Like its hatchback counterpart, Vauxhall's spacious Astra Sports Tourer estate gets a smart look, decent connectivity and an appealing, efficient range of engines. Jonathan Crouch reports on the revised version.
Vauxhall has increased its presence in the compact estate sector with this Astra Sports Tourer. MPVs and 4x4s 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 clean, quite frugal, practical, reasonably high tech and pleasingly sharp to look at. It's a decent package all-round.
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 md-sized 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 this improved form which includes a fresh range of efficient three cylinder engines. 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 generation Astra estate aims to take a bigger slice of it.
Like the rest of the Astra Sports Tourer, the suspension is shared with the Astra hatchback. There are no suspension or handling changes made to this revised model, which means that this car continues with a relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system, a set-up enhanced with a so-called 'Watts linkage' feature to improve cornering stability. This claims to reduce sideways motion between the axle and the body of the car as you go through the corners. The key changes here lie beneath the bonnet. Previously, there was just a single 3 cylinder engine in the range. Now the old units have gone and the line-up is built around this format. There are two fresh petrol units, a 1.2 developing either 110, 130 or 145PS and mated to 6-speed manual transmission. And a 1.4 putting out 145PS which has to be had with a new 7-speed CVT auto 'box. All the engines develop reasonable pulling power, with outputs ranging between 195 and 236Nm. Vauxhall's particularly pleased with throttle response with these engines, claiming that 90% of their pulling power is available within 1.5 seconds of pressing the accelerator. The diesel engine is new too, a 1.5-litre three cylinder powerplant offered in two states of tune, 105PS and 122PS. The more potent unit gets the option of a new 9-speed auto gearbox. These engines feature an electrically-activated turbocharger with variable geometry turbine vanes and, similar to their petrol counterparts, a balance shaft in the block for additional refinement. Torque output figures vary between 260 to 300Nm.
The Sports Tourer bodyshape further extends the sporty styling of the seventh generation five-door model. The slightly arched sloping roofline gives this estate derivative a longer appearance - an effect further enhanced by the divided C-pillar. The rear view aims to combine practicality with a bit of elegant design, but overall, the emphasis is on a stable, robust and safe stance, with the muscular rear-wheel arch contours and the divided rear light clusters adding to this impression. You'd struggle to recognise this facelifted Sports Tourer model as being different from earlier versions. The only visual changes lie with small tweaks to upper and lower sections of the front grille, these apparently contributing to a more aerodynamic profile. Inside, there are no changes but extra comfort can be specified in the form of high-end features like a wireless charger, a heated windscreen and a BOSE sound system. As before, infotainment's taken care of by the available Multimedia Radio, Multimedia Navi and Multimedia Navi Pro systems. All systems are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone-mirroring and the top-of-the-line Multimedia Navi Pro set-up has an eight-inch colour touchscreen and can also be operated by voice control. The Sports Tourer's total cargo capacity is 1,630-litres with the rear seat folded, this thanks to efficient packaging.
There's a price premium of around £1,000 for the Sports Tourer estate version over its five-door hatchback stablemate and that means you'll be paying from around £21,000 to around £30,000 for mainstream versions. Vauxhall wants to emphasise that safety standards have taken a decent step forward with this facelift, courtesy of the installation of a new digital front camera, which is both smaller and more powerful than before thanks to a faster processor. It now not only recognises vehicles, but also pedestrians, greatly improving safety. Furthermore, thanks to the high-resolution camera, traffic sign recognition can now process more traffic signs and show them as symbols on the display. The digital rear view camera, available on selected models, is also more powerful, and works in conjunction with the new Multimedia Navi Pro infotainment system. Most models get Connected Navigation services with real-time traffic information, a set-up that uses online map updates to make the journey more relaxed, while the navigation display itself appears with redesigned symbols in a fresher, more modern look. The same applies to the instrument cluster, which features a redesigned digital speedometer. Optionally available is the E-Call emergency call function. If needed, help is just seconds away by pressing the red button. If the seatbelt tensioners or airbags are deployed, the system automatically makes an emergency call.
You're not going to find an Astra Sports Tourer model that's going to cost you a huge amount to run. Even the 1.4 petrol turbo returns up to 49.6mpg on the WLTP cycle and up to 132g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. For the two 1.2-litre units, the WLTP figures are up to 54.3mpg and up to 120g/km of CO2. The 1.5-litre CDTi diesels will manage much more. Both the manual black pump-fuelled models manage up to 64.2mpg and up to 117g/km. While the 122PS auto returns up to 57.6mpg and up to 130g/km. Vauxhall reckons these figures are helped immeasurably by this Astra's slippery bodywork - it's the most aerodynamic car in its class with a sleek 0.25Cd. This aero-benchmark has been achieved through numerous measures, including an engine compartment cover, deflector-shaped rear axle control arms and a full-face shutter. The upper and lower portions of the new Astra's radiator grille automatically open and close independently of one another, further improving the frontal airflow. The underbody optimisation improves the drag coefficient by reducing turbulence. With all the new engines, integration of the water-cooled exhaust manifold in the cylinder head contributes to quick engine warm-up, which lowers emissions after a cold start. And the diesel unit gets passive oxidation catalyst, an AdBlue injector, an SCR catalyst and a Diesel Particulate Filter. These days, Vauxhall only offers a standard three year 60,000 mile effort; the industry standard in other words. Residuals may be marginally improved by the recent extra focus on quality - we'll wait and see on that. As usual, you can help yourself in terms of model depreciation by exercising a little restraint when it comes to ticking boxes on the options list. It's very easy here to get up towards a £25,000 car without too much effort. Stick to the essentials that will make the vehicle more appealing to its potential second owner and you shouldn't do too badly.
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 4x4s and MPVs with their elaborate seating arrangements but it is reassuringly simple in what it offers and surprisingly practical too. Vauxhall's Astra Sports Tourer seems to fit the bill very nicely in this regard, especially in this generation form with its very class-competitive space, decent media connectivity and sharp looks. All it really needed was a more efficient range of engines, now delivered as part of the changes made to this facelifted model range. If you're in the market for a car of this kind, this one should be on your shopping list.