1997 Vauxhall Astra Arctic 1.6 16v from UK and Ireland
An old barge with bags of character
Clutch failed at 92k.
Heater control bulbs blown (common).
Heater only works on 4 (common).
Rear shock bushing failed.
Exhaust rear section broke off.
Noisy aux belt.
Recently drove through a flood and ruined the new clutch's thrust bearing; awaiting replacement.
RUST, RUST, RUST.
Brought this last June for 300 quid after having a 1.4 Merit Hi Torq. It's flame red and still looks pretty bright. Being the Arctic model, it benefits from air conditioning, that amazingly still blows icy cold.
The engine is the 1.6 16v Ecotec unit, producing around 100 HP. It's not a fast car by any means, and the engine has to be worked hard to achieve any sort of brisk progress.
The biggest problem with the car is the gearing; it's all over the place; 1st and 2nd are way too short, followed by a very long 3rd and 4th, and a short 5th. This makes the car quite hard work when driving on country roads, as you have to constantly change gear. Also motorway cruising at anything beyond 65mph can be very unpleasant, as the engine is spinning at around 3.5k RPM at 70mph. Top speed wise I have had it to 115mph before it hit the rev limiter, which further suggests it could use a longer fifth gear.
Handling wise this is typical Vauxhalls of old territory; very soft and bouncy, with very vague feedback from the steering. However this is a family hatchback, not the sporty car that it pretends to be. The alloys and spoiler ain't fooling anybody Vauxhall.
The brakes are pretty substandard too, feeling rather mushy and needing a firm press of the pedal to make them slow the pace from higher speeds. Also for a car of this spec, I'm quite astonished that it doesn't have ABS as standard.
All this being said, I'm not saying it's a bad car, as it is getting on a bit now, with war wounds and rust showing in the usual places. A lot of the braking and handling problems could probably be cured with a nice set of new brakes, and some lowering springs and better quality shocks.
It starts first turn of the key in any weather, and hasn't left me by the side of the road in the 5 months I have owned it. Running costs are a little steeper than most, as taxing it for 6 months costs 122 quid, and if you drive it quickly, the fuel economy can be quite poor.
To sum it up, this car is now getting on for 17 years old, and still runs great, and you still see a lot of these cars around, which has to say something for Vauxhall. However the time may be coming to change to something a little younger.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 9th January, 2014