Rental Car Review : Vauxhall Astra SRi
The Vauxhall Astra model name has been in use in the UK since 1979. This example is of the newest sixth generation available since late 2009.
The principal manufacturing plant for the latest Astra is at Ellesmere Port. Design has been a major consideration in the development of new Vauxhall Astra and the car is heavily influenced by the Vauxhall Insignia - for example the dashboard is of a similar design with commonalty of parts.
Despite it being a very popular car with strong sales, I am critical. It is easy to be critical when the car isn't yours - you have no vested interest. My criticisms are aimed at the design and ergonomics.
Mileage driven: 281.8
MPG achieved: 38 MPG
Type of driving: Mainly motorways and fast A roads.
Likes: Colour, dashboard design, cruise control, enough power.
Dislikes: Huge deep and wide windscreen pillars - it felt like wearing a pair of blinkers. No other car I've driven (apart from other Vauxhall) are as bad as this - see below. I once took an rental Astra back and got it exchanged for another make and model. Why? Because a pedestrian was completely hidden from my view behind the windscreen pillar blind spot in a McDonalds car park. I nearly ran over them. I consider myself very cautious in such circumstances, so it came as a bigger shock. Car design plays a huge part on road safety, and this car shows how its not done.
Rubbery gearchange making changes slow inaccurate and crunchy (maybe it was an issue with this car) so much so that despite this being a sporty model whenever possible I would stay in a gear. Sport seats uncomfortable - the unadjustable lumber causes discomfort. Difficult car to in and out of, not assisted by the sports seats.
Glad to hand the keys back!
The little Kia that is normally parked across the two spaces immediately behind the Astra wasn't here today. Is Friday their day off? (see other photos in this set to see what I mean).
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An article entitled: "Vauxhall's Astra good, whopping blindspot bad"
And then as I pulled away, I realised there's a hint of tunnel vision around the Vauxhall Astra's A-pillars. Blame the tiny front quarterlights which create a classic blindspot more usually seen on MPVs, but increasingly common on monobox-styled hatchbacks.
Vauxhall/Opel has form on this, of course. The current Meriva is one of the worst blindspot offenders on sale today, hiding a multitude of sins, road users and potential danger behind its chunky A-pillars. It's like wearing a balaclava.
In a former life, I tested car blindspots with the help of original Range Rover engineer Spen King. He had a real bee in his bonnet about thick A-pillars and fought a long crusade with politicians and law makers to reverse the growing trend. We hired a MIRA test facility in the UK and spent a week in a visibility lab, casting eery shadows with spotlights around 50 cars' front A-pillars to scientifically plot drivers' visibility.
We proved empirically that modern A-pillars were getting thicker and that EU rules were ineffective. In some cases, tiny quarterlights were introduced to allow just a sliver of light through in the test – cheating the system for a pass, despite being as effective as a fairground periscope in terms of helping drivers see.
It's still a growing problem. Look at these photos from my cameraphone.