We’ve been impressed with the new Vauxhall Astra hatch, but is it best with a diesel engine?
4.0 out of 5
In diesel form, the Astra lacks its petrol counterpart’s refinement, but it has lots of easily accessible performance and huge cruising potential. Whether this will be worth the extra outlay is up to you; it’s a sensible five-door hatch offering plenty of practicality and tech, and the diesel is a decent choice, but we think the Astra is best in petrol or plug-in form.
Vauxhall’s all-new eighth-generation Astra family hatch has already excelled, beating stiff rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus in petrol form. Looking ahead, there’s plenty of excitement to come, with performance-focused GSe models and an all-electric Astra-e set to arrive next year. But what if you want a mile-muncher? Diesel could still play a part, which is where this 1.5 Turbo D model comes in.
With an eight-speed automatic gearbox and in GS Line trim, this Astra costs just over £30,000. But buy on finance and Vauxhall will throw in £750 up front, and it’ll double that if you pick a top-spec Ultimate model.
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There’s no real need to, because the GS Line gets plenty of kit. It’s the sportier trim in the simplified three-spec line-up and features gloss-black styling additions and 17-inch black alloy wheels as standard.
Car group tests
Used car tests
You also get LED lights, AEB with pedestrian detection plus plenty more safety tech, two 10-inch screens as part of the Pure Panel set-up (MY23 cars will have the Pure Panel Pro pack, with a 12-inch screen), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 360-degree parking camera, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and full keyless go.
Inside and out, the diesel looks no different from the petrol. However, fire up the 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine and there’s no mistaking what fuel powers the car. Given the way the new car market has evolved in recent years, the percussive beat of a four-cylinder diesel isn’t as common as it once was. It’s also certainly not as refined as the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol unit available in the Astra, which itself is still slightly more grumbly than some other petrols.
What you certainly can’t argue with is the performance on offer. Compared with the downsized petrol engines now so common in family hatchbacks like this – thanks to 128bhp, but more importantly, 300Nm of torque low down in the rev range – the Astra delivers easy flexibility.
The slug of torque means the car pulls hard from low down, and while it gets noisier if you rev it, the way a diesel delivers its performance means you don’t have to. The automatic gearbox isn’t the quickest, but it manages ratio changes smoothly enough so as not to upset progress.
Once settled at a cruise, the engine note isn’t as obvious or as intrusive as it is when driving in town or on country roads, where speeds often rise and fall.
The other benefits of the engine are fuel economy and range. Vauxhall claims up to 64.2mpg, and although our test car wasn’t quite achieving this, around 53mpg will see more than 600 miles from a full tank. CO2 emissions of 118g/km put the Astra in the 28-per cent company-car tax band.
The diesel Astra still handles sweetly, despite having a little more weight over its front axle than the petrol car. The steering is light and direct, while the ride balances control and agility with just enough in the way of comfort and composure. It still errs on the side of the former, however.
Otherwise, the car’s qualities remain unchanged, which means the interior design is as smart and striking as the exterior, although the material quality could be better in some areas. On the whole, it’s okay, if not quite up to the Golf’s standard.
There is plenty of leg and headroom in the rear, and the 422-litre boot is big, so the Astra offers plenty of practicality.
For many, this edition won’t make sense, since this powertrain costs an extra £1,000 over the petrol auto. But for those who still cover plenty of miles, need more grunt for towing, or like the qualities that this diesel delivers, the Astra is a solid family hatch.
|Model:||Vauxhall Astra 1.5 Turbo D auto GS Line|
|Engine:||1.5-litre 4cyl turbodiesel|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
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