Astra is now a clean green whispering machine

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WHEN a Mercedes enthusiast starts driving a Vauxhall Astra it is time to ponder the situation which arose when an Italian businessman friend from Milan made such a change for his personal transport during his regular trips to the UK writes Bryan Longworth.

For several years he had always hired a Merc for his UK business trips after flying in from Italy but then after trying an Astra he liked it so much he now always goes for the popular Vauxhall which will also save him money on both his hire charges and running costs as he drives around the UK visiting his customers.

I mention this scenario because I have just been testing the Astra Hatch Tech Line 1.6 CDTi eco FLEX with the new “Whisper” diesel engine which has also been described as a clean machine because of its low emissions and smooth and quiet running.

The current Astra has been around for some time but it is still a good looker and a big seller and the introduction of Vauxhall’s new diesel engine to the model range has given it a new lease of life because it is so frugal and quiet.

With excellent benefit in kind figures for company car drivers this Astra will also appeal to private owners because the 97g/km CO2 emissions mean no road tax to pay and the combined fuel consumption of 76.3 mpg means fewer visits to the fuel pumps.

This particular five door model which costs £18,910 is also well equipped with standard kit including 17 inch ten spoke alloy wheels, satellite navigation system with seven inch colour screen, digital radio, multi function trip computer and daytime running lights.

However, this Astra is all about what’s under the bonnet and the new refined and very smooth 110PS engine is Vauxhall’s cleanest ever mid-size diesel which has a top speed of 115mph and a zero to 60mph of 11.4 seconds.

Linked with a six speed manual gearbox to the driven front wheels I found the diesel engine to be one of the most quiet and refined diesels I have driven in a car of this size and Vauxhall should be congratulated on producing such a power unit which is very much an engine with top mpg and emissions credentials and well worthy of its “Whisper” tag.

The driving qualities of the Astra and its roomy and comfortable interior plus the excellent instrumentation where the driver has a choice of a traditional and digital speedometer have all been well documented and deservedly praised.

There is not much to carp about apart from features like the lack of a spare wheel and the handbrake is in a position where the driver’s left forefinger is trapped with the hard surface of the central console each time the brake is released.

According to the trip computer the test car’s fuel consumption was around 55mpg which is around 20mpg below the combined figure but I would think that an owner with steady driving could increase this by 10mpg which would then equate with the real life fuel consumption.

There is no doubt that the new diesel engine adds considerable appeal to the Astra which I will recommend to my Italian friend for his next UK trip and it will be interesting to see what he thinks about this particular model which will save him even more money.

Fact File

Model: Vauxhall Astra Hatch Tech Line 1.6 CDTi ecoFLEX.

Engine: 1.6-litre diesel.

Output: 110PS @ 4000rpm.

Transmission: Six speed manual.

Top Speed: 115mph.

Acceleration: 0 to 60mph 11.4 seconds.

Fuel consumption: 76.3mpg combined.

CO2 emissions: 97g/km.

Price: £18,910 on the road.