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Vauxhall Astra (1998 - 2004)

4
reviewed by Anonymous on 23 September 2020
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 22 February 2020
2
reviewed by Jonathan Pickard on 30 May 2018
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 29 July 2017
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4
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3
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4

1.8 (125) SRi 5dr

reviewed by dougiefourspeed on 25 February 2012
4
Overall rating
3
How it drives
4
Fuel economy
4
Running costs
5
Cost of maintenance and repairs
4
Experience at the garage or specialist
5
How practical it is
4
How you rate the manufacturer
4
Overall reliability

Vauxhall Astra 1.8 SRi

The Astra G 1.8 SRi sits in that somewhat underrated band of 'warm' hatches that sit below the faster 'halo' models that sit at the top of the hatchback tree. It's two main contemporary rivals are the VW Golf Mk IV GTi 2.0 and the Ford Focus 2.0 Zetec MkI.

The Vauxhall Astra has always seemed like a third wheel sitting in the corner of the ring whilst Ford and Volkswagen slug it out for the hearts and minds of British buyers. But always soldiering on in the background, chalking up sales to private buyers and company fleets alike.

Part of the reason for this could be put down to the fact that the Astra has always looked somewhat 'ordinary' when parked next to its competition especially when compared to the show-stopping original Focus. But in top-spec SRi form, the Astra looks purposeful and quite aggressive. The 17-inch alloys and (optional) Irmscher rear spoiler lend themselves well to the car and help it to look the part. The interior design will never win any awards for originality, but it is at least well-thought out. All the controls fall easily to hand and there is plenty of storage space. The seats are nicely trimmed in hard wearing cloth that should prove toddler-resistant enough. Certainly I never had any problems transporting a hyperactive 6 month old Beagle puppy around on the rear seat.

The engine is Vauxhalls well-proven 1796cc DOHC 16-valve C18XE, which also saw service in the Corsa, Zafira and Vectra. Developing 125 BHP and 126 lbs/ft of torque it replaced the original 115 BHP 1.8 as well as the 2.0 litre engine in 2000 and carried on until the end of production in 2005. Power output is more than respectable for the car and sits well with the competition (Focus 130 BHP, Golf GTi 115 BHP). Firing up the motor results in an urgent bark from the exhaust which quickly settles to a quiet, smooth idle. The engine in the SRi is mated to a close-ratio five-speed gearbox. The gearchange is light and smooth with a nice short throw.

On the road the SRi retains the smooth slightly over-light power steering of other Astra models and it would be nice if it conveyed a little more in the way of steering feel. Understeer is noticeable when you're really 'making progress' although in the main it must be said that the Astra is a safe, tidy and decent handling car. It's easily as good as the Golf, but it can't quite match the Ford for handling prowess. Another area where the Vauxhall falls slightly short is in ride quality. That's not to say that its bad by any means, but some may find that the Astra rides slightly harshly on bumpy roads. If this is a problem for you however, smaller wheels are available on other Astra models which go a little way to alleviate the problem. The Golf can be accused of going too far to the opposite extreme. For a GTi the ride is too soft, the Focus strikes a good balance of ride comfort and driver enjoyment with its independent rear suspension taking care of business.

Where the Astra really does shine however, is performance. The relatively light weight of the car combined with its punchy engine and gearbox combo let it punch above its weight when it comes to acceleration. The SRi will get to 60 MPH in just 8.5 seconds, the Focus is next at 9.2 whereas the Golf takes a leisurely 10.5 secs to haul itself up to speed. To match the Astra you'll need a considerably more expensive Golf GTi 1.8 Turbo (8.5s) and to beat it you'll need to be behind the wheel of a Focus ST170 (8.2s). It's the gearbox that helps the Vauxhall keep ahead of the pack. With well-judged ratios and a very high second gear it does its best to keep the driver involved. Top speed is 127 MPH. The Astra makes overtaking a breeze, you can hold onto third for an age before you get anywhere near the red line. The result is swift and rather effortless progress with the creation of quite a few embarrassed BMW and Audi drivers being a happy by-product. Refinement is good in the cabin although there is a little tyre noise.

In SRi trim the Astra is well-equipped. As standard it gets a leather sports steering wheel with controls for the single CD player as well as electric windows and mirrors, remote deadlocking, chrome dials as well as Air Con and Cruise Control. The SRi also gets Vauxhalls Traction Control system, although for reasons that are as yet unclear the car has not been bestowed with a button to switch off the system. This can be quite annoying when trying to utilise the beefy engine to make a swift exit from a junction, and it would be useful in the snow.

Insurance is very reasonable for a car with a fair turn of speed such as this. The Astra sits in Group 9, with the Focus in Group 8 and the VW in Group 10. Fuel economy is quoted at 37 MPG combined but expect 32-34 under normal conditions.

To sum up the Astra 1.8 SRi, I would say that it's a very likeable car with excellent performance, good build quality and low running costs. It looks the part and is well-equipped. Despite what pub-bores would have you believe, this is a better car all-round than the Golf GTi 2.0. It's more exciting but you don't have to pay through the nose for the perceived VW image. Keys on the table though? I'd drive home in the two-litre Focus, it's got a more talented chassis and looks fantastic. The surprising thing isn't that the Focus beats it (the Ford is a legend in its own lunchtime) but just how close the supposed "third wheel" actually gets.

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5
reviewed by cherryred on 6 January 2012
4
reviewed by reddevilmad on 22 September 2010
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reviewed by mhamed on 27 June 2010

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