Words: Mike Humble
Sports Tourer seems to be the new name for what most of us know as an estate car. This new age title often doesn’t quite have the cache it suggests with some marques… but the manufacturers seem to know best. So far as the new Astra matters, its been quite a hectic six months for Vauxhall, the new model has gone down well with the critics as well as this new Tourer model coming on stream very recently. To make no bones about Astra – we love the car mainly because of its safety and tech related features, not only the aforementioned but the plain hard fact its a really great car that’s turned an also ran into a front runner… no seriously… its a very good and solid car on almost every conceivable level.
This all new load lugging model comes in a range just as comprehensive as the hatch model, drivelines range from a 105PS three cylinder 1.0 through to a 200PS 1.6 EcoTec petrol on test here with a sprinkling of efficient diesels for good measure. The hatch model is a new design from the ground up and the tourer is also. Thanks to some clever design, a strict diet and a truly impressive engineering programme so thorough that even the raw sheet steel used in its construction is a new blend, sports tourer is lighter, leaner and even cheaper that the old model. Despite exterior dimensions being the same, its got a bit more space for passengers and packages too – maximum cargo space on offer is just over 1600 litres – 540 with all the rear seat in situ.
“…its incredibly easy and entertaining to drive and operate, only a brief flick through the operations manual to acclimatise to the features is all that’s needed”
In its SRi trim level, the usual expectations seem to be offered with features like air con, cruise, alloys, front fogs, multi function trip and car computer and all round power windows. As you would expect of a mass produced Vauxhall its incredibly easy and entertaining to drive and operate, only a brief flick through the operations manual to acclimatise to the features is all that’s needed. Now this is a major plus when you take into account that almost every type and shape of driver will be leaping in and out of Vauxhalls answer to perpetual motion. The test cars shade of power red looks great in my opinion and for a mass produced car is blessed with a good level of exterior fit and finish that’s notable during the obligatory first contact walk around the car.
I wasn’t too fussed about the chrome band effect up and over the rear windows at first but after spending a little time seem to quite like it now – its different and makes the car stand out from other Euro bland designs of a similar ilk. One or two commentators reckoned it looked a little under-wheeled in side profile – could it gain from larger diameter wheels perhaps or does it look okay as it does? You decide this of course… but styling, is in all cases, remains a personal and opinionated topic and choice. Climb inside and everything forward of the rear seats is pure current Astra. The front seats despite lacking an adjustable lumbar support (standard on the Elite) they hold you in place well enough and seemed snug and supportive on long journeys.
There’s no lack of space to worry about and front seat occupant clutter is taken care of by a good sized cubby under the arm rest, deep door pockets and a commodious glove box though why Vauxhall have omitted night time illumination from it smacks of excessive cost cutting. Rear seat passengers have plenty of leg and head room although it was noted that rough topped roads bring an almost unbearable amount of road noise into the back. Motorway cruising is on the whole very relaxed and smooth – 70mph shows around 2600rpm on the tacho in 6th gear and the punchy power unit responds to a nudge on the pedal without requiring a down change.
Away from the motorways its very capable. A great chassis, superb damping and secure handling add up to a really enjoyable drivers car. The only fly in the drivers ointment is the overly light and slightly lifeless steering that is at loggerheads with its very crisp and tidy chassis, take away some of the assistance and engineer some real feel at the rim and it would be nigh on perfect. Also of note are the brakes. They remind me of a mid 80s Citroen BX or CX – very powerful but lacking in progression, initial applications at first show up a slightly over sensitive pedal. Once you have adjusted to them they work fine its fair to say but those new to the car will notice it.
“Activate sport mode and it instantly goes from being super smooth to a laugh out loud road racer at the tap of a button…”
Its 1.6 200PS engine works a treat. For most of the time its super smooth and the 300Nm of torque starts to build up from around 1200rpm with barely any noticeable turbo lag. The power comes on very well and it stays with you right around the dial too, I thought it felt like a lusty 2.0 unit and its happy to sing up high as well as slog from way down low. Activate sport mode and it instantly goes from being super smooth to a laugh out loud road racer at the tap of a button, this re-maps the throttle pedal response. So long as you drive with a degree of responsibility its easy to see a fuel return of over 40mpg. The close ratio 6 speed gearbox and clutch go together like a pint and Castella thanks one of the best and lightest shift actions around – shame that gear knob is overly large and cumbersome to the touch.
On a practicality front Astra fares very well, the boot floor is low, flat and wide. Knock down the seat backs and that extra 1100 litres of space comes with a hump free floor – pity the same doesn’t apply to the hatchback. Add all this together with the class leading safety and tech thanks to the standard Vauxhall On-Star support and you have a smart looking car that gets on with the job while putting a big smile on your face when you want to press on and have some fun. For my two penneth worth… its every bit as impressive as the hatch version… if not maybe a little more perhaps?
Should you buy and if not why? Yep… another winner for the brilliant new Astra range!
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING : 9/10
THE HUMBLE OPINION
On a personal level, I thought the old Tourer was a good looking car. Thankfully Vauxhall haven’t spoilt the looks, its smart and stylish. The chrome detailing towards the rear 3/4 area I initially thought as being fussy have grown on me over time but as the article states – style is an opinionated topic.
Its concoction of strong and cracking performance with a decent chassis give the driver that all important feeling of security – it really does make you smirk when you push on that little bit harder. The range has deservedly won European Car of the Year 2016 not by fluke… its a car that’s been designed with the driver and occupant in mind.
Dashing good looks, safety and technology without rival coupled to a good spread of UK dealers also add up to a great package. I would like to see a bit more visible advertising on the Astra too and the odd whisper of some showrooms lacking in that crucially important product knowledge concerns me slightly. I personally know of two customers who bought elsewhere purely because of attention to dealership detail – not acceptable these days!
But overall? Its a superb car that in this 200Ps form actually befits the “Sport Tourer” title… and that makes a change these days. If I was back in a showroom environment, I would be proud to sell this new model.
Model Tested : Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer SRi 1.6 Turbo
Produced By : Vauxhall Motors Ltd Ellesmere Port Cheshire UK
Price: £22,425 excluding options
Driveline : 1.6 16v Turbo Intercooled petrol & 6sp manual gearbox
Power / Torque : 200Ps / 300Nm
Performance : *0 – 60 in 7.2 seconds (max 146mph)
Economy : *Combined 45.6mph (42.2mpg on test)
Co2 / VED : 142 G/Km – Band F = £145 first and second year
* = manufacturers or Govt claimed data
THE HIGHS : Strong performance – Refined when cruising – Surefooted handling – Great driving position – Superb level of tech and safety features – Exterior fit and finish quality – Flat and spacious cargo area – Feels strong, safe and secure – Good fun to drive – Smart and stylish.
THE LOWS: One or two areas of penny pinching noticeable – Rear passenger area noise when driving on rough roads – Cumbersome gear knob – Over light and lifeless steering – Very sensitive brakes – Some interior plastics feel cheap to the touch – Small fuel tank – Needs rear parking sensors ( though they are optional)
For more information on Astra Sports Tourer CLICK HERE
Other Astra reviews are on the home page.