Vauxhall Astra Electric
When the current generation of the Astra was introduced in 2022, three powertrains were announced: a traditional petrol engine, a hybrid engine and an electric motor. And another important thing was announced: regardless of the engine chosen, the Astra will look the same. As such, the Astra Electric is not a futuristic-looking car or droplet-shaped product of the wind tunnel.
The Astra is a modern car, as its lines are clean and minimalist. Thereby, the black band visually connecting the headlights (and hiding various sensors behind it) creates a unique look. The blue colour gives the test car some more character.
The design of the interior focused on "detoxing". By this, Vauxhall means that everything unnecessary and potentially distracting has been removed. The only decorative element is the so-called "black panel": a black panel in which the clocks behind the steering wheel and the central display are encased, making them appear to form a single entity. This design creates a sober look, but also a tidy feeling and an uncluttered whole.
The space in the front and rear is excellent. With the front seats in the rear position, even tall drivers cannot reach the pedals! As with most electric cars, batteries are built into the floor. However, these are divided into two pieces, leaving enough space in the middle for the feet of the rear passengers. So unlike some other electric cars, passengers do not sit in the back with their legs raised.
Because electric propulsion was taken into account from the first design, there was no need to make retrospective modifications for this. The equipment and controls are therefore similar to those of any other Astra. The audio, communication and navigation system is complete and works smoothly.
In terms of safety, the Astra Electric offers everything that might be expected, plus two new features (coming later to the other Astra's). From now on, the Astra can assist in passing. However, this requires indicating direction first and only then do the electronics determine whether it is safe and automatically steer the car into another lane. The problem is that other traffic may be startled if the Astra driver starts blinking at random. Another new feature is the smart speed limit, which not only reads traffic signs but also takes into account the weather and traffic conditions and gives advice based on these.
Stellantis, Vauxhall's parent company, recently launched an all-new electric powertrain and the Astra is the third model to benefit from it. Both the battery and electric motor are more efficient than before, resulting in better performance and a longer range than previous models from Stellantis. During the test under favourable weather conditions, the Astra Electric was able to cover 422 km on a full battery (official value: 418 km). Charging can be done with up to 11 kW at a public charging point and 100 kW at a fast charger.
It only takes a few metres of driving to realise that the "Electric" is the Astra of the future. This model sets itself in motion with an ease previously unheard of for the Astra. Moreover, the car responds nicely to the accelerator, which also makes the agility far superior to that of the conventional Astra. Especially in sport mode, performance is good, but here it is noticeable that the engine reacts to the driver with a slight delay to protect it from itself.
In B mode, the Astra Electric decreases speed slightly when releasing the accelerator, converting kinetic energy into electricity. Compared to other electric cars, however, this effect is minor. Single-pedal driving is therefore not possible. Vauxhall makes this choice because it would require too much from drivers coming from a conventional car. That may be true, but other brands simply give the driver the choice to "regenerate" a lot or a little and then everyone is happy.
Despite the fact that all Astra's have (broadly) the same chassis and should therefore have the same driving characteristics, the Electric does drive differently. That's because the battery pack is part of the platform and therefore the Electric is 31% stiffer than a conventional Astra. As a result, the Electric Astra steers more tightly. Moreover, the suspension can do its job even better because it is not disturbed by other forces and the car is quieter and more stable.
Also very important: because fewer forces are applied to the bodywork, the Electric is even quieter. Not only does the engine do its work inaudibly, but also the noises from the tyres or driving wind are almost absent.
Will the Astra be a sales success again with the arrival of the "Electric"? It won't be down to the technology. The Astra uses the latest electric powertrain from parent company Stellantis. Therefore, the Astra Electric is fast, quiet, smooth and economical. Its range is about the same as that of a petrol-powered car.
In addition, Vauxhall manages to stand out well from the existing offering. Its direct competitors all shout out that they are electric cars. The Astra Electric looks exactly the same as the combustion-engine variants, offers the same space and the same controls as well. Precisely because the Astra is also available with a petrol engine, the difference between the various variants is also most obvious. Of all mid-range electric cars, the Astra offers the biggest leap forward, while the threshold to electric driving is the lowest.
- Large range, fast charging
- Particularly quiet and smooth
- Spacious and well-thought-out interior
- Driving with 1 pedal is not possible
- Passing aid can confuse other traffic