brundles will notice a real lack of steering feel at the rim – it’s also a bit too light.

Handling and ride are generally very good. Despite 200PS, the SRi gets the power onto the tarmac well without too much interference from the traction control. It jostles and patters around on bad roads at low speed but, rather like my thoughts on the rear cabin noise, that tends to be the norm these days. That said, it’s never overbearingly firm and, once you reach more progressive speeds, the ride settles down to be rather smooth – as it’s title says, it’s a Sports Tourer and worthy of those two words in every respect.

The rear side brightwork and twin tailpipe treatment make the Astra stand out from the crowd. The power red paint job was virtually flawless too.
The rear side bright-work detail and twin tailpipe treatment make the Astra stand out from the crowd. The Power Red paint job was virtually flawless too. Tidy handling and good practicality are major plusses

Passenger space is fine and the cargo area extends to well over 1600 litres which is right up there with the very best in its class. It’s not as clever as stowing or hiding stuff away as our other British-made Tourer – the Honda Civic but, whereas the Civic boasts a slightly whacky marmite interior, the Astra won’t offend or scare off those with traditional or conservative tastes. Far from being boring though, the Astra has some neat styling cues which make it stand out – these include the swooping aluminium trim over the rear side windows and, in 200PS SRi flavour, a snappy pair of rear tailpipes.

Build quality is decent with exacting shut lines, meaty-sounding doors and superb paintwork application. Our only concerns with fixtures and fittings included slightly cheap feeling column stalks, a lack of a rear centre armrest and an oddments tray to the right of the steering wheel that feels bitterly substandard and reminded me of the sort of incidental plastics you would have found in an early 1990s Hyundai. Oh, and that gear lever is way too big and shaped a bit wrong – but at least it operates one of the slickest transmissions we have experienced in recent years.

So there we have it, a fine car and worthy of the recent CoTY award. Very smooth, very refined and very clever with laugh-out-loud performance and sensible fuel economy to boot – but it’s a Vauxhall and, despite its real appeal and ability, the brand is too often ignored by car fanatics and enthusiasts these days.

And that’s a shame… The new Astra range is superb and testimony that our British workers can, and do, produce a winning, first-class product.

More on Mike’s own website which concentrates on new British automotive products.

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

6 Comments

  1. I much prefer estates to saloons and hatches and have always appreciated the Astra as a decent all round car and this one looks okay. Okay, that is, apart from that awful carbuncle of a rear side window design!!!
    Make it an estate, or make it a van, but this half Bedford Astra, have Vauxhall Astra estate “Sports Tourer” side profile is positively gag inducing. It would be a deal breaker for me 🙁

  2. One thing that at least Opel has learned, is to make long option lists…. The base price for the Astra Sports Tourer of € 18260 does not sound too bad – but what do you get? Nothing, nada, zilch all. Without further options there is 1 (one!!) single colour available (dark blue), a bleak all black plastic interior, no radio, no speakers, no arial… Adding a head unit for 450€, but that comes without CD drive – add 150€ more, get DAB – yes, 100€ more. Actually, I guess they will not sell a single car at the base list price.

  3. Alexander: you can probably blame Ford for the long options lists and BMW for the base model that’d be perfect for a Chelmno taxi, redefining the meaning of poverty spec.
    So far as I know my dad’s 1981 Cavalier SRi is still going.. The one that did Porlock hill on three wheels (towing a caravan) .. The sign at the top was brilliant.. “No Caravans”.
    Like the chrome spear down from the roof, that’s unusual. The rest of its pretty bland.
    Hopefully the onstar has been tuned for the UK, earlier versions had a habit of seeing a speedbump as a 5 car pileup. God alone knows what it made of roundabouts.

  4. It’s a lot better looking than a Focus to be sure.

    I used to like Vauxhalls and owned 5 of them over the years, including 2 Astras.

    The new one is a good sized family estate and will probably be fairly reliable.

    The only down side for me is that both local dealers are owned by Arnold Shark.
    (A) I would not buy from them based on previous experience
    (B) I would not let their service team near any of my cars

    Shame really.

  5. That is pretty ugly in the rear quarter window treatment!

    I think the previous model was really spot on, but this is not an improvement at all styling wise.

