Nearly-new buying guide: Vauxhall Astra
It looks just like the recently revised model, but the now-superseded Astra is better value
Prices start at £5000 for a high-mileage 2016- reg 1.6 CDTi, so a used Vauxhall Astra is a tempting proposition. It won’t look or feel as classy as a Volkswagen Golf but then you’ll pay £2500 more for the pleasure of owning that particular people’s car. The Ford Focus is closer in appearance and feel to the Astra but even that will set you back around £1000 more.
Of course, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for, and in the Astra’s case, what you get is a reputation for unreliability. According to the latest survey by our sibling magazine, What Car?, the Astra diesel is the least reliable family car you can buy.
The petrol version fares better, but better still are the Focus and the Golf. Not a good start for Vauxhall’s family hatchback, then, except there’s so much to like about it that it seems a shame to condemn it on the strength of a survey. For one thing, it was developed on UK roads, earning it a big tick on any thinking driver’s score card. It’s light, and light on its feet. It’s also roomy and practical and its engines – a range of petrol and diesel units – are, by and large, economical, refined and fun to punt.
The range of trims is a little baffling but, regardless, even basic Design is well equipped (7.0in colour touchscreen with Vauxhall’s IntelliLink phone connectivity, a digital radio, air-con and 16in alloy wheels). Our pick is SRi, the next up, but if you fancy more luxury, there’s Elite (leather-covered and powered sports seats, automatic lights and wipers, and lashings of chrome).
The model was launched in 2015 and has just been facelifted. Actually, that’s underselling the changes since the latest Astra now features new Euro 6d- and RDE2-compliant engines plus improved suspension. What hasn’t changed is the model’s styling, which must say something about the rightness of the original, if not Vauxhall’s bank balance.
But more tax efficient and better to drive though it is, why spend £18,885 on the cheapest facelifted Astra, the 1.2 110 SE, when for £15,000 you could have a pre-facelift model in a high spec and with a strong engine? Something like a 2019/19-reg Astra 1.4T 150 Griffin. Specwise, this run-out special sits between Tech Line Nav and SRi and new, it cost around £19,950. Features include dual-zone climate control, 18in alloy wheels and a sat-nav. The 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine is a good performer and economical as well.
For even better economy, target the 1.6 CDTi diesel in 109bhp and 134bhp forms or, one of our favourites, the 104bhp 1.0T petrol. It’s among the best three-pots out there – all snarly and punchy but, thanks to its balancer shafts, smooth, too. For more power, try the 124bhp 1.4T.
You’re still thinking about the Astra diesel’s poor reliability, right? Then go for that more reliable but still economical 104bhp 1.0T petrol and think what fun you’ll have.
NEED TO KNOW
The Astra’s 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper’ diesel motor is quieter than the engine it replaced but not as whisper quiet as Vauxhall claims. Still, it does have acoustic covers to muffle noise and vibration, as well as the lowest internal friction in its class. These facts, at least, should shock your dinner party guests into silence.
Although smaller and lower than the model it replaced, and with a shorter wheelbase, the Astra under the spotlight here is roomier. For example, rear-seat passengers enjoy 35mm of extra leg room.
Don’t buy a used Astra on the strength of its remote OnStar concierge service. The facility is being terminated in December 2020, and since January 2019, no new Astras have been fitted with the system.
TOP SPEC PICK
ULTIMATE – For once, a trim name that’s close to the truth. Heated and powered leather seats, climate control, LED matrix headlights, 18in alloys and multiple driver assist features — they’re all here.
Vauxhall Astra 1.0T 105 SRi – This little three-cylinder turbo petrol strikes just the right balance between fun and low running costs, and SRi trim brings a good sat-nav and a larger, 8.0in touchscreen.
Vauxhall Astra 1.6T 200 SRi – Understated looks meet a fire breather of an engine. The 1.6T can rattle off 0-62mph in just 6.6sec. Meanwhile, it handles and rides with aplomb. A Q-car to savour.
ONES WE FOUND
2016 Astra 1.6 CDTi Tech Line, 113,000 miles, £4990
2017 Astra 1.0T 105 Design, 14,000 miles, £7650
2018 Astra 1.4T 150 SRi, 4000 miles, £12,995
2019 Astra 1.4T 150 Elite Nav, 11,000 miles, £13,850
Source: Autocar Online