Vauxhall Astra 1.6T (2009) review

Published:10 July 2009

Vauxhall Astra 1.6T
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

Vauxhall’s current Astra grew up as a middling car in the middle of Vauxhall’s range. The conservative styling and drab interior didn’t help, and dynamically the fifth-gen Astra lacked the dynamic poise of its peers because of its beam rear axle.

Now there’s a sixth-generation Astra – still lacking an independent rear suspension set-up – but with an Insignia-inspired interior and exterior. We’ve got our hands on an early prototype of the new car, in 1.6 turbo guise, to see if it can maintain the promising form set by the Insignia.

Does the new Vauxhall Astra look as good as the Insignia?

Vauxhall’s new hatchback has certainly taken cues from the Insignia, but they have been reinterpreted to create a shape still clearly Astra: the side blade motif is switched from just behind the front wheel arch to just ahead of the rear wheels, and the dominant front grille is now the lower intake, rather than the Insignia’s upper.

With a 100mm longer nose, and 71mm extra between the axles, the new car is noticeably stretched, allowing the glass to appear much sleeker and less upright than the current model. The more rounded rump of the new car continues the streamlined look, complemented by rear light clusters that are much less angular than before.

The outside sounds good. What’s the inside intelligence?

There’s much to enjoy inside the new Astra. The interior benefits from a real hike in quality, with many items including the steering wheel and switchgear coming straight from the Insignia. If parts sharing for the sake of economy means exec-spec in a hatchback then we’re all for it.

The upmarket feel is enhanced by a white glow from within the centre console and door trims, which matches the halos surrounding the dials. Thanks to the more substantial dimensions of the car, there is also much more space inside, especially in the back.

What about on the road?

Platform sharing with the Chevrolet Cruze means Vauxhall has been forced to persevere with the beam rear axle, but the addition of a new Watt’s linkage means there is now room for vertical movement, but lateral play is kept in check. It’s the stiff bushes in the current Astra that resist the lateral forces, so the new car can have softer bushes, which should offer a more compliant ride.

But if you want an even more comfort-orientated ride, or an overtly sporty set-up, then the optional Flexride variable damping allows drivers to choose from ‘normal’, ‘tour’ and ‘sport’ settings. Sport means heftier, more communicative steering, yet while you’ll be more aware of thumps and bumps, it doesn’t make the ride choppy. We couldn’t notice the accompanying throttle response changes though.

A 1.6-litre turbo – haven’t we seen that somewhere before?

We have – it’s the spicy 178bhp unit from the Corsa VXR. Despite its modest capacity, the engine is strong from low down in the rev range, and is good for a 0-60mph scamper in less than eight seconds, with a top speed of 140mph.


Although the car we drove was a prototype, it shows that the new Astra has real promise. The Insignia-inspired exterior and interior styling changes mean the new Astra is good looking inside and out, the dynamics are looking promising, and if it’s priced right, the Vauxhall should have a car that’ll be as successful as the Insignia.


Price when new: £19,500
On sale in the UK: December 2009 (price is estimated)
Engine: 1598cc 16v turbo four cylinder, 178bhp @ 5500rpm, 169lb ft @ 1980rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: Sub-8.0sec 0-62mph, 140mph (est), n/a mpg, n/a CO2
Weight / material: 1400kg (est)/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4435/1780/1480


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  • Vauxhall Astra 1.6T
  • Vauxhall Astra 1.6T

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine