Vauxhall's eighth generation Astra Sports Tourer estate is now a cooler, more fashionable family choice. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Vauxhall is hoping to increase its presence in the compact estate sector with this eighth generation Astra Sports Tourer. SUVs and MPVs might offer more interesting options for family buyers but the solid, practical virtues of a good estate are not to be under-estimated. This one's cleaner, more frugal, more practical, higher-tech and sharper to look at than before. It's a better package all-round, aided by French- derived underpinnings which also bring the option of electrification.
When what you need to fit in your car just won't, you need a bigger car. Family hatchback owners confronted with this nightmare scenario have a number of options at their disposal. They could take the rugged route with a compact SUV, choose the versatility of a compact MPV or step up to a medium range saloon. Alternatively, they could turn to an extended version of the family hatchback they already have. The estate car isn't the trendiest or most exciting option but when you need a little bit more room, it does the job. Vauxhall's Astra Sports Tourer is little more than an extended Astra hatch but it could be all the car you need, especially in latest eighth generation form.
Many of the leading lights in the family hatchback sector have an estate version. Focus, Golf, Peugeot 308 - the manufacturers of all these models see the value of tagging another few centimetres onto the rear of the five-door hatches to give customers the option of extra carrying capacity. Vauxhall has a history of following suit with its Astra but like its rivals, sales of Astra estates have traditionally been way down on those of the standard hatchback versions. The compact estate market looks likely to remain a niche one but with flashy Sports Tourer branding, this revitalised eighth generation Astra estate could be destined to take a bigger slice of it.
It's refreshing to find when you set off down the road in this Vauxhall that this Astra Sports Tourer feels significantly different to the Peugeot 308 SW it's almost entirely based upon. We were hoping it might and had quite high expectations for just how good this eighth generation model might be to drive given that its predecessor was severely under-rated in this regard. True, there's not the rewarding depth of handling prowess that you'd get in this class in a Ford Focus or SEAT Leon Estate, but we reckon this Astra still qualifies as best of the rest if you like your driving, mating the fluid gait you get with its Peugeot cousin with a slightly sharper feel. That's partly down to a bit more steering feedback; and partly down to fractionally firmer damping, though this Vauxhall rumbles a little over poorer surfaces as a result. It doesn't feel as troubled by them as the old model did though, partly because of the 14% improvement in torsional stiffness this time round.
As for powertrains, well prior to the launch of this eighth generation design, we'd never had an Astra with Stellantis Group Peugeot and Citroen-derived engines. We have now. This change, necessitated by the switch to this MK8 model's EMP2 platform, doesn't bring any particular advantages in performance or economy over the previous GM units but it does at least allow this model line to offer an electrified option. Most of the engines are of the conventional kind though; for its various brands, Stellantis hasn't (yet) bothered with mild hybrid tech you'll find on competing Ford, Mazda and VW Group models. Which means that most Astra Sports Tourers will be sold with a three cylinder 1.2-litre petrol turbo unit - there are 110 or 130PS options. Whatever your choice, it'll come with a 6-speed manual gearbox, with an 8-speed auto an option on the 130PS model.
This Astra's electrified engine technology comes in the form of plug-in hybrid PHEV tech, mating a four cylinder 1.6-litre petrol turbo unit with a 110PS motor embedded in the 8-speed auto gearbox. There's a choice of two versions of this Plug-in Hybrid powertrain, one with a combined output of 180PS, the other fitted to the sportier GSe variants with 225PS, those GSe models featuring sharper steering and firmer, lowered suspension. Either way, expect an EAER-rated all-electric driving range of around 42 miles. Your other option is the full-EV Astra Sports Tourer Electric, which has a 154hp motor powered by a 400-volt 54 kWh battery with a driving range of around 250 miles.
Design and Build
The Stellantis-generation Astra is without doubt a sharper looking thing and it makes an assertive car park statement in this Sports Tourer form. This isn't one of those compact estates that's hardly any larger than the family hatch it's based upon. Measuring in at 4,642mm long, this Astra Sports Tourer is a full 268mm longer than the hatch model (though it's 60mm shorter than the previous generation version thanks to the short front overhangs). From the front, this is an Astra dynamic as never before, with sheer, taut surfaces, detoxed of superfluous elements. And proudly sporting the brand's most notable current styling feature, the so-called 'Vauxhall Vizor', this narrow black grille plate that flows across into equally narrow ultra-slim LED headlamps. The rear is perhaps this Sports Tourer model's most visually challenging perspective point, but this subtle roof spoiler looks smart.
The boot of this compact estate provides up to 608-litres of useful storage space with the rear seats upright, and up to 1,636-litres when folded. In addition, when the 40:20:40-split rear seats are folded, the floor is completely flat - making it easier to load long and bulky items. Even with its underfloor lithium-ion battery, the Plug-in Hybrid variant offers cargo volumes of 548-litres and 1,574-litres respectively. The figures for the all-electric variant are the same.
