Is a small estate better than a family SUV?
Mileage 10,283 List price £22,685
Target Price £19,904 Price as tested £25,320 Test economy 37.2mpg
THE ASTRA SPORTS Tourer has been absent from my driveway for a week now and when I ask myself whether I’m missing it or not, I’m surprised that the answer is yes.
When I first took delivery, it felt like nothing more than a tool and I found myself questioning whether I should have gone for the automatic gearbox. Yet, through more than 10,000 miles, it excelled as a childdelivering device, general-purpose family droid and commuting car incredibly well. And what’s more, in a world increasingly obsessed with form over function, the Astra maintained enough personality to keep itself mostly in my good books through its tenure as our family mule.
I always think that a key indicator of whether a commuter car is any good is how sprightly you feel at the end of each journey. And on those mornings when the Astra delivered the children to school and then negotiated a quarter of the M25, I often felt as if I had hardly driven at all. I put this down to supportive seats and good interior build quality; I never detected so much as a rattle.
Apple Carplay smartphone mirroring is increasingly standard these days, and it’s always welcome. Yet, as with some Fords I’ve driven, I found it would from time to time engage in civil war with the car’s own entertainment and phone systems, as well as Vauxhall’s Onstar concierge service, leaving you stuck in a no-man’s land. Moreover, our car was equipped with an onboard wi-fi hotspot, yet I struggled to make it work consistently enough for it to be of any purposeful use.
Of bigger irritation was the Astra’s oversensitive approach to safety. On one instance, the car worryingly engaged the automatic emergency braking without an apparent emergency in progress. And then there were its various alarms. In fact, audible alarms, warnings and confirmations in general were a nuisance.
All that said, though, the Astra was a trusty steed. I quickly got used to looking down at the dashboard to check speed limits and then relying on the limiter to prevent me from breaching them, just as habitually driving away without having to disengage the handbrake caused some frustration when returning to our other family car.
I’m also still impressed with how much kit the Astra comes with. The LED matrix lights were exceptional and, should you get the chance, take a moment to watch the unintended homage to the old mobile phone game Snake when they initially illuminate. Marvellous fun. The optional heated seat and steering wheel were also a boon in the chilly winter weather.
We never once lacked for space, and we take up a lot between my wife’s business and the children’s various assemblage.
So, the Astra provided me with trouble-free, effortless motoring, which is precisely what it was designed to do. And while I was previously certain that I wanted to replace it for the backsaving height of an SUV, the Astra has given me cause to consider an estate for our next car.
Astra proved practical and comfy during its time with us