We get behind the wheel of the much-anticipated 100% electric version of the Vauxhall Astra…
The family favourite that is the Vauxhall Astra was originally launched way back in 1980.
Available as a hatchback or rakish Sports Tourer (estate), the eighth-generation model was introduced in 2022.
Initially offered as a petrol or plug-in hybrid (PHEV), it’s arguably the new pure electric version that’s the most intriguing.
One thing is for sure, it has to be good because it’s up against some stiff EV opposition from the likes of the MG4, Volkswagen ID.4, Renault Megane E-Tech Electric, Cupra Born and quirky Ora Funky Cat (GWM Ora 03).
Low-slung and sleek, it features Vauxhall’s modern new ‘Vizor’ front end which houses LED headlights, sensors for the driver aids and safety technologies, plus the bold new Griffin logo.
Based on the same platform as its Stellantis cousin (the Peugeot e-308), it’s the best-looking Astra ever.
I particularly approve of the long bonnet complete with crease running down the middle – a nod to classic Vauxhalls.
The Astra Electric has a 54kWh battery paired with a 154bhp electric motor powering the front wheels. It can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds and has a claimed range of 258 miles (256 miles for the Sports Tourer).
Frankly, it feels quicker off the mark than the official figures suggest. Either way, it’s more than enough performance for everyday driving.
There are three drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport). Eco dulls the throttle response which helps to maximise range, Sport ramps up the power, while Normal offers the best of both worlds.
Vauxhall says the Astra Electric’s heat pump means the electric motor can operate at maximum efficiency in hot or cold weather, and I got pretty close to the claimed 4.2 miles per kWh during my spell behind the wheel.
I’d have to spend a week or so with the car to work out how efficient it really is, but I’d estimate the Astra Electric has a real-world range of around 200 miles – more in city driving.
If you have a home wallbox, the battery will charge to 100% overnight. Hook it up to a 100kW public rapid charger and it will boost the battery from 20-80% in just 26 minutes.
Sadly there are no paddles on the steering wheel to adjust brake regeneration, but you can flick the gear selector to B-mode for more aggressive brake regen.
Priced from £37,445, there are three trim levels – Design, GS and Ultimate.
The cabin of the Astra Electric has a more conventional look than many of its EV-only competitors, but it’s attractive, if a little dark.
It’s also well put together, but there are very few soft-touch surfaces and the materials used are by no means plush.
That said, it’s comfortable, uncluttered and space is OK, while the slick new infotainment set-up, with its 10-inch driver’s digital instrument cluster and a 10-inch central display, is intuitive and works well.
It’s fairly minimalist, but thankfully there are some short-cut buttons below the centre touchscreen, so accessing the heating, for instance, doesn’t involve tapping the touchscreen.
Additionally, there’s ‘Hey Vauxhall’ voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus an impressive list of safety and driver assistance features.
If I had one quibble, it would be that I’d prefer a lower seating position – a common problem in EVs.
It’s also tighter for space in the back for adult-sized passengers, while boot capacity is an average 352 litres in the hatch (516 litres for the Sports Tourer), expanding to 1,268 litres (1,553 litres) with the rear seats folded.
The Astra Electric is easy to drive and handles well, offering a composed, if slightly firm ride.
There’s a little bit of road and wind noise on motorways, but for the most part it’s refined and comfortable on all but the poorest surfaces. Naturally, the Sports Tourer feels more substantial than the hatch, but it’s still agile and nicely balanced – despite weighing nearly 50kg more.
There’s some fun to be had in the Astra Electric, but it would be an exaggeration to call it dynamic and engaging. When pushed in Sport mode on more challenging roads, body roll is kept in check and there’s good grip, partly down to the balanced weight distribution and the positioning of the battery in the vehicle’s underbody.
Additionally, the steering is light, making it a doddle in town, but just like the Corsa Electric, the brakes aren’t very progressive.
Ultimately, the Astra Electric is a sensible family-sized introduction to electric motoring.
Verdict: The Vauxhall Astra Electric is stylish, straightforward, practical and easy to drive. However, some rivals offer a longer range for less money.