What future is in the stars for the Vauxhall Astra?

The new Vauxhall Astra


GOOGLE searches are so yesterday, a bit like the history of the British car industry.

These days when you’re on the road, there’s no need to pull over and search on Google or Google Maps for a filling station or fish and chip shop. If you’re driving a Vauxhall with the right equipment, you merely push the OnStar button and ask the operator who answers to seek what you find.

The answer is delivered directly into your sat-nav. None of the old days, where you pulled over and asked a local who always offered directions in a fashion that demanded you already shared the same knowledge in order to take the third turn on the right after Uncle Bill’s old house.

Marvellous as OnStar might be, and it is in these times when hands-free everything is a necessity (the car, like many others, will also answer your phone and texts and do loads of other things at the command of your voice), Vauxhall enthusiasts must be wondering where the brand’s new ownership will take them. It might be the nearest Citroen, DS, or Peugeot dealer!

With the latest Astra, Vauxhall may already have been headed in that direction. Some of the design detail is positively Citroen/DS in its application. The Astra is one smart car as a result (smart as in very well styled).

There was a sense of déjà vu when talk of PSA – Peugeot/Citroen’s parent – taking over Vauxhall and its sister brand Opel resurfaced earlier this year. It had been mooted a few years back but apparently came to nothing. Perhaps PSA was just biding its time.

Many old British brands have already disappeared into the bowels of PSA, never to be seen again. Remember Hillman, Humber, Singer, and Sunbeam? They all became part of Chrysler Europe which also bought Simca.

Later the whole lot, after becoming Talbot, was subsumed by Peugeot which continued to make cars in Coventry, traditional home of the brands it had absorbed, under its own name. That stopped several years ago and raises concerns over what might happen to Astra production for both Vauxhall and Opel at Ellesmere Port.

The plant had to compete against others to win production of the current Astra but when that ends around 2020 will the factory, post-Brexit, allow the EU an export route into Britain’s new markets or will tariffs and the loss of access to the single market make Ellesmere Port non-viable? If only OnStar had the answers to that one!

Inside the Vauxhall Astra

We’ve just been driving the latest Astra, an Elite fitted with the 136PS 1.6 litre diesel. For those now embarrassed to own a diesel, this one starts with more of a snuffle than a rattle so hopefully you won’t catch a social cold with your neighbours because you own it.

It’s a good bit of kit and those arguing for diesel’s redemption could point to its real world 55mpg fuel figures which no equivalent petrol car could ever hope to meet. Its CO2 figure of 103g/km is also impressive.

Equally as good is the ease of driving. The six-speed gearbox is slick while the engine is quiet. The combination is great for long distance cruising, where it is barely turning in sixth gear at 70 mph. Perhaps diesel drivers who want to continue along this route will have to accept that park and ride systems are the way forward, with the car abandoned on the outskirts of larger conurbations so the journey can continue by bus.

Would a bus be as comfortable and convenient? Probably not. It may offer the on board wi-fi that comes with the OnStar in your Vauxhall but decanting two or three kids to catch a bus on a hot or wet day is no-one’s idea of fun.

Supportive seats, with extending bases in the front, make travelling a delight and there’s room in the back for three children, two of them taking advantage of ISOFix seats. The boot is decent for capacity and active families could make good use of the 1.5 tonne towing capacity.

With an appealing price of £23,420 for a car loaded with kit (the OnStar system even has the reassurance of an SOS button that reports details of its location and all the damage sustained in an accident to ensure the right emergency assistance is sent) many will see it as a good-value way forward. Let’s hope PSA agrees and the UK-built Astra continues its progress for years to come!

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav 1.6 CDTi (136PS)

Does it fit your ego…

0-62mph: 9.0 secs

Top speed: 127mph

Bhp: 135 @ 3,500 rpm

Torque: 236 lb ft @ 2,000 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £23,420

Combined: 72.4mpg

CO2 emissions: 103 g/km

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