We’ve said goodbye to the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer SRI Nav. It’s gone back to Vauxhall to be sterilised before being shipped out to a dealership to be sold as an ex-demonstrator –it might even have a new owner. I hope they drive it gently.
The problem with a long-term test is that three months is just the right amount of time for you to bond with the car. Sure, there’s plenty of opportunity to get annoyed by any imperfections, but you also have time to properly appreciate a car’s strengths and even come to rely on them.
So forgive me if I get a little misty eyed while I deliver my final verdict.
As we’ve covered previously, The Astra tourer is a handsome beast and I’d go so far to say that the elongated estate shape actually suits the car better than the standard hatch-back design does.
The chrome detailing surrounding the grille and highlighting the sharp edges on the side and top of the car are just the right side of tasteful so as to look premium and the optional Intelilux LED matrix headlights mean it even looks good in the dark.
Inside the car, this generation of Astra is an unmistakable step upmarket as well and the bulk of the materials used are high quality and well put together. Some of the plastics used on the underside of the dash show glimpses of Astras of old – but the overall effect is that of a high-end business cruiser.
It should come as no surprise that we rate the Astra high on practicality. Interior space is excellent and the tourer configuration means a 540-litre boot. To stop the shopping rolling around, our test car came with the Flex Organiser pack, which for less than £100 gives you a number of nets and clips to easily compartmentalise the boot into smaller sections.
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 sat nav is one of the easier to use systems I’ve encountered recently, and the navigation assistant certainly the most polite.
Our test car didn’t come with a reversing camera, but did ship with hyper-sensitive parking sensors.
SRi Nav trim include 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.
The free-revving 104bhp three-cylinder 1.0i turbo EcoFlex engine 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.
A pleasant surprise is a decent-sized fuel tank and, filled to the brim, the Astra Sports Tourer has a range of 654 miles.
It’s certainly no pocket rocket, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting about the big back end as it handles like a much smaller vehicle. 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
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.
The Astra is built in the UK at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility. Despite cautious optimism from Business Secretary Greg Clark about the future of the plant, there could be some uncertainty over the future for Vauxhall’s thousands of UK employees as new owners PSA ponder where the next generation of Astra will be manufactured. That decision will be made next year.
One thing that is certain however, is that the staff on the production line at Ellesmere can be proud of what they have produced – a car that’s a significant step forward from Astras of old.
Overall score: ★★★★☆