Petrol and diesel versions get the brand's 'Intelli-Space' feature. This moveable load floor can be easily adjusted with one hand to high and low positions and tilted at a 45-degree angle. In addition, for more convenience, the retractable boot storage cover can be stowed when the moveable floor is in both the upper as well as the lower position - in contrast to competitors that only allow stowage of the cover when the floor is in the upper position. The Astra Sports Tourer with 'Intelli-Space' can also make life easier in the event of a flat tyre. The kits for tyre repair and first aid are stored in clever underfloor compartments that can be accessed from the boot or rear passenger seating area. This means that the kits can be reached without needing to fully unpack the boot.
And at the wheel? Well Vauxhall calls the front-of-cabin experience 'a leap forward in time' and, whatever your view on the rather slab-sided 'Pure Panel Pro' twin screen layout, it's difficult to disagree. As well as analogue dials being dispensed with, there's no conventional hooded instrument binnacle and, on an automatic model, no recognisable gearstick either. You're going to need to be a fan of shiny dark piano black plastic to like the futuristic cabin vibe and we're not completely convinced by some elements of material quality. But it's all been very well screwed together by the German Russelsheim factory and the dual 10-inch displays do a pretty good job of telling you what you need to know.
Market and Model
You might have to recalibrate a bit to get used to the prices being asked for this Astra Sports Tourer. It only costs £1,200 more than the hatch versions, which seems reasonable given the substantial increase in body length, but as we complied this Review in Autumn 2023, Vauxhall was being required by parent company the Stellantis Group to ask from around £28,000 for the humblest version. That's with base 'Design' trim and a conventional 1.2-litre petrol engine (there's no longer any diesel option). It's more likely though that you'll want a mid-range 'GS'-spec model (think starting prices from around £30,000 as we filmed), with plush 'Ultimate'-spec at the top of the range. Automatic transmission is available with the 130PS version of the 1.2-litre engine - for an extra £1,500.
We chose to test one of the Plug-in Hybrid variants, for which a big jump in asking fee is required; they started from around £40,000 as we compiled this Review - that's for the base 'GS' variant we tried - 'Ultimate' and sporty 'GSe' specs sit above that. The full-electric version shares the same three trim levels as the conventionally-engined model ('Design', 'GS' and 'Ultimate') but is priced comparably to the Plug-in Hybrid. Prices start from around £40,000.
Across the range, as you'd hope given the pricing, you can expect plenty of equipment for the money, with standard features like LED headlights with high beam assist, rain-sensitive wipers and cruise control. You'll be able to specify your Astra Sports Tourer with larger wheels - up to 18-inches in diameter - and above base trim, you get a 2-tone paint finish. Avoid base trim and you'll find that the driver's seat, developed in-house, is certified by the AGR (a German organisation who campaign for healthier backs) and claims to be exceedingly comfortable for long journeys. Cabin screen tech is provided by the car's 'Pure Panel Pro' tech, which gives you twin 10-inch displays for the instruments and the infotainment.
Cost of Ownership
The Peugeot and Citroen-derived PureTech and BlueHDi engines in use here have already proven to be extremely efficient in other Stellantis Group cars we've tried them in and of course the same is true of this Astra. Efficiency's about 5% down on the comparable lighter Astra hatch. Think 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and 125g/km of CO2 for both versions of the 1.2 Turbo petrol engine with manual transmission; and 49.6mpg and 128g/km of CO2 for the 1.2-litre Turbo 130PS auto. These figures are helped by this eighth generation Astra's relatively light weight, gained through the use of high-tech materials such as the latest thermoplastics. Low rolling resistance tyres also play their part.
Combustion engines though are soon to be no more in Vauxhalls - the brand will sell only EVs from 2028. For the time being though, the Astra's electrification is varied. Your first option lies with PHEV tech. Opt for either of the two Plug-in Hybrid variants and as we mentioned in our 'Driving Experience' section, up to 42 miles of EAER-rated battery running is claimed, while CO2 is rated at 23g/km. From a household plug, both PHEV versions will be replenished in just over seven hours. You'll find 3.7kW single-phase charging supported as standard, which means recharges will take three hours and 50 minutes. A 7.4kW on-board charger is available as an option and plugged into a wallbox, the battery will take one hour and 50 minutes to be topped up. The plug-in hybrid Astra Sports Tourer variants offer a thermal pre-conditioning function too.
Of course, you'll need to allow longer to charge if you choose the full-EV version of this car, the Astra Sports Tourer Electric. This has a 400-volt battery with 50kWh of usable capacity (54kWh gross) and should go around 250 miles between charges. Those charging times hadn't been confirmed at the time of making this film, but we wouldn't expect them to be much different from those of the brand's smaller Corsa Electric, which uses an older generation version of the same battery. That would mean a full charge from empty taking seven and-a-half hours. And with a public 50kW Rapid Charger, the replenishment time to charge from 15 to 80% being 45 minutes. If you're fortunate enough to find a 100kW Rapid Charger with your Astra Electric, that would fall to around 30 minutes.
With all the other options facing family car buyers in the modern marketplace, the compact estate car is sometimes overlooked. Admittedly, it's not the most exciting option next to the plethora of tough-looking compact SUVs and MPVs with their elaborate seating arrangements but it is reassuringly simple in what it offers and surprisingly practical too.
Vauxhall's revitalised Astra Sports Tourer seems to fit the bill very nicely in this regard, especially in this latest eighth generation form with its extra efficiency, greater connectivity and sharper looks. If you're in the market for a car of this kind, it should be on your shopping list.