Vauxhall Astra

Sports Tourer -

First Drive

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, side action
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, rear action
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, front action
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, side static
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, dashboard
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, boot
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, rear seats
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, onstar

IF you look at the figures that estate cars boast about it's not hard to spot who takes top spot in the sales charts.

Among smaller estates (that's a relative term these days) the Skoda Octavia rules the roost, topping the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. And with their rear seats fold flat, that's the same order they make when load space is measured.

If style matters, then practicality matter more when you've a family and all their stuff to move around, it seems.

Still, you'd never call the latest Astra estate - or Sports Tourer in Vauxhall speak - a noticeably small car. It measures only a little more on the outside than before but that brings more headroom for front seat passengers, extra legroom in the rear and a usefully bigger boot.

Clever design (a lighter car needs smaller brakes and wheels, for instance) brings benefit in economy and emissions, helped too by this Sports Tourer being the most streamlined estate ever from the griffin brand.

This latest Astra Sports Tourer (built, like the hatch at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire) has a range of engines that mix better economy (and less weight) and emissions than before, with the 110 horsepower diesel achieving 83mpg in official tests and a modest 89g/km from the tailpipe into the bargain.

Higher up the food chain we reach Vauxhall's newish BiTurbo diesels, all with 1.6 litres and up to 160 horsepower, enough for 137mph top speed and acceleration near identical to the bigger 2.0 litre engine it displaces.

So, the new Sports Tourer is bigger inside and more economical than before. That ought to give Vauxhall confidence as it sets out to topple the upstart Skoda in the sales chart.

But perhaps the biggest weapon of all is a range that costs less than before; in one case (the posh Elite) there's a £1,870 saving. Of course, list prices at the part of the market where Vauxhall operates are only a starting point as fleet manager start their negotiations, but they can now begin from a lower base.

Prices start at £16,585 with the SRi and SRi Nav versions (£19,885 to £24,090) the likely most popular, taking 40 per cent of sales. There's good news on insurance too, with all the newcomers occupying a lower and cheaper slot.

Range highlights, says Vauxhall, include the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Turbo Start/Stop ecoFLEX model priced from £17,285. With a five-speed automatic transmission, the same model achieves 97g/km CO2 emissions. That means no road tax - and a smug expression on the driver's face, no doubt.

The range-topping 200 horsepower petrol 1.6-litre is available in SRi trim priced from £21,725. Diesels includes the 1.6-litre Whisper Diesel with 105 horsepower (prices start at £18,785) that achieves 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 89g/km.

On some versions of the new Sports Tourer there is the option of adding OnStar which includes a live link to someone sitting in Luton who will assist with everything, from help after an accident to asking if you're OK should the car tell them an airbag has gone off, something it does automatically.

If the car seems to stack up nicely on paper (where, you suspect many decisions over choice will be made for this workhorse), there remains the question of how the car drives.

Well, it looks the business inside. Pretty businesslike too, with lots of black surfaces and a clean look to the dashboard, where the current trend (craze?) to eliminate buttons in favour of a big touchscreen has been restrained enough to keep things conveniently manageable.

No complaints either about the twin-turbo diesel, which was quiet at work and pulled strongly, helped along by a pleasantly precise gearchange. A dash readout of 59mpg at journey's end will please both driver and fleet manager too.


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