First Drive: Is the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Electric the EV estate to buy?
There aren’t many EV estates on sale but Vauxhall has arrived with its Astra Electric. Is it any good? James Batchelor has been finding out.
What is it?
Electric estate cars aren’t exactly popular at the moment. It’s not that there potentially isn’t a market for them, rather it’s a case of there not being many available on sale right now. Of the estate in showrooms right now is the MG5, while at the other end of the spectrum is the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo – and it’s a bit of a stretch to call the Porsche an estate, in all honesty.
Step forward, the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Electric. It’s a fancy name for what could be the most perfect and rational electric estate car on sale. It’s the first in a flurry of ‘leccy load-luggers which are due to hit the market in the next few years, with Volkswagen, Skoda, BMW and Audi all launching spacious EV estate cars.
But has the Vauxhall got what it takes to pique the interest of British families?
Ah, you might be saying, you’ve forgotten the Peugeot e-308 SW – it too is a small family estate car powered by electricity, after all. We haven’t actually as the Astra and the e-308 are sister cars – same platform, same battery and motor set-up, and built by the same company, Stellantis.
Surprisingly, the Peugeot trumps the Vauxhall in the space race – 548 litres compared to the Astra’s 516 litres when the seats are up, and 1,574 litres compared to 1,553 when the rear seats are folded. But we’re talking about the odd litre here or there – both are comfortably larger than the 464/1,367 in the MG5.
What’s under the bonnet?
There’s one of Stellantis’s shiny new 54kWh battery packs which provides power to the front-mounted 154bhp electric motor. Vauxhall is making a big thing of the fact the battery is fully integrated into the car’s platform, meaning there’s a lower driving position and the car is stiffer – 31 per cent more rigid compared to the petrol- or diesel-powered Astra Sports Tourer, in fact.
The battery ekes out one more mile than its French sister at 256 miles. That’s the claimed figure and isn’t a huge one at only seven more than the MG5, and a lot fewer than the 300-odd-mile range of similarly priced SUVs like the Skoda Enyaq manages. Vauxhall believes 256 miles is a good compromise for everyday usability and efficiency, though, and with a claimed efficiency figure of 4.2 miles per kWh Vauxhall could well be right.
Plug into a rapid charger and thanks to 100kW DC charging capability a 20 to 80 per cent top-up will take 26 minutes, while an overnight charge from a home wallbox should take just under six hours thanks to the Astra’s 11kW on-board charger. A heat pump – for better winter and summer efficiency – is standard, too.
What’s it like to drive?
Despite being a touch longer than the Astra Electric hatchback, the Sports Tourer drives almost identically. That’s a very good thing because the Astra makes for a very comfortable and serene way to get around.
With only 154bhp at your disposal, progress is never lightning fast or what you might expect from the latest range of super quick EVs. But, in the real world, the Astra is more than quick enough for an estate car with 0-60mph taking 9.2 seconds.
The seating position is nice and low and the car feels alert and agile. Vauxhall says the Sports Tourer gets a new rear axle design that focuses on sharper handling, and while it’s difficult to notice this the car does feel very sure-footed through twisty bends and composed on motorways.
How does it look?
Whether you go for the e-308 SW or the Astra Sports Tourer will likely come down to which badge you prefer and which of the car’s styling takes your fancy. The Peugeot is a touch more flamboyant compared to the Vauxhall, but there’s a sharp elegance to the way the Astra looks, and the latest car is a world away from the rather frumpy looks of previous Astra estates.
All cars get the distinctive black ‘Vizor’ face – which consists of a black panel between the headlights – LED rear lights and alloy wheels, while higher trims get a black roof and detailing. At the rear, the number plate has been moved from sitting within the bumper (like it is on the hatchback) to on the tailgate, allowing for a bumper with a lower lip to be fitted, therefore making loading items into the boot that bit easier.
What’s it like inside?
Vauxhall has boosted the quality of its interiors with this generation of Astra, and it really shows. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics around and everything feels well screwed together. Some piano black plastics on the centre console look ripe for scratching, though, but the shortcut buttons for the infotainment system are a nice touch.
The ‘PurePanel’ screen set-up – which sees both the infotainment and driver display screens linked together with one sheet of glass – comes as standard on all but the entry-level trim, and it looks smart. Space up front is good, although rear legroom is a little tighter than it should be.
What’s the spec like?
The £39,645 entry-level Design has more than enough equipment and comes with LED head- and taillights, front and rear parking sensors, climate control and a whole host of safety equipment.
Most buyers will likely favour the sportier look of the £41,995 GS with its black roof, 18-inch black alloys and black badging, and there’s the PurePanel screen and 360-degree parking camera.
Ultimate, as the name suggests, is the range-topper and gets IntelliLux Pixel LED headlights – which have 84 LEDs in each headlight unit – a panoramic sunroof and more supportive front seats, among other things. It’s pricey, though, and costs from £45,110.
The Astra Sports Tourer Electric is arguably a great choice for those keen to make their first step into the world of electric motoring. It’s stylish, pleasant to drive, should deliver more than 200 miles of range in normal driving, and is spacious enough inside.
There is a but, though. With prices starting from over £39,000, we could see many buyers overlooking the Astra in favour of a more fashionable electric SUV such as the Skoda Enyaq, despite the Astra being arguably just as roomy inside and more fun to drive. And while the Astra does feel a more premium and well-rounded EV estate than the MG5, the MG is some £9,000 cheaper than the Astra. That’s a whole heap of money saved and we could understand why people would rather bank the cash rather than splash out on the Vauxhall.