Is the Vauxhall Astra a decent sub £2000 hatchback?
We all mock Vauxhalls for being boy racer chariots, but is it actually a decent alternative hatchback?
The Vauxhall/Opel Astra has gained abit of a reputation in England for being a car of choice for boy racers who decide to ''mod'' them. By mod we mean whack a sub in the back, wired up with dodgy wiring and duct tape which is blaring out dubstep that would make Skrillex cry himself to sleep.
But if we take away the stereotypes and look at the car for what it is. Is it actually a decent little budget runaround?
Lets start with the most important point first of all. Safety. People who buy these cars are chances are looking for a car to run their kids around in. Or their mates to that car meet with the really sick Honda Civic M8.
Regardless, safety is high on most of our priority lists. I'm glad to say this one has plenty of safety features. On most of the cars I browsed for sale on Auto Trader they all had 6 airbags, ABS, multiple ISOFIX mounting points and pre-tensioned seatbelts (i mean, who doesn't these days).
The crash shell of this car still holds up well today really, as demonstrated in this Euro NCAP video. Although I suspect it won't be rated too highly these days due to the silly way NCAP conduct their tests (more info on that in the Skoda Octavia article).
I did also ask several ambulance crews about the safety of these cars. They said, while the death count was slightly higher than the average car. It was more down to driver error (speeding, driving dangerously) and that the accidents they were involved in were far harsher than the ''average accident''. However, they all said the Astra is a perfectly safe car to be in.
Economy for the Astra is another strong point. The one I was driving for this test was the 1.6 Twinport petrol which averaged a highly respectable 40 MPG. It's worth noting I monitor the fuel economy in ''real world conditions'' and I am not actively hypermiling or driving over economically at all. So this is the sort of economy YOU can expect if you drive it right.
However, if you're someone who does alot of miles. I would recommend getting a diesel.
Performance/What it's like to drive
The 1.6 I had in my particular test vehicle really does move (I didn't keep track of numbers of anything however). I found I was able to get up to 70mph with absolutely no trouble, with plenty of grunt for getting out of that dodgy junction or drag racing your mate in the car park for a Big Mac. I can certainly see the appeal behind these with boy racers, that's for sure.
It feels strong in the corners too. Even on a mildly spirited drive the car still felt nice and planted, with some exceptional responsiveness in the steering too. The car is constantly encouraging you to push it a little bit further and I must admit I never felt like I was anywhere near the cars limits (then again, I wasn't exactly hammering around. More just a glorified Sunday drive, i'm not an idiot). So overall the driving dynamics are excellent, the only criticism I have is that the steering feels a little too disconnected for my liking. However, i'm sure you could ''mod'' that to your preference.
Sadly however, the ride quality isn't as good as that of a Golf. The suspension has clearly been tuned for a more sporty feel. The ride is very crashy and ''bangy'' (technical, i know) over bumps. While it isn't unbearable by any means at all, it just doesn't ride as smooth as that of a Golf or a Clio. But again, i'm sure this is probably ''moddable'' with different wheels or some slightly softer springs and dampeners. So bare this in mind is my advice.
Reversing this car is a total nightmare however. While it should be easy by theory, this car does everything it can to deceive you. From the interior the car feels alot wider and longer than it actually is. I have no idea why, it just does. So when it came to parking it up, I often found I was miles away from the kerb, horribly parked up in the bay or just miles away from the wall. I asked a few other Astra owners about this and they all agreed this is an Astra trait (so no, i don't suck :P). If you aren't confident at parking this, I'd highly advise a reversing camera of some kind to help you.
Aside from all that it's very easy to drive. The clutch is nice and light, it's nice and responsive and you can literally steer it with your pinky finger (try it in a car park or somewhere you won't kill anyone though). A very nice drive indeed.
For a Vauxhall this does feel very well put together, the doors have a nice bit of weight to them. The interior looks nice and fresh after 155,000 miles and it doesn't feel cheap either. There is a slight bit more wind noise than in my Octavia when you're cruising along at 70mph but it is still negligible. If you don't listen for it, you won't notice it.
The switches and dials are exactly where you'd expect them to be and it all just makes sense really. It's a decently put together car, that's about it really.
Practicality in this is actually really good. Again, no numbers or anything but I was quite comfortably able to store a 2 lots of shopping for 2 families (a weeks worth each), aswell as my own bits and bobs adding up to about a weeks worth of shopping also. All quite easily stored in the boot, with a few bits becoming a back seater. There was also stuff in the boot beforehand. So overall, I would say the boot space is excellent for a midsize hatchback.
The Astra is a car you really should consider buying, the value for money it has to offer and the impeccable reliability these can provide makes it a very strong contender if you can get past the badge and ''reputation''. I would give it a 5 star review. However, there are a few little niggly bits that add up to a star being knocked off.
wills rating of the '07 vauxhall astra