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Big changes under the bonnet as Vauxhall unveils the new-look Astra hatch

By Paul Connolly

Vauxhall has unveiled a face-lifted Astra, with a range of new engines and more tech than ever before.

Although exterior and interior design changes are limited, the big-selling hatchback Is being equipped with the latest petrol and diesel turbo powerplants and a revised chassis.

There’s also reduced emissions and fuel consumption, a nine-speed gearbox option and a raft of the latest technology including a new digital front camera and improved pedestrian/traffic sign recognition.

Brand new pictures of the latest Astra were revealed this week as Vauxhall seeks to build interest ahead of an official launch later.

The Astra remains a key car for Vauxhall/Opel, which was taken over from General Motors by Groupe PSA (makers of Peugeot and Citroen) two years ago.

Effectively, and rather convolutedly, the successor to the big-selling Opel Kadett, the Astra is now in its fifth generation after first being seen in the metal in 1991.

It and its Opel counterpart have had a variety of iterations down the year, but it remains one of Britain and Ireland’s biggest selling models. It comes in five-door hatch and tourer (estate) variants.

The latest model may not get huge changes on the inside and out – in fact the cabin is largely the same – but it’s what’s changing under the bonnet, in the chassis and with the technology that is most interesting.

The manufacturer seems proudest of new aerodynamic innovations describing them as “aero-benchmarks”.

These include a range of engine, grille and body innovations that optimise airflow over the engine and the car, reducing drag coefficient and improving efficiency.

Vauxhall says that at 0.26 Cd, the Astra is the most aerodynamic car in its five-door hatch back class. And at 0.25 Cd, the Astra Sports Tourer is among the best-in-class. These come hand-in-hand with new shock absorbers to increase ride comfort.

New turbocharged petrol and diesel engines deliver better efficiency, aided by a range of new transmission systems.

These are a new six-speed manual, a seven-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) and – for the first time at Vauxhall – a new nine-speed automatic.

The compact, three-cylinder, turbo petrol units are available with 1.2 and 1.4-litre displacements. Power outputs extend from 110PS to 145PS and maximum torque from 195Nm to 236Nm.

The Astra’s new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder diesel engines offer 105PS and 122PS, as well as 260 to 300Nm of torque.

Instead of the six-speed manual gearbox, the most powerful diesel is optionally available with the new nine-speed automatic transmission, which is making its debut at Vauxhall in the Astra.

The new diesel engines feature an electrically-activated turbocharger with variable geometry turbine vanes (VGT) and, similar to their petrol counterparts, a balance shaft in the block for additional refinement.

You’d expect any new version of the Astra to come with lots of new tech, and this is indeed the case.

The new model is available with a new digital front camera, which is both smaller and more powerful than before thanks to a faster processor.

Vauxhall says it now not only recognises vehicles, but also pedestrians, greatly improving safety.

It now has better traffic sign recognition abilities and can now process even more traffic signs and show them as symbols on the display.

A new digital rear view camera, available on selected models, is also more powerful, and works in conjunction with the new Multimedia Navi Pro infotainment system.

Connectivity is said to be better and all systems are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The top-of-the-line Multimedia Navi Pro – already featured in the Vauxhall Insignia flagship – has an eight-inch colour touchscreen and can also be operated by voice control.

Compatible smartphones can be charged inductively via wireless charging on selected models.

There’s also a heated windscreen on some models, making winter driving easier and safer.

Vauxhall will reveal more details of the new Astra shortly, including price, so watch this space.

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