With an extra three weeks at the wheel of our long-term test car, the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer SRi Nav 1.0i Turbo EcoFlex, under my belt, getting the best out of the plucky engine and hi-tech cabin toys has become second nature.
After some questionable mpg figures in week one (fresh from a more powerful, larger-engined car) and a few days to get used to Vauxhall’s unfamiliar (but excellent) IntelliLink infotainment system, the Astra has settled in nicely to its role as a family workhorse.
Engine and driving experience
A 1.0-litre engine, turbocharged or not, would have seemed laughably underpowered for a car this size 20 years ago.
Advances over the last decade have seen a raft of small-capacity, turbocharged options hit the market and defy traditional thinking by combining gutsy performance with lightweight architecture and low emissions.
Vauxhall’s 1.0i turbo EcoFlex engine is a prime example. The free-revving 104bhp three-cylinder unit takes 11 seconds to get to 60mph and tops out at 121mph but feels quicker than that when pushed, partly due to the enjoyably throaty note emitted in the process.
It is happy to be worked hard and, despite the car’s relative bulk, the engine pulls well into the 60s. A five-speed gearbox however – unusual for a car of this class in 2016 – means wider ratios, so it’s best to do your driving in gears one to three and save higher gears for cruising, four and five taking longer to hit their relative sweet spots.
Official fuel consumption is listed as 62.8mpg combined. Over the course of our test the Tourer has averaged 43mpg. For a small petrol engine in a mid-sized car, being worked hard across a range of driving conditions, that’s not bad at all, although obviously shy of the official figure.
A pleasant surprise is a decent-sized fuel tank and, filled to the brim, the Astra Sports Tourer has a range of 654 miles, meaning the big-booted Astra can comfortably fill the role of family workhorse, long-range rep mobile and be the transport of choice for your 2017 staycation.
Chassis stiffness has been increased and the overall weight of the car has been reduced, leaving the car 190kg lighter than the outgoing model, despite no change in dimensions.
Work to tweak the car’s weight distribution and suspension set-up, coupled with an improved electrically-powered steering system has seen a handling improvement over the previous Tourer.
Steering response is adjustable and even in normal mode the Astra feels balanced and easy to control with little discernible difference in sharpness compared with the standard five-door hatch in normal driving conditions.
There is no reversing camera in this model, but it does come with parking sensors – a £460 option – which are, without doubt, the loudest, most sensitive I’ve ever come across. They also return to default settings when you turn off the ignition, so despite turning them off when parking in my tiny car port at home to arrest the warning tone, myself and my immediate neighbours are woken every morning by the resuming bleep as I start the day anew.
As well as hyper-sensitive parking assistance, the current generation of Astra has a catalogue of high-tech driver safety systems.
In SRi Nav trim, it ships with automatic headlights, ESP and ABS, OnStar personal connectivity assistant and the Driving Assistance Pack – a set of features including lane departure warning and blind spot warning lights.
As standard, all models in the Astra range come with Bluetooth, audio streaming capability, aux-in and USB ports and DAB radio.
The Navi 900 IntelliLink system is a peach. The entertainment interface is easy to use and well presented and the ability to have your radio, DAB, phone and MP3 media favourites all saved together is a development so simple you wonder why everyone doesn’t do it that way.
The satnav is one of the easier to use systems I’ve encountered recently, and the navigation assistant certainly the most polite. The developers clearly understanding that the word ‘please’ can go a long way during a stressful, unfamiliar drive.
Our test car arrived with £3,275 worth of options, from the misguided (combining the £55 powerflex bar with the £50 fragrance diffuser rather than the £39 phone dock), to the essential (The FlexOrganiser pack which allows you to compartmentalise the big boot for smaller loads with a series of clever connectors and bungee nets). £1,005 for the Intelilux LED matrix headlight system seems a bit steep, but the effect does give the Astra a more premium look… just, you know, at a premium.
Read more about our views on the Astra’s looks and practicality here. And for the final verdict on the Astra Tourer, keep an eye out for month three of our long-term test.