Astra lives up to

reputation

Vauxhall Astra, front, action
Vauxhall Astra, side, action
Vauxhall Astra, rear, action
Vauxhall Astra, interior
Vauxhall Astra, boot

PRIVATE buyers should now always check online to find out if a diesel car will cost more to run over time.

Diesels are ridiculously more expensive to buy and petrol economy has improved, to the point where a diesel can now take as much as 24 years to break even against a petrol from the same range.

That's how long it takes for the VW Golf - 24 years or 246,000 miles. So it's no longer worth buying the diesel.

Other cars like the Vauxhall Astra I've been driving take a lot less, but even here the 1.6-litre diesel takes 60,000 miles or six years to pay for itself.

So if you're not going to keep it that long, buy the petrol. Things are different for company car buyers because diesel emissions are lower.

The Astra is certainly good to drive in diesel form, spacious and well equipped by the looks of the range, and was named European Car of the Year this year.

It should also be cheaper to buy than some rivals, and be cheap to run.

There's plenty of power from the 1.6 diesel in 136bhp form, giving excellent acceleration in all six gears, but it can be a bit gruff and rumbley at lower revs.

It's also available with 110 and 160bhp so make sure you get the one you want. This mid-ranger has huge pull, with the turbo working at full chat by about 1800 revs.

This is the engine Vauxhall calls its ‘whisper diesel', but when I've driven it in the past, it was certainly quieter than in this model.

Economy is excellent, and during my drive in an Elite trim Astra it was showing an excellent 49mpg during the time I had it.

Roadholding is very flat and sticky but it's not at the top of the list because the steering is too light and uninformative, which does not instill confidence in the driver.

And perhaps the car's biggest failing for me was the quality of the ride. In town it is lumpy and quite uncomfortable over anything but the smoothest surface.

And although it improves at higher speeds, it is still nowhere near the best in class like the Golf. This lets the whole car down, and to me, is simply not good enough.

Rear legroom is much improved over the old model and this top spec Elite is loaded with equipment including a 7in screen for stereo and nav, climate, leather, multi-function steering wheel, and keyless entry and starting.

FAST FACTS

Price:£22,200

Mechanical:136bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:127mph

0-62mph:9.4 seconds

Combined MPG:72

Insurance Group:18

C02 emissions: 103g/km

Bik rating:18%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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