2002 Vauxhall Astra SXi 1.8 16v petrol from UK and Ireland
Better than I was expecting
Squealing brakes (fixed under warranty)
ECU warning light came on once, went off again and has never re-appeared. Dealers says all is well.
Much better than I was expecting. I had a 306 XSi before this as a company car, which I totally loved, and was dismayed when our fleet guy did some deal with Vauxhall and we ended up with these.
But I'm pleased to say I worried too much. No, the Astra doesn't handle anywhere near as well as the 306 did, but it ain't half bad. The absolute worst thing about the car is its steering, which is overassisted, lifeless and lacking any form of feel. Through constant changes in weighting and movement, the 306's steering told you instantly how much or how little grip was at the front wheels, what the road surface was like, but the Astra just provides the fingertips with the same rubbery, finger tip light numbness whether you're stationary or doing 100 mph round a tightening sweeper.
That said, 100 mph around a tightening sweeper is more than you'd try in a Vectra or old shape Astra, and this Astra does turn in well and it grips strongly. It won't allow you to adjust your line on the throttle or play the sideways hooligan like the 306 did though, and it doesn't ride as well, but that said it is a competent enough machine which does pretty much everything that could reasonably be asked of it. Compared to previous Vauxhall abominations, this is actually quite superb.
The engine is a belter and it slightly outperforms the 2.0 306 despite its 200 cc deficit. It's smooth, keen to rev and produces plenty of torque throughout the range. The chassis copes well too, with the torque steer and manic wheelspin of older Vauxhalls, but a distant memory. Economical too, with 35 mpg easily achievable, and a little more on a run.
The interior is typical Vauxhall - dull, dark, but with half decent seats and reasonable build quality. Reliability has been pretty good too, apart from a couple of minor glitches.
A competent hatch with a belting engine. Quite a surprise really.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 15th August, 2003