Sporty exterior injects some added interest in Astra hatch
With a wide and varied line-up to choose from, Vauxhall has positioned its Astra BiTurbo at the performance end of the scale. It might be diesel powered but it promises to pack a hot hatch punch.
Look past the subtle sports bodykit and wide tyres and the BiTurbo hides a secret: it's a hot hatch wearing sensible shoes. As attention turns to saving the pennies, offering a brisk yet economical sporting hatchback has become more popular, and this Astra is part of that trend.
With 195 horsepower from its twin turbo diesel motor, this Astra is likely to be popular with buyers seeking a little added performance without being stung by the costs associate with running a regular petrol hot hatch. Promised low emissions should also make it a favourite with business users.
On the road you'd be forgiven for mistaking this Astra for any other model from Vauxhall's range. Save for the modest exterior sports trim the BiTurbo is a discrete choice for buyers not wishing to attract attention.
And in the right hands the car could prove just as rewarding as a conventional GTI, as the Astra's tuned diesel engine delivers a considerable slug of power without you having to work hard at the wheel.
The performance diesel hatch is becoming an increasingly popular choice among cash-savvy buyers and business users. The concept might smack of a compromise to dedicated speed freaks, but in the Astra's case you can enjoy a good level of refinement and smile-inducing performance without breaking the bank.
If you're keen to mix fun with financial sensibilities, the Astra BiTurbo might be the one for you. It's plenty fast enough in the real world, yet should return sensible economy figures, thus saving you some cash. And as a high-ranking model in the range it's well equipped for the asking price.
Occupant space is good both fore and aft, while the Astra's boot is a good size and should easily swallow the weekly shop or luggage for a holiday. Fold the rear seats there's enough room for the ubiquitous furniture flat-pack or two. As a compact family car there are enough cabin storage areas for the usual assortment of drinks, mobile phones, maps and other related clutter.
At first glance the car's main fascia appears to be a little button-heavy. Over time the various functions become more familiar but there's no question that there are better solutions out there. That said, the car's main dials are clear and intuitive, the gearshift and steering slick and communicative respectively.
With its supportive sports front seats and adjustable driving position, it should be easy to find a comfortable seating postion. Under normal circumstances road and engine noise has been kept to a pleasing minimum, although the trademark diesel hum increases the harder you work the engine.
The standard remote central locking and immobiliser package is present. A sturdy parcel shelf hides belongings in the boot from prying eyes, while the glovebox should prove ample as a covered storage unit in the cabin.
The Astra is equipped with all manner of airbags and electronic stability aids. Vauxhall's engineers have been keen to stress that while the stability aids are a good thing, they've been tuned so as not to act like an overenthusiastic nanny - a good in the performance orientated BiTurbo model.
In a departure from the normal petrol-powered hot hatch choice, this BiTurbo variant uses diesel power to deliver a spirited driving experience. There's plenty of torque on hand so you don't have to work the car too hard, while the ride and handling are on the comfortable side of firm. It can't match a Golf GTI for excitement but this Astra is pleasing all-rounder.
If the popular people carrier route isn't for you, the Astra should prove an acceptable compromise for a growing family. There are no fancy folding seats or underfloor storage areas, but the basics are present: Isofix mounting points, ample oddment storage, affordable running costs.
Ordinarily an Astra would be a sensible choice if you needed something bigger than a supermini, but in BiTurbo trim it's probably a little too fast and more expensive to run than a regular, smaller capacity Astra.
This Astra has been purposely designed to deliver a more upmarket experience. The work has largely paid off, with the Astra offering a cabin experience and ride more akin to something from Toyota or Honda.
In five-door hatch form the Astra presents no problems for front seat occupants. The slightly raised seating position is a welcome bonus, while those in the back don't suffer the same hardship as some rivals - access and egress is surprisingly good.
The standard offering delivers a solid performance. Its centrally located display screen is useful, although the many buttons can prove a little confusing at first. The steering wheel mounted controls are more intuitive, however. Various inputs (MP3 player, Bluetooth) are available, but the navigation system's menus could be more intuitive.
Bold, bright colours really do make a difference here, as they do much to bring out the Astra's otherwise hidden design details. Coupled with the bodykit and sports-themed wheels, the BiTurbo model benefits greatly from such a combination. The car's cabin is more subdued, although the small flashes of sports trim help lift the sombre ambience.
Being a car of a moderate size parking shouldn't cause any problems. The car's steering is pleasingly light at low speeds, and all-round visibility is good for a car with sizeable window pillars.
Space saver fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 1.4-litre (87bhp, 100bhp, 140bhp); 1.6-litre (115bhp, 180bhp); 2.0-litre (280bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.3-litre (95bhp); 1.6-litre (110bhp, 136bhp); 1.7-litre (130bhp); 2.0-litre (165bhp, 195bhp). Transmission options: five and six-speed manual gearbox plus six-speed auto depending on model. Trim levels: Expression, Design, Excite, Tech Line, Tech Line GT, SRi, BiTurbo, Elite, S, VXR.