I'm 29 years old and I live in the Birmingham area with my husband, 3 year old son and 9 month old baby girl. I love to share what I have learned with other people in the hope that it can make other peoples lives easier!
Amazing family estate car
cheap to tax, insure & fuel, comfy, loads of boot space
annoying indicators, nowhere to put my spare coins
Value for Money
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Situation - My husband and I needed to buy a new car, We have a nearly 1 year old son (and all his associated junk), We do fairly high mileage so needed an economical vehicle to do regular journeys in and to make visits to relatives etc, taking lots of baby stuff with us all the time.
My husband has pretty much always had Fords and is besotted with them and needed a really good arguement for another vehicle to make him change his mind, I however have had all sorts from a Renault Clio, and a Laguna, to an Audi and even a Volvo, and I have whatever is suitable at the time, so it didn't matter to me.
After lots of investigation and research, followed by test drives and attempting to get a buggy etc in a selection of vehicles, we settled on and purchased our second-hand Astra at 2 years old for about £6500, It is a 1.7 CDTi 16V Club (100) and it is a 5 door estate in a dark metallic grey/blue which Vauxhall call 'Metro Blue'
We had a lot of criteria to fill, so here are some figures to start with which helped swing the decision for us: The CO2 emissions are about 135g/km, making the road tax £120 per year. It is a group 6 insurance, making the insurance costs nice and low. It has a 5 star NCAP rating (which is fairly standard nowadays, but nice to know anyway) The tyres on our club model are 205 55 R 16 so for a budget tyre expect to pay around £50 each, for a medium to high range tyre between £65 and £70 is average, my personal fave a Yokohama S306 is about £63 each fitted, so in my books reasonably cheap. The published combined fuel consumption is about 56MPG and in my experience so far,I would say that is about right.
Looks - The Astra comes in a fairly small range of colours, flat white, flat red, then various greys, silvers, blues and greens make up the rest of the range, Ours is a lovely dark siler/blue which I think looks very attractive and executive. It hides the dirt reasonably well and has a lovely shine when clean. I think the Astra has quite a nice friendly 'face' at the front, with a wide front grille and large lights for eyes, I think it has an attractiveness that many modern cars do not. The estate is long and sleek, with nice chunky looking wheels. Inside looks a bit cheap and plastic on first encounter, but after driving the car for some time, I appreciate the plain simple inside which is easy on the eye and allows me to concentrate on the road. Our 'club' model has plenty of plastic made to look like brushed aluminum. The seats are plain black cloth with a small amount of white stitching detail on them. In my opinion this is perfect, it wears well, looks neat and tidy and doesnt distract my attention from the road.
Passenger comfort - Driving this is a breeze, the seat is firm and comfortable with good lumbar support, the driving position is excellent, the dashboard and dials etc are clear and easy to read. The vision is excellent in all directions including out the back when reversing. I can comfortably drive for 2-3 hours straight without a break and feel fine when I get back out again. As a passenger in the front it is again, very comfortable and there is plenty of leg room. My husband and I are both nearly 6ft, if we have the front seats in the correct locations for us to be comfortable, you can still fit two adults in the back, although the leg room is restricted it is physically possible. We havent tried three adults in the back, and I would say it would probably not be overly comfortable for all concerned. We however have my sons carseat behind the drivers seat, which was very easy to install in that location and the rear doors open nice and wide and the access onto the back seat to take my son in and out of the vehicle is very good. There are 3 3-point belts in the back, which is a nice touch for safety and if you needed to have three child seats in the back.
The boot - Our car is an estate. The boot is huge considering this is only an astra! It is bigger by far than the new Ford Focus estate's boot. I can comfortably fit a large buggy in the boot, along with baby changing stuff, a fortnights worth of supermarket shopping and various other bits and pieces and still pull the boot canopy cover over to hide everything from view, it is in my opinion far superior to many other boots in vehicles in the same category. The boot canopy comes out and can be removed from the vehicle all together if required, and the rear seats fold down to create an enormous space, in the back of the vehicle - now I know why so many people have the astra estate van - it must be well worth it!
Specification - Our car is a 'Club' model, which is the second one up (above the 'Life' which is the base model) The Club has a good basic CD/Radio player with remote controls on the steering wheel, extra 'curtain' airbags as well as the usual passenger and driver front ones. It has 16" 'structure' wheels, which are a steel wheel shaped to form 5 larger holes and then a special hub cap to go over the top, which gives the effect of a nice basic 5-spoke alloy wheel (but remaining cheap, and easy to sort if damaged, means you don't need a locking wheel nut but still looks good). Air conditioning is a great feature and on this vehicle works very well and is easy to use with three simple dials and an on/off button. Electrically adjusted door mirrors, It also has body coloured door mirrors, rubbing strips and door handles on the outside, which give the car a really nice finish.
Performance - Vauxhall have produced three diesel engines for this vehicle - the 1.3, the 1.7 and the 1.9. Ours is the middle - the 1.7 which has 100 BHP and average fuel economy of about 56MPG which I think is outstanding. My previous car was a Renault Laguna 1.9 Diesel which was 110BHP and I would say that the Vauxhall's performance in a straight line was pretty similar to the Laguna which was a bigger engine and it used more fuel. The diesel engine in the Astra does sound a bit agricultural, but it is not designed to be a smooth and powerful sports diesel, but a good all rounder of a diesel engine. I find the Astra is perfectly acceptable for my needs, I do lots of mileage on the motorways, and the Astra is great for long journeys at 70mph along the motorway, the engine is gutsy enough to get out of turnings promptly, but if you are looking for a powerful sporty car, then this IS NOT the right one for you. The driving experience on the whole is very good, it corners well for its capabilities, but wouldnt be any good if you wanted to race it around country lanes (not that you should in a diesel estate car!) There are a couple of minor annoyances, but I would say that you get used to them pretty quickly and they are the indicators and windscreen wipers. Vauxhall have designed the indicators so that if you push the stick up/down a little, the lights flash three times, if you push it full on, the lights flash until the car self cancels or you manually cancel them, however the indicator has very little movement in it, and it always moves back to centre immediately (rather than staying stuck up or down) The windscreen wipers (on the right hand stalk) work the same and I found both very irritating at first, but after a couple of times driving the vehicle I became very used to it and I no longer find it a problem. My husband however drives another vehicle most of the time, and the Astra occasionally so he finds it irritating as he forgets how they work. Oh and there are no handy hidden cubbys to stick a handful of spare change, and the only cup holder is behind the handbrake. My bad points for this car are so minimal that it would never effect my opinion and the good and great far far outweigh any minor issues and they can be overcome or put up with to be fair.
All in all we are delighted with our purchase, its a cheap to run car which carries everything that we need it to, safely, comfortably and cheaply, which fits the bill completely. It is an excellent family car with plenty of room for if and when we have more children.
Vauxhall have just brought out a newer 'New Astra' but it is only available in the hatchback at the moment, I just hope that they are able to keep up the quality of the produce and make an equally great 'New Astra estate' too!
P.S. If you are a Ford person, especially a Ford Focus person, seriously consider the Astra, I promise you will not be disappointed, and in my experience so far, expect to pay between 10% and 20% less for an equivalent Astra, which I feel is a far superior car.