  6. Why did I choose an manual, 200 BHP, 1.6 Petrol Turbo, Astra K SRI NAV Sports Tourer?

    I became aware of GM’s newly developed SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection ) Petrol Turbo engines – having already owned a car with one of the first generation engines of this type – a Mazda 256 BHP, 2.3 litre DISI (same as SIDI but reversed) Petrol Turbo engine, specifically designed to out accelerate conventional 3 to 4 litre petrol engined cars (in a Mazda CX7, 0-60 mph in 6.8 secs – second only to the Porsche Cayenne when the CX 7 was released in 2007 – it was the most popular SUV in Russia and Australia and won ten awards for low pollution in Japan). My CX 7 had been totally reliable for me with low servicing costs. This engine’s block is the one used in the latest 2016 Ford Focus RS.

    Having had a great Sports SUV, I wanted the space and pace of an 4.7 metre Sports SUV, but without the £7 to £12k markup being asked by most manufacturers of SUVs.

    I did not want many of the features being offered by many brands – things like: key-less car entry (security issues here), push button starting, 18 to 20 inch tyres – done that, electronic handbrake (various roll away and other issues here), run flat tyres, self parking, cold leather seats – done that, engines that remember how you drive, ridiculous double pull door opening on BMWs, dowdy colours like VW and Audi’s, high servicing costs of Premium brands – done that, non opening panoramic sun roof, fiddly screen controlled secondary services – A/C etc., handbooks only available online like Volvo’s, screens instead of proper instruments, excessive safety aids, cars that have looked the same for ages, excessively downsized engines, a long bonnet, tricky to get into rear seats like a Jaguar XE, cars that bash your head as you get into the driver’s seat, cramped cars like a small or medium Lexus, engines that shut down cylinders or do other things when they feel like it.

    I did want a car with a petrol turbo SIDI engine (fewer pollutants), manual so I was in control – not the car, a zippy engine with loads of torque – which doesn’t make a fuss on acceleration – and just delivers, an opening sunroof, a built in SatNav, an actual spare wheel, a manual pull up handbrake, heated seats and steering wheel, fog lights, mud flaps, a decent colour selection, tinted rear windows, a fresh design, all round parking sensors, a Tax band around £140 (which even sub 100 g/km cars will pay next year), a low insurance group – not Group 33 like a lot of modest performance SUVs and I also fancied a local dealer so I could walk home from leaving it for servicing rather than servicing being a whole day event.

    I toyed with the idea of getting a SAIC built MG GS – manual, four wheel drive, with a 217 HP two litre DISI turbo petrol engine and all the bells and whistles – mainly to see what Chinese built cars were like. It looked good on paper – but MG did not bring that model over. Anyway, SAIC brought out, in Summer 2016, a far better looking and “Internet Connected” Roewe RX5 – again with manual or Double Clutch Gearbox, four wheel drive, the 217 HP two litre DISI turbo petrol engine and all the bells and whistles for ~£20k – just before the MG GS was launched in the UK. I would have had one of these Roewe RX5s, if they had been available in the UK.

    I looked for alternatives, viewing the Ssangyong Tivoli (nice, but with a modest petrol engine and no petrol engine available for the Tivoli XLV) and the Renault Kadjar (similar styling to CX7 – same designer – but overpriced and with a rather small petrol turbo engine).

    Late in the day I came to my local Vauxhall Dealer and picked up and studied the blurb on the new Astra K, which I had read about in Autocar and knew was European Car Of The Year. I organised for a test drive of the 1.4 petrol manual and auto and a 1.6 Sports Tourer, if possible (the dealer had only seen one 1.6 at this time).

    On test drive day I drove the first 1.4 Turbo Petrol, Auto, Elite Sports Tourer that the dealer had had. I was smitten by the sharp looks, good access, good forward sight lines, space to match my CX7 and the way it drove. I quickly ordered the manual, 200 BHP, 1.6 Petrol Turbo, Astra K SRI NAV Sports Tourer – to give me 0-60 in 7.2 sec pace, 35 to 40 mpg, 146 g/km, £145 annual car tax – and which, with my options, gave me all of what I was looking for less than the price I had paid for my CX 7 nine years earlier. The bargain of the century, with well presented and selectable driving aids – resulting in a group 19 Insurance for a 146 mph car – it even includes an on board WiFi router and OnStar remote diagnostics and instant Personal support! Better still Vauxhall were fourth in the latest UK car reliability survey by J D Power behind Skoda, Kia and Suzuki and the Astra Sports Tourer is built in the UK at Ellesmere Port. Surprisingly my Astra K Sports Tourer, seats down. carrying capacity is more than 100 litres larger than that of the £37k, Volvo V90 estate which is 200 mm longer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


WordPress spam blocked by CleanTalk.