VAUXHALL ASTRA (2012–2015)

By Alan Taylor-Jones

Models Covered: (3 & 5 door hatchback and estate 1.4, 1.6, 1.4 T, 1.6 T, 2.0 T petrol, 1.3, 1.7, 1.6, 2.0 diesel [Expression, Design, Excite, Limited Edition, Tech Line, Tech Line GT, Sri, BiTurbo, Elite, VXR])

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Introduction

The Vauxhall Astra feels like a bit of a national institution, a nameplate that has signified a small, affordable family hatchback for over three decades. The range has grown over the years and was especially wide in sixth generation guise, with the core five-door model joined by a capacious estate, a coupe-like three door GTC model and a tyre shredding VXR hot hatch. The MK6 Astra was introduced in late 2009, but here, we’re going to concentrate on the facelifted line-up, which arrived in 2012 and lasted Vauxhall until the seventh generation version’s introduction in the Autumn of 2015.

You’ll find plenty of these late-model MK6 Astras about – and they appear to offer plenty for the money. This Vauxhall can prove to be a very efficient choice too, if you select your engine carefully. Pick one of the newer turbocharged petrol engines or a frugal 1.6, 1,7 or 2.0 litre diesel, then match your choice to a plush trim level and you’ve potentially got a cracking used buy. We show you why.

The History

Despite Vauxhall’s best efforts over thirty years and five different generations, their Astra has rarely been the family hatchback its drivers would ideally have chosen to own. Not because it’s ever been a bad car: just never a class-leading one. The kind of model you bought because it was good value. Or more likely, because you were given the keys by your company Fleet Manager. At the launch of this MK6 version in 2009 though, greater efforts than ever before were made to ensure that ‘want one’ factor. So it was bigger, sharper to drive and nicer to sit in. And back then, it looked like a very complete proposition indeed.

By 2012 though, much had changed in the family hatchback segment. The intervening period saw the introduction of all-new versions of this car’s closest two segment rivals, Ford’s Focus and Volkswagen’s Golf, as well as complete re-designs of other important sector contenders like SEAT’s Leon, Honda’s Civic and Toyota’s Auris. Plus there was the rise of the South Koreans, with new generation versions of the Kia cee’d and Hyundai i30, models that had become increasingly difficult for family hatchback buyers to ignore. Hence the need, in the Autumn of 2012, for a package of Astra changes designed to keep this car current in such an increasingly close-fought family hatchback sector. These created the smarter, higher-tech, more efficient car we’re looking at here.

What To Look For

As is always the case with mainstream family hatches, you'll want to keep a look out for thrashed company hacks or ex-hire fleet vehicles. Ensure that the car has been serviced on the button and that the mileage on the service record stamp tallies with what the odometer says. It's also worth checking the car for accident damage, as many cars will be de-fleeted early if they've had a prang and have been repaired. Ask the seller explicitly if the car has had accident damage and inspect the usual points for overspray and kinks in the under-bonnet flitch plates. The engines tend to be tough units with no serious problems to report.

On The Road

Here, it’s a case of knowing your engine. To be honest, the budget-level 1.4 or 1.6-litre normally aspirated entry-level petrol units represent older and resolutely unremarkable Vauxhall technology, even if the performance they offer (rest to sixty in 14s on the way to 105mph in the case of the base 87PS 1.4 16v variant) will probably be enough for most. Unfortunately, the far superior 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol turbo units were limited to buyers of the sporty SRi trim level and to GTC coupe customers who also got a 280PS 2.0-litre powerplant in the top-of-the-range VXR hot hatch.

Diesel drivers could specify a five-door hatch or a Sports Tourer estate to get themselves the entry-level 95PS 1.3-litre CDTi unit, but all Astra bodyshapes got the 1.7-litre CDTi engine many preferred, with a choice of either 110 or 130PS outputs. In 130PS guise, sixty from rest is 10.4s away en route to a maximum of 126mph. We can’t really see much point in going beyond this to the 165PS 2.0 CDTi diesel, but it is tempting, if you can afford it, to look at the top-of-the-range Astra diesel, the potent 195PS BiTurbo unit, capable of rest to sixty in just 7.8s on the way to 141mph.

Overall

There are lots of options if you’re looking for a family hatchback from the 2012 to 2015 period and in a class packed with noteworthy cars, it would be easy perhaps, to overlook this facelifted MK6 model Astra – or at least to assume it to be an also-ran in this tightly-fought segment. You shouldn’t do that – and it isn’t. Or at least it isn’t if you choose your engine and spec carefully. The really desirable and efficient variants may well require you to negotiate a sharp deal with your seller to keep within budget, but if you can do that, then you’ll get yourself a lot of car for the money. Yes, there are sharper-handling contenders in this segment but few rivals are better built or more efficient.

It’s worth looking at this later facelifted post-2012 version of the sixth generation design, rather than the original version. If you can do that, then you get yourself smarter looks, more efficient engines and extra hi-tech features. And, as ever with an Astra, there's a huge selection of used vehicles to choose from, so be patient and negotiate hard. Do that and you’ll almost certainly come away with a very good deal. On a surprisingly good car.