I drove Vauxhall’s sporty new hybrid Astra – it didn’t get my juices flowing

DOES Vauxhall know something others don’t?

We hope so.

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This week I’ve been driving yet another new flavour of AstraCredit: Astra
The cabin looks class and the seats are super-comfy

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The cabin looks class and the seats are super-comfy

Everyone else including age-old enemy Ford is abandoning small cars and hatchbacks for money-making crossovers and SUVs.

Fiesta will be axed this summer, Focus goes in 2025.

Whereas Vauxhall isn’t just continuing with old favourites Corsa and Astra, it is pumping serious money into them.

This week I’ve been driving yet another new flavour of Astra.

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It’s 225hp and revives the old GSe badge — except this time the letter “e” stands for electric because it’s a plug-in hybrid.

It joins the petrol, diesel and lower-powered 180hp plug-in hybrid in the line-up, all of which have been released in the last two years.

There’s an all-electric Astra on the way too — and you can have any of them as a hatch or estate.

Lots of choice, then.

Corsa gets a fresh-look later this year.

As I said, Vauxhall is investing heavily in regular cars for all of us, with Corsa starting at £18k, Mokka at £23k and Astra at £25k.

But would I recommend the £40k Astra GSe?

It’s 225hp and revives the old GSe badge — except this time the letter 'e' stands for electric because it’s a plug-in hybrid

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It’s 225hp and revives the old GSe badge — except this time the letter ‘e’ stands for electric because it’s a plug-in hybridCredit: Astra
There’s an all-electric Astra on the way too — and you can have any of them as a hatch or estate

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There’s an all-electric Astra on the way too — and you can have any of them as a hatch or estate

Hmmm.

Yes and No.

First off, the price is a bit chunky. Second, it’s not a hot hatch.

It looks like one, rides like one — sporty suspension, good body control, precise steering — but it doesn’t get my juices flowing.

The main problem is the eight-speed auto.

It doesn’t hold on to the gears for long enough when you hurry it.

Even in Sport mode it’s too eager to change up a gear in the name of efficiency.

And when you ask it to change down a gear approaching a bend, it will only do it when it wants to. It won’t be forced.

What I’m trying to say is, it needs a manual override. And a bit more oomph.

Volkswagen’s Golf GTE is 245 horses and that’s been around since 2014.

Now for some positives.

For those less fussed about performance but who want sporty looks combined with excellent economy and full EV mode on demand, this just might be the car for you.

Especially company car drivers. The benefits-in-kind rate is eight per cent. We averaged 60mpg on a mixture of motorway and twisty B-roads and it will do up to 40 miles and 84mph on battery power alone.

You can use the petrol engine to recharge the 12.4kWh battery on the go — rather than via a plug — but it does kill your mpg.

Other things to note.

The cabin looks class. The seats are super-comfy.

Whereas Vauxhall isn’t just continuing with old favourites Corsa and Astra, it is pumping serious money into them - Eighties Mk2 GTE

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Whereas Vauxhall isn’t just continuing with old favourites Corsa and Astra, it is pumping serious money into them – Eighties Mk2 GTE

The digital dash is clean and simple. The head-up display is right up there with the best of any car on sale today.

Plus, there are buttons for the essentials like volume and air-con, and to warm your hands and back. We also like the little black plate behind the rear side windows, which is a nod to the Eighties Mk2 Astra GTE.

Another thing you should know is that plug-in hybrids lose a little boot space compared to plain petrol and diesel cars.

In this case the GSe is 352 litres, which is down 70 litres. Also, plug-in hybrids weigh an extra 300kg.

To sum up, then.

The GSe isn’t meant for me. But it might suit you.

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I’d go Astra GS Line 1.2-litre petrol at £28k.

That’s a cracking family car, looks just as sharp, and it’s £12k cheaper.

KEY FACTS: VAUXHALL ASTRA GSe PLUG-IN HYBRID

  • Price: £40,550
  • Engine: 1.6-litre petrol with e-motor
  • Power: 225hp, 360Nm
  • 0-62mph: 7.5 secs
  • Top speed: 146mph
  • Economy: 60mpg
  • EV range: 40 miles
  • CO2: 25g/km
  • Out: June

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