We know the hatchback is good, so do all the pundits and the 2016 COTY awards have proved exactly that. But the Sports Tourer is aimed right at the Civic, Focus and Octavia – all of which offer something a little different. We attended the UK press and media launch at Luton to see if this is every inch as talented as the 5dr car.
Thankfully… it is!
Sports Tourer… that seems to be the new word for estate car these days, though quite a few fail to conjure up any accent on the actual sporty bit. This new Astra that rides on the success of its 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 hold all impress in the same manner as the award winning hatchback?
To put it plainly… Yes. There’s a range of uber efficient diesel and petrol power units on offer from a 1.0 turbo to a 1.6 16v petrol turbo that squirts out a healthy 200PS and its this one I drove and walked away with a sly grin on my face. 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 settled once the pace quickens and boy… its smooth!
Performance from the 1.6 turbo was really quite good with a solid belt of torque from just below 1500rpm. Even in 6th gear pulling up the long bank from Luton Airport to the M1 at junction ten, the car just pulled 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 at 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. I like the overall build quality and the paint finish was exceptional – Vauxhall really are nailing a car together as good as the main class rivals like the Civic Tourer or Focus – its 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.
Some things are not so sweet. I 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 drivers pop down trinket tray in the lower dash – it feels really cheap and nasty. The rear pillar treatment hampers rearward visibility slightly – and there’s no parking sensor or camera neither. But as a car in general? Well… to repeat what I have said before its much much more than the best Astra ever – its a really great car full stop.
From also ran to front runner, its about time Vauxhall had a product that redefines comfort and safety not to mention giving Uncle Henry and ze Germans a bloody nose into the bargain. I’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.
Initial Rating – 9/10
LIKES: Smart looking – Refined – Great performance and chassis – Passenger and load space balance.
DISLIKES: Clumsy rear pillar styling – Needs parking sensors – Gear lever knob feels overly large.