Engine and gearbox
The engine can make or break the Astra. The 3 cylinder petrol unit is rather mediocre. It’s more capable than its 1ltr capacity suggests, but it makes the Astra feel heavy and cumbersome. Considering this Astra is 200kgs lighter than its predecessor, it’s a shame not to feel that.
Of the petrol engines, the 1.6ltr four-cylinder turbo is the pick of the bunch. Lower in the rev range it’s quiet and refined, but there’s a healthy amount of low down torque. It makes achieving high speeds effortless, and therefore, rather surprising.
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Really work it, rev it beyond 5000rpm, and that’s when you experience its best asset. There’s a hard-edged timbre to the noise it makes in the last 1250rpm. The power delivery seems to tail off slightly at the last few hundred revs, but there’s real pleasure in taking it right to the engine’s rev limiter.
Annoyingly, especially as you’re revelling in the noise, the limiter kicks in at 6250rpm. That seems too low. What’s even worse is that the redline on the tacho doesn’t start until 6500. So you expect another 250rpm, and you feel cheated out of more of the screaming, sonorous Astra 4 cylinder. No really, you do.
The gear ratios are a bit too far apart; the revs drop significantly between each gear. The gear change is smooth and free to move with no obstructions. The gate is clear and well defined so you can confidently make quick gear changes, which means you needn’t loose any more revs than you have to.