As the Actress once said to the Bishop “there’s no substitute for size”. That’s often been the case for small engines with high power outputs… all go but no grunt. Vauxhall’s all new Astra with its turbocharged 1.0 triple claims to rebuff many peoples beliefs (including my own) that tiny engines offer little in driver enjoyment.
Well… does it?
One thing that does worry me about modern metal, is the trend in downsizing engines in the rampant quest for the ultimate green machine. I worry about longevity for starters. Take some modern diesel engines be it car or light commercial for example, the combustion temperatures nowadays have to be so hot that its not uncommon for some makers units to be life expired owing to component failure long before an equivalent petrol model. Once, not that long ago, a typical well maintained diesel car or van would think nothing about racking up 200,000 miles plus, those days are numbered… and I’m not joking either!
When it comes to smaller petrol engines, the trend is now leaning towards ultra high efficiency high powered small cubic capacity units too – quite often with three cylinders. Ford have the now established 1.0 ecoboost engine, but going back to what I have just said about some ultra efficient modern ultra green power units, longevity and driveability sometimes seem to be questionable. Reports of cylinder head and cooling problems with Ford are starting to trickle through along with the reporting of some total engine failures. In Vauxhall’s case however, a three cylinder engine is far from new.
One thing needs to be said from the outset. The 1.0 unit some people may remember as being fitted to the 2000 – 2006 model year Corsa that was gruffer that a dozen Billy goats and about as pleasing on the ear as a child learning the violin… is a thing of the past. The Astra 1.0 tech line comes with an all new turbocharged 1.0 triple with 12 valves and 105Ps and previous experiences with the new Astra have been superb, so I wont waffle on about the overall package but concentrate mainly on the driveline. Transmission comes from a traditional five speed manual box and the test car here came in a fabulous shade of shocking red and pretty turbine effect optional larger alloy wheels.
“Lifting the bonnet for a look-see reveals a very neat & compact engine with masses of space around it. Looking longer term I’d say it looks ideal for DIY servicing when the manufacturers warranty expires“
As with the other two Astra’s tested on AUTOBRITANNIA, there was nothing to bicker about in terms of kerbside appeal and exterior build quality. In fact, the paint finish on this latest car was utterly flaw free and reflected images back almost as good as a calm millpond. Lifting the bonnet for a look-see reveals a very neat and compact engine with masses of space around it. Predicting long term I’d say it looks ideal for DIY servicing when the manufacturers warranty expires should a competent owner choose to do so. Having a cheeky look under the acoustic cover I noted the clever cylinder head positioned central fuel injectors adjacent to the spark plugs… opposed to the norm of being fitted into the inlet manifold. This makes for every atom of fuel vapour going right into the heart of the combustion chamber and not a squirt wasted.
Very flexible engine mounts are fitted to counteract off beat vibrations entering the cabin. Only when you lift off the clutch at low revs when initially pulling away does any real notable gruffness become slightly apparent. For most of the time the little triple bimbles along quite merrily and there’s no flat spot to the power delivery either. In fact… it goes like a little bomb and the torque back up on tap soon has you forgetting this is a relatively small power unit. Around town the punchy nature of the engine allied to the light clutch and sweet gearchange quality really brought a smile to my face. I so wanted to pick fault and confirm my initial doubts about little turbo engines, but I’ll be 100% honest with you… I couldn’t find anything that serious to really moan and groan about.
“…it ran up the that hill better than Kate Bush, holding a good speed in top gear”
And its even better out of town. Get it onto a good dual carriageway or motorway and the red rocket performed really strongly. A local killer hill called Bury Bank not far from Arundel is notorious and features an almost mile long grind with switchback curves. It ran up that hill better than Kate Bush, holding a good speed in top gear and quite able to overtake and pass Mr & Mrs Slowcoach in the crawler lane with a sneaky downshift into 4th. Motorway cruising is fine too with the legal maximum showing well under 3000rpm on the tacho. Give the pedal a squeeze and the power take up is fairly instant for a bit more progress, so long as 1200rpm is showing you can keep both your hands on the wheel and move on in top without a second thought. Overall refinement is excellent with very little driveline or wind noise.
