Tim Burgess picked up a used Astra Sport Hatch and seems impressed so far with his purchase. Impressed enough to tell us all about it…
Back in December 2015, I decided it was time to retire my 140000 mile MG ZT-T from daily workhorse duties and bought a low mileage 10 plate Vauxhall Astra (H) SXi 1.6 Sport Hatch. This was my first Vauxhall in 20 years, having run a succession of Chevettes, Firenzas and Magnums during the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as a brace of Cavaliers as company cars.
I’d really liked the look of the Sport Hatch since it was launched and, slightly ordinary interior aside, I was very pleased with the car and bonded with it quickly. Unfortunately, a Motability driver who needed to go to Specsavers wrote it off for me less than 5 months later and I needed to find a replacement ASAP. Armed with the insurance pay-out, I committed the cardinal sin of car buying and went for the first one I looked at; a 43000 mile, one owner 60 plate 1.6 SRi in Ultra Blue with 5 stamps in the service book.
Having spent a lot of time making sure I got the “right” car in a sea of used and abused Sport Hatches previously, I really couldn’t face all that messing about again so soon and just went to an independent dealer with a good reputation and parted with my cash. The car came with a years warranty, AA membership, service and 12 months MOT in the sticker price – win!
Rolling on thirteen months later and the car has got on with the job of daily driver and business workhorse without complaint. We’ve completed trips from our home in sunny Argyll down to Bristol, Brighton and North Wales. It drives very well, handles competently and in 12000 miles has consistently returned high 40s to the gallon and is a comfortable place to sit and eat up the miles.
One thing is apparent, the interior doesn’t have the showroom “bling” appeal of say the Focus, but I suspect that from my previous experience with GM plastics and fabrics, it will wear well and keep on working. If I have one gripe, it’s the atrocious rear three-quarter visibility, and in an effort to alleviate this, I fitted a Valeo parking sensor kit while I had the rear bumper off to fit my tow bar.
Being a 2011 model year, it’s a run-out model and slightly different to the earlier cars. It has the A16XER engine used in the Astra J, rather than the Z16XER used up to 2010. The unexpected benefit of this was that the road tax was 15 quid a year cheaper than for my previous 10 plate Astra at £130. OK not fantastic but remember, I had been driving an MG ZT and shelling out £280 – so a lot cheaper for me.
As you can see then, the extra 10+ MPG I’m getting has made a real difference to my bank balance. Also of note is the complete lack of breakages or failures, apart from a rear spring which was my own stupid fault for hitting a pothole whilst towing a trailer full of logs.
And that brings me to the Astra’s other great strength. It’s so simple to work on. I undertook a full service on the car and it took me well under 2 hours to compete. Oil and air filters, oil change, spark plugs and cabin filter. It took me longer to remove the wheels than it did to change the rear springs. I will probably do the cam belt next year as it appears well within my capabilities and skill set. Some real thought has gone in to keeping workshop time to a minimum. When your car has to work hard helping you earn a living that counts for a lot.
So in conclusion – my first year with the Astra has been a very pleasant experience. Sure the interior is no match to some of my previous wheels, but in my price range who’s complaining. The key things for me is that it’s comfortable, reliable and completely rattle free. The performance is more than adequate for me and the ride and handling just on the right side of firm. I do miss my MG at times, but I have no regrets over my current choice. Hopefully it will give me a few more years of great service, although I do rather fancy a GTC.
If I take the plunge I’ll let you know.
The Humble Opinion:
Going back a few years, I sold Vauxhall cars during this models lifespan – they made me a good few quid. What I liked most about the Astra H was the turning point of build quality. It marked a significant improvement of fit, finish and general engineering that at long last came close to the perceived VW class benchmark. The buttons and twiddly bits hold on to their nice damped action when in use – nothing clicks or snaps when you push / pull or wiggle.
They drive well even by todays standards and petrol models are extremely refined when cruising – and thrifty on the pop. Just avoid the weedy 1.4 Ecotec petrol unit… it crushingly underpowered when you’ve a car full of persons or clutter. Also, swerve round the steptronic “Easy Shift” version too, in my showroom days I would profess that the letter “T” was silently pronounced.
Cheap, nice to bimble around in, easy peasy to locate cheap parts for and economical – there’s much to recommend. So what if the badge carries as much Kudos as an Aldi carrier bag? At current values, the Astra H in either 3 or 5 door is no joke as a second hand buy.
In fact… the only one laughing will be you!