Time Well Spent : New Vauxhall Astra Elite 1.4i Turbo – 8/10

We were rather impressed with the all new Astra in 1.6 diesel form recently, does the halo effect carry over to the 1.4 petrol turbo?

vauxhall_astra_elite_my15_1024x768^640x480^
The top of the range Astra Elite with 1.4 Petrol turbo driveline

Unlike a larger passenger saloon or estate the Astra is a car where the division between petrol and diesel is fairly split. I have no doubt in my mind that the current diesel version of Vauxhalls take on perpetual motion will appeal to high mileage fleet or family customers – its a cracking weapon. But there again, I was also nodding with respect at the 1.4i Turbo version when I attended the media launch at the Cheshire Ellesmere Port assembly plant a few months back. As a result, my thoughts on the new Astra being a success matter on all the engines being good… there’s no room in the current market place for a one trick pony.

Well generally speaking the new Astra is an impressive model, and in petrol form, her vital statistics stack up with the rest of tarmac catwalk. The 1.4 Ecotec 16v plant features a nicely installed turbocharger with intercooler – its also worth mentioning that all current Astra power units are indeed turbo-charged. Maximum power is a healthy 150PS while that all important torque is 235NM with a flat curve of pulling power from 2000 – 4000rpm. Unless you wring every last drop of speed from this engine it remains very smooth, very quiet and on paper at least… promises good fuel economy of 51.4mpg combined.

It doesn’t disappoint. This 1.4 injection turbo is another very fine engine that pulls exceptionally well and the six speed ratios of the manual box are well chosen and spaced out. I found the car eager to pull be it at the upper revs or indeed much further down the dial too. Providing that tacho needle is somewhere near 1400rpm, the Astra 1.4 will show a clean pair of heels and scoot away from a busy roundabout or slip past that slow moving Scania with little cause for concern. All in all I found this engine installation quite lusty and gutsy… like a decent 1.8 if you like, rather than a rev happy screamer that some small turbo engines can be.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280 (1)
150Ps & 235Nm gives strong and super smooth performance. Its quiet too and feels like a lusty 1.8 under your right foot. Manual six speed box is slick and quick shifting. All in all its been superbly engineered and installed.

As mentioned in the previous road test, the gear lever is slightly too large in the palm but wins you over by having a slick and short throw through the cogs and the perfectly weighted clutch only adds extra driving pleasure. Despite some eager driving with the climate set to auto, the fuel consumption nudged 47mpg which isn’t a massive drop from the claimed figure of 51. Be it town or motorway the Astra is super smooth and hushed, the steering lack a bit of feel but the harder you press on the better it is to shuffle around. One improvement I did notice was less snatching of the brakes when you initially apply them. The diesel model had a marked grab sensation that you soon acclimatised too, the petrol example was much better.

The Elite comes with a splash of piano black and leather upholstery on the interior. The front seats feature an adjustable thigh support and electro-pneumatic lumbar controls, a long return sprint to Somerset found the Astra to be very comfortable indeed. In the rear though there is still that odd lack of a rear centre armrest and no face level vents for the passengers as noted on the diesel SRi- both the Civic, Golf and others feature these added comfort touches. Its not all bad news though in the back, the rear cushion does feature separate heating elements – and they work well. Its odd that no rear parking camera or sensor system is fitted to this top of the range model either.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280
A well planned interior features good quality leather and credible high speed cruising ability. Its a nice place to tick off the miles and generally well screwed together. Elite trim adds the annoyance of an electronic handbrake – I hate `em!

Other equipment highlights include the rather clever “OnStar” personal assistant system that includes unlimited 4G Wi-Fi in the first year and immediate contact with a UK call centre in the event of an accident, if you get lost or even if you want to find a Balti house in Bristol. One push of a button connects you to a cheery assistant who will help with pretty much any problem, question or even just a chat on a long lonely journey. I was still impressed with the decent sounding audio system and the simplicity of use of the info-tainment unit and generally the Astra is a very user friendly car.

So there we have it. For those will smaller mileage requirements or for those people who still require more convincing with modern diesel engines, the 1.4i Turbo Astra is more than just one model in a range of best Astra’s yet, its a damn good vehicle full stop. Lovely refinement, strong performance and easily achievable efficiency is here in a UK produced hatchback. There are of course one or two items that were engineered to keep the costs down such as the horrible feeling drivers coin tray, a parcel shelf that quite literally blows away in the wind and the already mentioned lack of some rear creature comforts. If these are improved upon it will turn a very impressive car into an almost perfect one – I love this all new Astra.

Don’t pooh pooh it on brand image alone… get out in one and try it!

AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 8/10

THE HUMBLE OPINION

Another superb example of the all new Astra. The driveline is quite brilliant, the refinement is equally so. The quality may not be as deep rooted as a Golf and the clumsy rear seat folding as mentioned in my last test fails to hold a candle to the UK built Civic in terms of boot space practicality but its still a very impressive car overall. Smart looking, good to drive and cost effective makes the Astra stand toe to toe with the current generation and perceived market place benchmarks of Focus and Golf.

It just needs a little more thought about equipment and cargo practicality along with one or two minor cheap feeling plastics to truly excel. But its difficult to complain about the value, even with a couple of options that included the very clever i-Lux LED headlamps, this top line Elite model came in under £22,000.

Should you buy and if not why? A definite yes… it will transform your thoughts about Vauxhall if you had ever previously doubted them before.

Model Tested: Astra 1.4i Turbo Elite

Produced By: Vauxhall Motors Ellesmere Port

Price: £20,315 excluding options

Engine: 1.4 16 valve turbo petrol with intercooling

Power: 150Ps with 235Nm of torque

Performance: *0 – 60 in 7.8 seconds with 134mph maximum speed

Economy: *Combined 51.4mpg (recorded actual 46.8mpg on test)

Co2 / VED: 128G/Km = Band D

* = Manufacturers or Govt claimed data

THE HIGHS: Class leading safety features  Great chassis – Refined – Strong and flexible performance – Comfort – Impressive OnStar adds driver and occupant confidence – Slick gear shift – Exterior fit and finish up there with the best  – Impressive sound quality from audio system – Good value for money and economy -This new Astra goes from also ran to front runner.

THE LOWS: Some expected features not fitted such as reverse sensors and rear arm rest – Some minor cost cutting evident here and there – Awkward cargo floor when seats folded – Rearward visibility not the best.

For more information on the Astra CLICK HERE

Our previous test of the 1.6 diesel SRi can be read by CLICKING HERE

 

a


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s