First drive: Vauxhall Astra Electric. We want to love you… but we can’t. | Electrifying

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If you are of a more mature persuasion, you might remember when there was an Astra on every street corner. Today, traditional hatchbacks appear to be heading towards extinction – an inevitable side effect of our love affair with the SUV. The once mighty Ford Focus is being killed off and rumours of the Volkswagen Golf’s demise are rife.

But there’s one car company bucking the trend. Vauxhall believes that there’s plenty of life left in the traditional hatchback and is about to launch a fully electric version of its Astra. Will it be the saviour of the five-door hatch? Can it push back the relentless tide of SUVs?

On paper, the Vauxhall Astra Electric doesn’t make a strong start. While arch rival VW and others developed electric cars specifically around the electric bits, Vauxhall electric models share their body with other powertrains – which results in a few compromises. Although slightly longer than the ID.3 at 4,370mm, the Astra offers less space in the rear and has the smaller boot at 352 litres – which is also slightly smaller than an MG4 or Leaf and quite a lot less than a Kia Niro EV. 

Look at the spec sheet and the Astra’s hand looks a little weak. The battery is a measly 51kWh and you’ll only be able to charge it at a maximum of 100kW. But the electric bits are pretty sophisticated, and if the figures are to be believed, super efficient too. 
It’s the same powertrain we’ve already tried in the Jeep Avenger but in the sleeker Astra it results in a possible 258-miles of range according to the official figures.

But there’s a problem. Talk about the prices and Vauxhall’s bosses start to shift uncomfortably. The Astra Electric is slower than all of its key rivals. It has less equipment. It’s not a premium brand and has a smaller battery. It has a pretty basic warranty. So it must be cheaper, right? 

Well, no. The cheapest GS grade is just under £40,000 and the better-equipped ‘Ultimate’ is £43,110. In comparison a top tier Megane is £41,995, or £39,495 for the mid level – both have bigger batteries and much more power. A top Cupra Born V3 with the 58kWh battery is £40,150, an ID.3 Pro S with the bigger 77kWh battery is £42,870. 

But the killer is a Tesla Model 3. It has a 305 mile range, a 5.8 second 0-60 time and charging which is twice as fast in that dedicated network. Its list price is £42,990 and there are cars in stock today which are £38,790. And we won;’t even mention the £36,000 MG4 which offer either supercar performance (the Xpower) or a 300 mile plus range. That makes the Astra a pretty difficult sell, unless you worry about insurance premiums. 

Join Nicola as she takes a first drive of the new Astra Electric in the UK for the first time. Are you a fan of the new Astra Electric? Is it on your shortlist? Let us know in the comments below.


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