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.
We've 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 bothered with mild hybrid tech you'll find on competing Ford, Mazda and VW Group models. Which means that most Astras will be sold with a three cylinder 1.2-litre petrol turbo unit - there are 110 or 130hp units available, the latter with an 8-speed auto gearbox option. A four cylinder 1.5-litre 130hp Turbo D diesel is offered too, also with the 8-speed auto optionally available. This Astra's electrified engine technology comes in the form of 'Plug-in Hybrid-e' PHEV tech, mating a four cylinder 1.6-litre petrol turbo unit with a 109hp motor embedded in the 8-speed auto gearbox. There's a choice of two versions of this powertrain, one with a combined output of 180hp, the other raising the total to 225hp. Either way, expect an all-electric driving range of around 43 miles.
Measuring 4,642mm long, 1,860mm wide and 1,480mm tall, and with a loading height of 600mm, this revitalised Astra Sports Tourer looks to be better packaged than before. The overall length is 60mm shorter compared to the previous generation model, thanks to the short front overhang, and features a 57mm longer wheelbase compared to the Astra hatchback, at 2,732mm. The boot of this compact estate provides up to 608-litres of useful storage space with the rear seats upright, and up to 1,634-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. Petrol and diesel can be specified with the optional "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.
For this estate variant, expect a premium of just under £2,000 or so over the prices of the hatch model, which means asking figures that start at around £25,000. There are two trim levels available, base 'Design' or plusher 'GS-Line'. In the mainstream range, prices run up to about £30,000, but you'll need about £33,000 for the Plug-In Hybrid-e variant, only offered in 'GS-Line' form. Across the range, as you'd hope given the pricing, you can expect plenty of equipment for the money, with standard features like full-LED headlights, digital instrument dials, a head-up display and standard 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring for the centre dash screen. You'll now be able to specify your Astra with larger wheels - up to 18-inches in diameter - and even an optional 2-tone paint finish. The front seats, developed in-house, are certified by the AGR (a German organisation who campaign for healthier backs) and claim to be exceedingly comfortable for long journeys. The driver is supported by state-of-the-art assistance systems ranging from the semi-automated 'Intelli-Drive' assistance system to the 'Intelli-Vision' 360-degree camera. And the brand expects the intelligent 'Intellilux' headlights to be frequently specified option. These use state-of-the-art LED pixel lights. There's also extended traffic sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert and active lane positioning, which keeps the car in the middle of the driving lane.
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. Think around 55mpg on the combined cycle and 126g/km of CO2 for the PureTech 110 and 130 petrol engines; and about 65mpg and 116g/km of CO2 for the 1.5-litre Turbo D 130 diesel. These figures are helped by this 8th generation Astra is relatively light weight, gained through the use of high-tech materials such as the latest thermoplastic's. Low rolling resistance tyres also play their part. Opt for either of the two Plug-in Hybrid variants and as we mentioned in our 'Driving Experience' section, up to 31 miles of battery running is claimed in each case, while CO2 is rated at 25g/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 variants offer a thermal pre-conditioning function too.
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, additional space, greater connectivity and sharper looks. If you're in the market for a car of this kind, it should be on your shopping list.