The new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer is a good all-round package, but fails to stand out against some talented estate rivals


  • 3.5 out of 5

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    Verdict

    This new generation of Vauxhall Astra is the most convincing we’ve known. It’s a real contender in the hatchback sector, and now that’s true in the estate market thanks to the addition of this Sports Tourer model – but it doesn’t really stand out in any particular area. There are rivals with higher quality interiors, more boot space and better driving dynamics, so yet again the new Astra’s success lies in how generous Vauxhall wants to be when it comes to finance deals.

    Electrification is coming to the Vauxhall Astra. The new eighth-generation model is already offered with a plug-in hybrid variant for the first time, and next year a full EV will join the range.

    But despite Vauxhall’s push for all its models to offer an electrified variant by 2023, the firm says its biggest seller in the Astra range will be the non-electrified 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol. We’ve already driven the Mk8 Astra in hatchback guise but now it’s the turn of the bigger, more practical Sports Tourer estate. The car we drove also comes with that all-important petrol engine, too.

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    • Like its five-door sibling, the Astra Sports Tourer is available in three trim levels: entry-level Design, mid-spec GS Line and range-topping Ultimate. The Ultimate won’t arrive until October this year however, so we’re driving the middle-rung GS Line version.

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      Vauxhall’s new design language puts emphasis on the terms ‘Bold and Pure’ and while we’ll leave you to make your own mind up on the new ‘Vizor’ grille, wide haunches and thick D-pillar, there’s no denying it’s a strong departure from the previous-generation car’s design. The GS Line comes with 17-inch wheels as standard, although our car was fitted with the optional 18-inch rims (more on those later). Tinted rear windows, black badging and a black roof are also standard on GS Line.

      The new Astra sits on the same Stellantis EMP2 platform as the Peugeot 308, but you’d have a hard time spotting the similarities on the inside. Vauxhall has done a good job in differentiating the Astra from its French rival by giving the cabin a more conventional feel. It might not have the initial wow factor of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, but it’s ergonomically better. Negotiating the infotainment system’s various menus and features is simple enough and the screen itself is responsive and clear. The physical buttons underneath it are also a welcome addition.

      One slight gripe we have is the auto dimming of the screen, which occurs when going through short tunnels or even bridges making the screen impossible to read for a few seconds. The head-up display is excellent though – it displays key information well without being obstructive while driving.

      The Astra could fare better when it comes to cabin quality, however. Main touch points such as the leather steering wheel, gear lever and door handles all feel premium enough, but far too many surfaces are made of hard plastic and the centre console’s piano black finish is easily marked. The pop-out bin (it acts like a mini glovebox) at the bottom of the dash didn’t quite line up either.

      On the whole, the Sports Tourer’s interior is a nice place though. The 16-way adjustable front seats offer the right mix of comfort and support, and in the back the shallow windows let a surprising amount of light in, plus there’s plenty of headroom all-round. But if you’re sitting behind a tall person you may find your knees are either poking their back or straddling the seat.

      Boot space in the Sports Tourer stands at a respectable 597 litres with the seats up (this drops to 516 litres for the plug-in hybrid). This is 11 litres down on the 308 SW, but with the 40:20:40 split rear seats folded down, luggage room rises to 1,634 litres, which is identical to the Peugeot.

      Vauxhall says its cars are pitched at the sportier end of the Stellantis EMP2 platform’s capability, with DS and Citroen focusing more on comfort, Peugeot somewhere in the middle.

      Vauxhall delivers more of a driver’s car – or that’s in intention. Tweaks have been made to the suspension over its 308 SW sibling, but you’d be hard pressed to notice any significant difference in the way the Astra Sports Tourer rides. It’s pleasant enough, coping well with harsh bumps and potholes in isolation, but on the larger 18-inch wheels more frequent road imperfections can upset the ride. Spec the smaller 17-inch wheels and comfort levels improve a fair bit, with the chassis doing a better job of soaking up bumps, plus there’s less road noise.

      The steering is quick and linear, certainly different to the 308’s more assisted-feeling steering, but there can be a slight delayed response to inputs if you’re going through a series of tight bends. But the extra weight of the estate model is well contained and it feels reassuringly neutral in sweeping bends.

      We’ve driven the Astra hatchback with this 128bhp petrol engine before and in Sports Tourer guise it’s pretty much the same experience. When pushed hard there’s a rather gruff sound from the three-cylinder turbocharged unit, but driving normally there’s good refinement on offer. There’s also plenty of torque available across the rev range and you can tailor the power delivery to your driving style with the eight-speed automatic transmission’s three modes; Eco, Normal and Sport.

      The result of all this means the Astra Sports Tourer is a practical, well-designed and good to drive estate that uses a tried and tested platform, and all for £800 less than the equivalent 308 SW. But if the Astra, in either hatchback or estate form, is to follow the success of the Corsa and Mokka then keen PCP deals are a must.

      Given the shortage of electric estates currently on the market however, our attention is already on next year’s Astra-e Sports Tourer and we’d suggest perhaps holding off to see what that model is like, given Vauxhall’s recent EV offerings.

      Model:  Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer GS Line
      Price:  £28,410
      Engine:  1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol
      Power/torque:  128bhp/230Nm
      Transmission:  Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
      0-62mph:  9.9 seconds
      Top speed:  130mph
      Economy/CO2:  49.1mpg/130g/km
      On sale:  Now
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