THE Vauxhall Astra Excite is a special edition that makes all kinds of sense.
Based on the Astra ES but featuring 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, Bluetooth mobile integration and an MP3-friendly stereo, those looking for a reasonably priced Astra should give it some serious consideration.
A large percentage of the buying decision comes about in the first 100 yards of any given test drive and the Astra Excite makes the driver feel instantly at home and comfortable with the controls, impressing through sheer ease of use. Take note, BMW.
One thing that’s immediately apparent is the comfort of the ride afforded by the Astra’s advanced suspension system. It was the first car in its class to feature Continuous Damping Control (CDC), electronically controlled dampers that continuously adapt to the road surface and the driver’s style.
It’s all part of what Vauxhall dubs the Astra’s ‘Interactive Driving System’ (IDS) that can integrate all of the electronic functions in a way that’s a good deal cleverer that you might think.
For example, the ESP stability control system now beefs up the damper forces first before applying the brakes to the front wheels during extreme cornering manoeuvres making for a more sensitive and less intrusive intervention.
Despite all of these high tech touches, the Astra still uses a relatively simple beam axle at the back instead of the sophisticated multi-link layouts used by Volkswagen and Ford. GM executives contend that this system provides good handling while transmitting less noise into the cabin and its design helps maximise interior space.
The Excite models pick from three of the lesser lights of the engine range, but these powerplants represent the big sellers. That said, I’d give the 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit a miss and step straight to the punchier 114bhp 1.6-litre that does a much better job of shifting the Astra’s ample bulk.
The 1.4-litre petrol is a bit of a dud, struggling to move the Astra’s hefty body with any great enthusiasm. The other two engines are well worth your time, with the 1.6-litre petrol being a sweet-revving thing that doesn’t make bad figures, while the diesel returns superb economy and offers low emissions to boot. It’s not exciting but the value for money is exceptional. That’ll be good enough for many.
Solid build quality, sharp styling, and competitive, if not class-leading, space and versatility are the watchwords with the Mk V Astra.
Where Vauxhall has boxed clever is by offering a range of utility cars in parallel to it. With models like the Zafira and the Meriva to cater for the needs of those who need serious utility, the Astra can let its hair down a bit.
Of all the Excite special edition models, the Astra looks to offer the best deal.
Perhaps the Excite badge might lead customers to expect a little more in the way of driving thrills, but if you can accept these versions are based on the lesser lights of the Astra range you’ll soon see they offer a lot of car for a modest outlay.