The lighter smaller engine seems to pay a dividend with the handling. Placebo effect maybe but I found the 1.0 Tech Line notably nimbler on its toes than with previous models on test- only the slightly lifeless steering at lower urban speeds lets it down. The ride is notably erring on the side of firm but its never joggly, unsettled or uncomfortable, in fact, the faster you go the smoother the ride comfort becomes. The seating position in relation to the pedals and controls is just right and the all new lightweight seat design gives you no twinges during or after a good long journey. As before, there’s plenty of space, a decent sound system, GM’s rather splendid On-Star system, an agreeable level of bells and whistles not to mention the point that its good value for money.
I was very impressed with the 1.4 turbo but found this 1.0 possibly even more pleasing. Long term driveline longevity remains to be seen of course… its far to early to tell. You soon forget about the seemingly small engine size (though the slightly buzzy engine note is often evident) and relax with what really is a very pleasant eco minded five door hatch. Don’t believe some other reports that claim it to be lacking in outright performance, try one yourself and decide. Its perhaps the most impressive driveline in the whole range.
Oh hang on a moment… the 200Ps all new SRi Sports Tourer comes for review soon. Perhaps I’ll reserve the ultimate decision till then!
Should you buy or if not why? Yes – its a cracking car
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING : 9/10
THE HUMBLE OPINION
Well there you have it, I wanted to nit-pick and find fault but came away chuffed to bits. A really great car and model range all round and of course… good enough to be voted European Car Of The Year – and accolade that Vauxhall truly deserve. The 1.0 turbo pulls right up from its boots, offers good economy and skips along with a happy buzzy but fairly refined tune.
Its not a perfect car and could my previous mutterings about the cheap feeling lower dash trim, the awkward hump in the floor when you fold the rear seat down, weak rearward visibility and the ugly clumsy over large gear knob stop it from getting a perfect ten? Who knows, but the new Astra, regardless of the driveline you choose is a safe, solid and talented car that shines so much more than the brand image and badge suggests.
It fights its corner with some really tough established rivals such as Focus or Golf however… but in most areas out punches both into submission. The only problem is the lack of aspirational desire – perhaps the punishment for all those past years of producing a range of worthy but also-ran cars. But things are different now and the dealers and manufacturer will have to up the marketing ante to woo those all important potential conquest customers.
But overall? a very impressive car and the recently launched Sports Tourer adds even more talent and choice to a class beating British built model range – We have the SRi 1.6 200Ps version of this coming very soon!
Model Tested: Astra TECH LINE 1.0T ecoFLEX
Produced By: Vauxhall Motors Ltd Ellesmere Port Cheshire UK
Price: £16,695 excluding options
Driveline: 999cc 12v Turbocharged 3 cylinders & 5 speed manual transmission
Power / Torque: 105Ps – 175Nm
Performance: * 0 – 60 in 10.5 seconds (max 124mph)
Economy: * 64.2mpg combined (56.2mpg on test)
Co2 / VED: 102G/Km – Band B
* Govt or Manufacturers claimed data
THE HIGHS: Strong punchy performance – Very refined when cruising – Sweet gearchange – Clever intellilink system with Sat Nav & On Star works straight out of the box – Impressive handling / ride balance – Exterior fit & finish both first rate – Good level of equipment – Fun to drive and smile inducing – Economy and value.
THE LOWS: Steering lacks feel around town – Gear knob too bulky – Some minor trim feels quite cheap – Rearward visibility not the best – Brand / badge image lacks kudos and aspirational credibility.
*PLEASE NOTE* 1.4 turbo & 1.6 diesel general in depth reviews can be found on the home page.
For further information on the new Astra, the 2016 Car Of The Year click HERE