Vauxhall Astra 2.0 Litre CDTi Sri VX Line.
Until this latest incarnation of Vauxhall’s popular Astra hit the streets, I had always been of the opinion they were ‘just another car’, and I think by and large, that assessment is fairly true except for the very highest specifications. But I can’t speak from experience, as I have never owned one of the earlier models, so on that, I bow to the experiences of others. Driven them, yes, but that’s not quite the same thing as owning one for a long period.
Earlier this year, I decided to replace my faithful three-year-old Honda Civic. I was tempted to stay with the brand for a number of reasons, not least that it would give a bloke from the UK a job, and it hadn’t been a bad car. I was told a ‘new’ Civic would be available from the summer of 2012, but that it was ‘evolutionary’ rather than ‘revolutionary’. Simply put, it was a face-lift, and that left many of the old jaded features to run on. Then, I saw the pictures of the new car, and it was way too garish for my tastes.
It is a fact of life, that humankind always wants something better, so I began to look around. Fords didn’t capture my attention at all. Every Ford I have ever owned had a design flaw, and I wasn’t going down that road again. Even my Brother-in-law has gone off, them having had all sorts of trouble with his new Kuga diesel. Enough said.
From scouting around and casting my gaze towards anything that seemed likely to be a contender, the pleasing and classy lines of the new 5-door Vauxhall Astra was well-worth a second look. The lower spec. models were a bit run-of-the mill if I‘m honest, but the model I eventually homed-in on impressed me greatly! I was kindly given the chance of a lengthy test drive in the latest Astra 2.0 litre CDTi SRi, by Chris Harper of Murketts of Stapleford, Near Cambridge, and it had the immediate effect of putting the joy back into my driving, that I had missed since selling my old Nissan Primera 2.0 litre SRi back in 2005. Even a Mazda 3 2-litre Sport that I had two cars ago, didn’t feel as sharp, as comfortable, or nearly as responsive as the Astra.
We get used to a certain car when we have driven it for a while, and it is usually that vehicle we often compare its immediate replacement with, but I am fortunate in that I can recall how all the others have felt and performed from way back. The first thing I noticed on the Astra test drive, was how well laid-out and easy to use everything was. The seats are gorgeous to sit in. These really are contour-hugging. And we’ve all seen the advert about ‘doors closing just like a Golf’. I have driven one, and I’m afraid it’s the Astra to which other manufacturers must now aspire. Its doors close with a reassuring clunk that tells us the build quality is everything it should be.
The second revelation was how quiet the car is. The only time I could tell I was driving a diesel, was at tick-over, or below about 10 MPH, and even then, the sound was greatly subdued.
Pulling away revealed another secret. This car had so much torque at low revs, it was difficult to believe the engine wasn’t a lot bigger. There’s a very useful 165 BHP on tap. Official figures claim that the car will reach 60 MPH in 8.5 seconds, and although I haven’t tried to time it myself, it certainly feels like it, as this throws one back in their seat were they so inclined to boot it.
Once off the garage forecourt and onto the road, and then came the next big surprise - just how smooth it was. Another reviewer said on a video site that she could hear the bumps in the road, but couldn’t feel them, and that’s pretty accurate, although I will add, any noise thus generated is next to nothing. Road surfaces that would set my teeth on edge in the Honda, just came and went without me really noticing them. And the road-holding is brilliant! A person would have to do something pretty stupid to lose control of this car. It is tight on bends, and there’s little body roll. Somehow, perhaps because of the Watts Link rear suspension, the Astra combines all the comforts of a classy mid-range thoroughbred, with the sharp handling of an SRi. That isn’t an easy thing to do, as one usually compromises the other.
Cruising is absolutely effortless. That cliché is used all-too frequently these days, but it’s true in this case. It doesn’t struggle in the least to get up to motorway speeds, and overtaking traffic is a breeze. Some have spoken of excessive wind noise around the big door mirrors at 70 MPH. That’s tosh! I found it would be necessary to go a lot faster for any wind noise to be a problem. My wife and I could talk to each other at 70 MPH, with the barest hiss from the passing air outside.
Then came the all-important miles per gallon figures, and the inevitable question, would all this comfort and performance come at a cost?
Vauxhall say the 2.0 litre diesel with eco stop/start will do around 50 MPG around town and about 69 MPG on a run. This one did 48 MPG straight off the forecourt after the computer had been reset, and around 63 MPG whilst putting it through its paces, which isn’t to drive at the optimum in terms of economy, so I’m pretty confident Vauxhall’s figures are somewhere near the mark. I knew I’d be more than happy with that, because they’re a big improvement on anything I have owned before, and if I eventually decided to get one, again, I’d be keeping a British bloke in a job.
No contest! SOLD!
I actually opted for the VX line model, as that came with extra body trim, whacking great big 19 inch wheels, and even better road holding.
At the time of writing, mine has done about 200 miles from new, and hasn’t once failed to please. Time of course will tell, but balanced and impartial updates will be given if, and when, I feel they should be.
Cambridge April 2012.