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First drive: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.

First drive: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer
Vauxhall boots up the estate version of its award-winning Astra.

   



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Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer

4 4 4 4 4

With a larger cargo area and a new twin-turbocharged diesel engine, the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer enters the stage, just as Luton's C-segment challenger has picked up the European Car of the Year Award for 2016. So is the estate version just as impressive as the hatchback?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer SRi Nav 1.6 CDTi 160hp BiTurbo Start/Stop
Pricing: range starts from 16,585; car as tested 24,935
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 112g/km (VED Band C, 0 first 12 months, 30 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Power: 160hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,500- to 2,250rpm

What's this?

The UK-built estate version of the seventh-generation Vauxhall Astra. And, as with its predecessor, it doesn't dare go by a name anything like as prosaic as 'Estate'; instead, this is the Sports Tourer. Powered almost entirely by a new range of engines and transmissions, one such addition is this 1.6-litre CDTi 'BiTurbo' model and you can probably guess what's different about it from the badging. That's right, its diesel engine now has a pair of turbochargers, lifting outputs from the 1.6 CDTi 'Whisper' diesel's 136hp and 320Nm to 160hp and 350Nm. While modest on paper, that's enough of a hike, in estate guise at least, to trim more than a second from the 0-62mph sprint, the BiTurbo wagon clocking the benchmark in 8.4 seconds, while the top speed rises 10mph to 137mph flat out. Economy and emissions are barely dented, the BiTurbo just a tenner a year more to tax than the 136hp diesel in the longer term (both are free from VED for the first 12 months), while average economy is down by a smidgen in excess of 5mpg.

Engine aside, let's examine the Sports Tourer's looks. They're good. Crisp, clean, handsome; it's a fine-looking C-segment estate car, make no bones about it, and it looks attractive in both lowly specification and sat on small wheels, or optioned up to the hilt with big alloys (18-inch items on our test car, for 395) and in a nice, bright colour. The thing is, it's one of the few cars we can think of where we prefer the hatchback version to the wagon. While the Sports Tourer gets the same bold, 'wing'-graphic face of the Astra five-door, the necessary addition of a longer roofline does away with the hatchback's interesting C-pillar treatment and its angular rear light clusters. Vauxhall has tried to link the estate to the hatch by putting a sweeping chrome line through the Sports Tourer's D-pillar, but it's a less convincing styling contrivance than the five-door's 'floating roof' and overall it's a touch more conservative than the hatchback.

No problems with the interior, though, which remains the Mk7 Astra's strongest point. It's beautifully resolved within, the dash being attractive, intuitive and pleasant to the touch, while there are plenty of decent toys on this SRi Nav model. Such as, er, satnav, in this case Vauxhall's much-improved IntelliLink 900 system. And GM's OnStar personal connectivity and service assistant. What marks the Sports Tourer out, of course, is the boot, which is a fairly massive 540 litres with the rear seats in place and a comprehensively huge 1,630 litres with them all folded away. The driver will enjoy 26mm more headroom than in the old Sports Tourer (perhaps some sort of tall hat would be in order, then, to make the most of this largesse) and there's 28mm more legroom in the back, too.

How does it drive?

It's emphatically not a performance estate, as despite both the 'SRi' and 'Sports Tourer' nomenclature, this BiTurbo is essentially just a normal wagon. Yet the performance is such that it'll make you question why you'd need a Volkswagen Golf GTD. It's a superb little engine, the twin-turbo diesel, its two-stage method ensuring there's next to no lag at low revs and a decent slug of high-revs fireworks (by diesel standards) if you decide to hang on to a gear. All of which ensures it's a decently rapid car whether you're lazy with the transmission or not.

And it remains quiet and smooth no matter what you're asking of it, the diesel proving to be a hushed, muscular operator. The six-speed manual gearbox, by the way, is also a belter, slick of throw and precise in the way each ratio engages. Coupled to the much improved steering on the Mk7 Astra, fine body control and perfectly acceptable brakes, it's safe to say the Sports Tourer BiTurbo is an engaging driving machine. It might not wear any body kit or overt styling themes to give the game away, but it's about as rapid in day-to-day driving as the 200hp/300Nm petrol Sports Tourer Vauxhall also offers, while it naturally offers much better economy and emissions returns as a bonus.

The best news of all is that the estate doesn't ride in a fashion that is perceptibly worse than the hatchback. Often, the rear suspension on a wagon is stiffened up to cope with the increased payloads it can potentially take, resulting in a ride markedly bouncier than its less practical siblings, but the Sports Tourer doesn't seem to fall into that trap. It's cultured, refined and quiet (in terms of engine murmurs, wind noise and tyre roar), making it a wonderful vehicle for the regular driving duties that will be its bread and butter activities with UK user-choosers.

Verdict

Vauxhall is trying to swing its Astra sales bias in the UK away from the current 80:20 in favour of fleet purchases, by upping the quality levels and making its trim structure far more understandable. The Sports Tourer is going to be a good way of tempting in more private customers. It feels much nicer within than it ever has before - and it's easily up with the class leaders on this score - while the recent multimillion-pound investment GM has funnelled into drivetrains is clearly paying dividends, as the BiTurbo 1.6 CDTi is a superb powerplant mated to a near-faultless gearbox.

Nevertheless, while it's obviously more practical than the hatchback version and it remains an appealing machine visually, we reckon the Sports Tourer is just a little less interesting to look at than the Astra hatch. It is, however, one of the C-segment estate class leaders, because there are very few rivals in this marketplace that do so many different things as well as the Astra Sports Tourer.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 14 Mar 2016



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2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.



2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Image by Vauxhall.
 






 

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