2008 Vauxhall Astra Design 1.6 Ecotec petrol from UK and Ireland

Summary:

When it ran, it ran well, but when it failed, it went out with a bang

Faults:

De-phaser pulley on the inlet manifold disintegrated and sheared from the camshaft when the car was started on the drive; no warning of impending failure. The engine was a complete write off with bent valves and damaged piston heads; uneconomic to fix on my budget. Since then I have heard of three other instances of failure of this engine from other owners, as the engine is found in Astras and Zafiras.

General Comments:

Comfortable to drive, but has a tendency to wallow into corners.

Design spec interiors are reasonable, but nothing to write home about. Lack of storage bins.

Gearbox clunking when selecting third, and that famous Vauxhall clutch judder when cold.

The car had a Jekyll and Hyde personality, in which one day the driving experience was mediocre and the next a pleasure. One wonders if this may have been an early symptom of failure of the de-phaser.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 17th February, 2015

2008 Vauxhall Astra Twintop Design 1.8 VVI petrol from UK and Ireland

Summary:

An attractive, uncomfortable and sluggish convertible

Faults:

Coolant level warning kept appearing - required a visit to the dealer to update the software on the car.

Roof leak (solved with Gummi Pledge).

General Comments:

Comfort:

It's not. I'm 6 foot and the seat is just too high. Not high enough to hit the roof, but my old 2004 Vectra had a more adjustable seat than this thing.

The seats themselves are rock hard. This, combined with the narrow base of the seat, gives what I can only describe as "nut nip" (think about it). One major benefit is the heater - it is hot as hell, so you can put the top down in freezing conditions and not feel it.

Performance:

The engine is sadly lacking. The car is simply too heavy and the engine underpowered. At low revs, the VVI engine really struggles, and again, compared to a 1.8 2004 Vectra, it is sadly lacking. Just to be clear - I'm talking general "Getting out of trouble" speeds at roundabouts etc. But anything below 60 mph also counts.

Handling:

The car is too heavy. It handles corners well - but you must be really mindful of the weight in the wet due to understeer. Handling gets much better when the top is down.

Economy:

Vauxhall claim 40 MPG combined. I don't know where this testing was done, but I did a solid average of 30.1 MPG - up to 31.5 driving like an old woman. On motorways, 37 MPG is more realistic.

Appearance:

The major redeeming factor on this car - it looks excellent with both the top down and up. The proportions are excellent, and the 3 piece folding roof is a marvel to see operate.

Interior:

Plastic fantastic, and the piano black fascia looks like it was a wrong-colour replacement from another car, as the remainder of the fascia is silver and gray.

Reliability:

I didn't have the car long enough to really comment, but general research before buying one is that it is excellent. Beware of the roof however - there are very few specialists out there and costs can get really high. A common issue is with the plastic cogs stripping the gears and the wiring loom being faulty.

Equipment:

MP3 + Aux head unit. Auto wipers and lights, auto dim rear-view mirror and half leather interior + much more. Cannot complain at all about the toys in the car.

Practicality:

It's a convertible, so you are not going to get the chest of drawers in the car, but you will get 2 kids in the back of the car and some shopping in the boot.

Do not overfill the boot however; some of the complex roof mechanism is at the top of the boot, and you don't want to bash against the plastics.

Overall verdict:

I replaced the car with a 2008 Mazda 6, 2.0d and have not looked back since. The lack of power and basic comfort, combined with the economy, is a real deal breaker with this car I'm afraid.

To be clear, I also own a 1.6 Mazda MX5 from 1991, and can honestly say it is more economic, comfortable, powerful and fun.

Avoid the Twintop. Great in theory, but after about a month, the worry over the roof, the expensive fuel costs or general lack of feel in the car will make you regret it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 6th July, 2013