This is the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, the big-booted version of the Griffin's family hatch. It's the second Astra model (joining the five-door hatch) while there's also a three-door GTC on the way later in 2011. Read on for CAR's first drive review of the new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer.
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer – an Opel in all but brandname?
It’s not often that Vauxhall gets to do much more product development than unstick an Opel or Holden badge and tack on a griffin, so the UK team are understandably proud of the Astra Sports Tourer – the estate was designed by Brit Mark Adams, translated entirely from virtual to reality at the firm’s engineering HQ in Millbrook, near Bedford, and will be built at Ellesmere Port.
Fair enough. It's the Astra Sports Tourer, so is it more sportiness than practicality?
The long front doors, tapering glasshouse and rakish C-pillar lend a coupe sleekness, and it’s all without any impact on practicality. Adams explains that the curvy glass combines with little steps in the metalwork above it to trick your eye into thinking the roof is lower than it is. The wraparound rear window is a trompe l’oeil too – your mind takes the end of the C-pillar to be the end of the car, whereas the stowage space actually ends a couple of inches further back. The result is a car that looks as sleek as an Audi A4 estate, but carries more than both it and the boxy-but-good old Astra.
It works well in practice. The rear sill is low, and the sides of the boot are neatly tailored to create a broad space without intrusion from the rear wheel arches. The split-folding rear seats fling forward like Punch clobbering Judy, and you trigger them with either a press of a button at the back of the loadbay, or a click of a latch on the upper outside edges of the rear seats. No fiddly fumbling. There are handy cubby holes either side of the boot, plus the floor looks purposely designed to smuggle contraband through customs – lift up the carpet and there’s another two inches of space going begging. There are even two grab handles to pull the tailgate back down – left-handers rejoice.
Astra Sports Tourer: diesel driven, petrol turbo preferred
We drive the 1.7 CDTI first. The seats are comfy, the north-east/north-west forward visibility poor (blame those antennae-like A-pillars), the infotainment system not as intuitive as rivals. The steering feels very light, but it’s accurate and progressively weighted, and nicely isolated from distortion and kickback. There’s an abudance of traction and grip, plus the ride is generally good and the body well controlled, but on this car’s 18s it nibbles too much at little crags and ripples – 17s proved significantly better. Sadly, though, this engine is off the pace. It could be quieter, it could be smoother and, most of all, it could be pokier – it just never gets into that juicy turbodiesel sweet spot.
No, the Sports Tourer gels much better as the 1.4-litre SRI. The four-cylinder turbo is still a bit flat down low, but it’s smoother and quieter than the diesel, and it’s more enjoyable to work through the rev range too. Like the 1.7 CTDI, this SRI wears 18-inch rims, but its ride better smothers those secondary imperfections, despite the sportier suffix. Going for the enthusiast driver's specification doesn't unduly punish your passengers.
The SRI is a good all-round car, one that’d go the distance with the Golf and take it down to a judges’ decision, but with the Focus Estate on the horizon we'd wait try the Ford before you buy.
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