Sean O'Grady: Vauxhall’s green dream is far from a careless whisper

What is more impressive with the Astra is its economy and green credentials

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Indy Lifestyle Online

OK, “whisper” is not part of the official name of this car, as it merely refers to Vauxhall’s latest generation diesel engine, so-named – and I think you may be ahead of me here – because it is whisper-quiet in operation.

I thought I’d catch your eye with it though. Maybe I was right. Anyway, it’s nothing to do with Wham!

Well, the Astra is quiet enough: What is more impressive is its economy and green credentials. This is a family hatch that promises 76 mpg and Co2 emissions so low that it qualifies for a zero rate of car tax, just like a hybrid. There are other cars out there that do much the same, and we’ve all become a bit blasé about such statistics. But we shouldn’t be, because they are helping to save the planet. Indeed, I would say that the world’s automotive engineers are doing more, in practical, immediate terms, to combat climate change than the world’s scientists.  

Because of the snob thing (ie the Vauxhall badge), Astras don’t get as much of a following as they deserve, because they are the equal of the usual default choice, the VW Golf. Long-term reliability, I would guess, is certainly no worse than their VW equivalent, and equipment levels are also competitive. The Astra is probably a little dearer than a Golf, but there isn’t much in it. The equivalent Seat Leon, Ford Focus and hybrid Toyota Auris models are also worth a look. For private buyers, the discounts on most of these are there for the taking, so the final decision comes down to how good a haggler you are.

My problem with the Astra is that the concept is quite hard work for a driver. The key to the Astra’s economy and low emissions is its twin turbo set-up, which basically means that you have to rev it to get the best out of it. But if you do that then you start to lose its green/economy/refinement advantages. So you have to be very careful about keeping that balance with the “whisper” powerplant, and  not to press your right foot too heavily on the accelerator.

Or, as George Michael once famously sung in “Careless Whisper”, “Guilty feet have got no rhythm”. Sorry; I couldn’t resist it.

Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTI ‘Whisper diesel’ 

Price £18,910 (as tested)

ENGINE Capacity 1.6 twin-turbo diesel

POWER OUTPUT (PS @ RPM) 110 @ 4,000

TOP SPEED (MPH) 115

FUEL ECONOMY (mpg) 76.3

CO2 EMISSIONS (g/km) 97

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