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Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo review (2013 onwards)
What: Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo
Where: Frankfurt, Germany
Date: August 2012
Available: On sale now, deliveries begin early 2013
Key rivals: Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Mazda 3
The ubiquitous Vauxhall Astra gets a powerful new diesel engine and the muscular jawline of its GTC coupé cousin - it goes and looks all the better as a result.
We like: Performance, tighter styling, price
We don't like: Noisy, rear legroom feels snug
In the ultra competitive world of the family hatchback it's not good enough to just have headturning looks, strong performance, decent efficiency or an agile chassis. Nowadays a C-segment car has to have all of the above in abundance.
And that's exactly what Vauxhall thinks they've achieved with the latest Astra. It's sporting a fresh new face, with inspiration borrowed from the Astra GTC - and it looks good, too.
Chunky bumper and tightened-up rear
The new deep-set chunky bumper and tightened-up rear end look all of a piece, but with this Astra the big news is under the bonnet.
It's sporting the 195hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel from the larger Insignia BiTurbo - fine in a car that size, but do people actually want a performance diesel in their five-door hatch? Poke is important, but efficiency is generally higher on the agenda in this sector.
It doesn't actually have a direct competitor, the BiTurbo Astra, but it certainly stacks up against its lesser-powered rivals on price. At £24,095 it's £800 more than than the top-spec 163hp Ford Focus 2.0 diesel Titanium X and £1,465 cheaper than the 170hp Volkswagen Golf GTD.
Only four years ago the Volkswagen Golf GTI had the same power as this new twin-turbo diesel Astra. The most powerful mid-size diesel Vauxhall ever packs 195hp and 295lb ft that'll see it sprint to 60mph from rest in 8.0 seconds.
But it's not about redline-chasing performance here, rather that fat torque figure - of which 80% is available at just 1,250rpm - that gives stonking in-gear acceleration.
The engine gets two turbochargers: a smaller one for low revs, theoretically reducing lag and improving response, and a bigger one that takes over at high revs (around 3,000rpm) to counteract that drop-off in power you get with a turbodiesel.
It works and the engine is very linear in its delivery. But removing that traditional lag and sudden hit of torque actually makes it feel slower. It isn't. It's an illusion. But you'll be left in no doubt the engine is working hard - it's rather noisy.
Ride and handling
All BiTurbo models get a few tweaks to the chassis over the standard Astra line-up. Namely a 6mm lower ride height and firmer bushings for the suspension.
Tour certainly isn't too sloppy or wallowy
The BiTurbo also gets Vauxhall's Flexride adaptive damping control - a feature that changes the stiffness of the car's suspension dampers at the touch of the button. Either side of the default mode are 'Sport' and 'Tour' modes.
Repeatedly driving over the same tarmac in each of the different settings, it was difficult to pinpoint any major differences between the two modes. Sport certainly isn't too hard for general use and Tour certainly isn't too sloppy or wallowy either.
Overall, the Astra's chassis setup is good. It remained supple and composed over roughy, choppy surfaces but wasn't ever crashy. The steering is light but direct and cornering at any speed feels intuitive.
There's arguably not as much feedback as from a Focus, but the once pronounced gap between the Vauxhall and Ford in terms of their dynamic abilities is now the narrowest it's ever been.
It's nice inside. Design is subjective we know, but the new Astra's cabin feels classier and more solid than a Ford Focus.
BiTurbo models benefit from some natty contrasting leather panels on the seats and different coloured stitching throughout. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but together with a few light chrome touches and some solid switchgear, it helps to create a nice ambience.
Vauxhall says it's aiming to go more premium with the Astra and it's succeeding inside, at least. The only drawback is legroom in the rear feels lacking slightly over its competitors - it just feels a touch more cramped.
The front seats are worth a mention, though. They get the AGR's (a German campaign for healthier backs) seal of approval for their spine-friendly ergonomics. Over a full day sat in the Astra they proved nicely comfortable.
Economy and safety
Given it'll crack 0-60mph in 8.0 seconds and hit a respectable 141mph top speed, a claimed 55.4mpg combined with 134g/km CO2 emissions isn't bad at all.
Second-generation traffic sign recognition
Standard-fit stop-start helps here and means the BiTurbo gets close to the much less powerful 163hp Ford Focus' 56.5mpg combined with 129g/km CO2, and matches the more expensive VW Golf GTD's efficiency.
The facelifted Astra is endowed (if you spec it) with a host of safety systems, including second-generation traffic sign recognition with lane departure warning, following distance indicator and a forward collision alert system that will intervene and apply the brakes if you're closing on an object in front too quickly.
Minor styling tweaks haven't changed the Astra's structure so it'll retain its five-star Euro NCAP rating, but scores should improve further still with the option of the above kit.
The MSN Cars verdict
Efficiency that gets very near to its lower-powered competitors and performance to seriously outgun them where it counts makes the Astra BiTurbo an appealing option.
Add in that it's only £800 more than the Ford and a sizeable £1,465 less than the most powerful diesel Golf - without giving away anything in terms of specification or equipment - and the Astra BiTurbo strengthens its case yet again.
It's got strong performance and a reserved and refined interior. The new Astra is a great all round effort from Vauxhall and is certainly moving the brand and the model range in the right direction.
Need to know
Engines, petrol: N/A
Engines, diesel: 2.0 twin-turbo
Torque: 295lb ft
0-60mph: 8.0 secs
Top speed: 141mph
MPG combined: 55.4mpg
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