Vauxhall Astra 1.7CDTi Ecoflex Exclusiv

 

By Tim Saunders

“Doesn’t the Astra look similar to the Mazda 3?” questions a car-loving work colleague looking down on the two vehicles from a top floor window.

It’s not something that I had thought about until now but there is definitely a striking resemblance even down to the rear spoilers and haunches. The fact that both cars are white makes them virtually identical from up above.

But that’s where the similarity ends because on the ground the Mark 6 Astra looks much more rounded and futuristic, slightly wider than the Mazda 3, too.

The five-door 1.7 CDTi Ecoflex Exclusiv start-stop tested is equally efficient as the 1.6-litre diesel Mazda 3; both easily returning 50mpg while travelling at 70mph.

I am pleasantly surprised at the Astra’s abilities because it’s good fun to drive and will easily cover 600 miles on a tank.

Both inside and out it’s striking and a marked improvement on its predecessor. In fact today’s Astra has a good quality luxury feel. The doors shut with a satisfying ‘thunk’ and the driver slides into a well-supported, comfortable seat. As with many cars it takes the driver a little while to familiarise themselves with the placement of various controls and how to operate the radio.

I can only pick fault with the moulding around the six-speed gearbox, which, for me, is too close to the handbrake but I do like the way it lights up as you can see from the video at testdrives.biz. The interior is perhaps too black and the temperature control is not obvious unless the lights are on and then it is illuminated. While the automatic engine start-stop is clearly beneficial when stopping at traffic lights long delays where traffic is continually stopping and starting can result in this system using more fuel, in common with all other similar systems. This is clear when I am stuck in a claustrophobic 20-mile queue on my way home turning a 45 minute journey into one of two hours. In such a situation it is helpful to be able to switch it off and leave the engine idling.

But the interior is welcoming and well-designed and it is equipped with everything from air-con through to front electric windows and sat nav.

The marvellous Astra is punchy and quick when required yet incredibly economical, one of the most efficient cars I have driven to date, returning a consistent 70mpg at 50mph.

The cruise control takes a lot of beating because it will hold the set speed no matter whether a gear change is made, a useful feature if approaching a hill when changing down is necessary. However, you still need to keep a careful eye on progress as speed will increase downhill and drop uphill if in the wrong gear.

While the Astra used to be associated with reps, today’s salesmen would be very fortunate to drive a vehicle of this style and quality. This five-door hatchback is a competent family and business adversary as well as being a strong workhorse, so much so that countless police forces around the UK use them.     

Economy: 76mpg

0-60mph: 10.4secs

Top speed: 126mph

Power: 128bhp

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