Astra: An everyman car with a touch of sportiness

The Astra GSEThe Astra GSE
The Astra GSE
VAUXHALL has always managed to combine its everymanmotoring philosophy with atinge of sportiness. Down theyears, its run-of-the-mill Vivas,Novas, Astras and Victors havehad their fair share of sportsmodels to add a spark of interest

They add interest to a brand which has kept

Mr and Mrs Average and their children on the

road for generations. The faster GSi and VXRs

were very credible performance models over

the years.

GSi and VXR are no more and as Vauxhall

looks ahead to 2028 when it will only sell electric models, it’s keen to reignite some fire in the

sporty stakes.

Enter GSe – which stands for Grand Sport

Electric – Vauxhall’s new sub-brand that will

focus on producing more performance-orientated versions of hybrid models, and then

EVs in future years. It gets its first outing with

Vauxhall’s latest Astra, but does GSe suitably

liven the hatchback up?

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Vauxhall is keen to stress that GSe is “not intended” as a direct replacement for the VXR, so

we’ve got no bespoke high-performance models, but instead tweaked versions of the brand’s

existing cars.

The latest generation of Astra is ripe for this,

given what an improvement it is over its preV AUXHALL has always managed to combine its everyman

motoring philosophy with a

tinge of sportiness. Down the

years, its run-of-the-mill Vivas,

Novas, Astras and Victors have

had their fair share of sports

models to add a spark of interest.

decessor. While it’s already available as a ‘180’

hybrid, the GSe boasts more power, a bespoke

chassis and styling revisions to help make it a

more compelling proposition.

The Astra GSe uses a powertrain that will

be very familiar to those that know about their

Stellantis products. It pairs a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor

for a combined 222bhp and 360Nm of torque.

Drive is delivered to the front wheels, with an

eight-speed automatic gearbox being adopted.

It takes 7.3 seconds to dispatch 0-60mph,

with the Astra GSe capable of 146mph when

maxed out. A 12.4kWh battery is also used,

which when fully charged allows for a claimed

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40-mile range, pushing it into the 8pc benefitin-kind tax bracket for company car drivers.

Vauxhall claims up to 256.8mpg and 25g/km

CO2 emissions, though you’ll need to complete

nearly all your mileage on electric to see these

kinds of figures.

If you come to the Astra GSe looking for a

replacement for the old VXR model, or even

a Volkswagen Golf GTI, you could be a touch

disappointed. This is no hot hatch, but a rather

lightly tweaked version.

There’s a decent amount of performance

when the Astra is nicely warmed up, while

body roll is well contained through the corners. By hybrid hatchback standards, it handles well too, and can be pushed through the

bends without losing grip. Despite its sportierfocused ride, it largely remains comfortable,

even on rougher stretches of Tarmac.

But the Astra GSe performs at its best when

you’re just pottering about town, making the

most of the credible electric range. Too much

throttle action and the engine screams into life,

and there’s too much lag between the power

sources if you ask a lot from it.

Vauxhall’s chief designer is keen to stress

he didn’t want a “boy racer look”, likely a nod

to the old Astra VXR, so the result is one that’s

been subtly made more aggressive. There are

revised bumpers that aim to give the model a

wider look, and a set of new alloys and a full

gloss black look, from its badging to its roof.

The result is smart.

Inside they have a touch of sportiness with

new Alcantara-trimmed sports seats, which

are a great addition, along with a bespoke ‘GSe’

steering wheel. The cabin is smart too, with

good ergonomics courtesy of the right balance

of screens and physical controls. The quality

is largely good, though a few too many gloss

black plastics cheapen the look somewhat.

As for space, the disadvantage of those

chunky front seats is that rear space isn’t the

best, with taller adults really having to squeeze

into the back – a Cupra Leon e-Hybrid offers a

lot more room. Boot space, however, is generous, with clever packaging ensuring the addition of the batteries doesn’t compromise boot

volume. The GSe comes in a single high-spec

grade and sits at the top of the Astra line-up.

The level of equipment, therefore, is generous,

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including a head-up display, matrix LED headlights, a 360-degree parking camera and ‘Pure

Panel’ which includes a large touchscreen and

digital dial display merged together in one

smart piece of glass.

There’s little feeling that Vauxhall has been

stingy with equipment. All of this equipment

doesn’t come cheap, though, with the Astra GSe coming in at £40,550. Yes, more than

£40,000 for an Astra. This might sound expensive, and it is, but it comes in at only £150

more than the regular 178bhp hybrid model in

top-spec Ultimate grade, though does miss out

on that car’s standard-fit panoramic roof and

additional speakers.

The Vauxhall Astra GSe arrives as a stylish,

efficient and well-equipped hybrid hatchback

that is a very credible option for those wanting

to reduce their running costs or for company

car drivers.

But it suffers from the muddle that comes

from being a sporty hybrid. This is a powertrain which, by and large, is much better suited

to cruising silently around town or sitting at

a motorway cruise, than it is being thrashed

around a twisty road, and for that reason we

reckon the regular Astra is a better choice

overall. That tiny price increase, however, most

certainly gives enough reason to validate the

GSe’s purchase.

Vauxhall Astra GSe: £40,550; 1.6-litre petrol

engine with electric motor emitting 222bhp;

Top speed 146mph and 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds;

Economy 256.8mpg; Emissions 25g/km; Electric

range 40 miles; Three years warranty, 60,000


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