Lizzie Pope
Digital Editor

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Sleek and spacious, the new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer also shines on the road, but what tow car potential does it have? Lizzie Pope finds out

Sports Tourer? No, it’s not a racy caravan, it’s Vauxhall’s term for the estate version of its Astra. And, following the launch of its seventh-generation hatchback last autumn, now its more capacious sibling is here.

To my eyes, they’ve saved the best until last. The Sports Tourer takes the hatchback’s handsome lines and elongates them, for a sleeker and better resolved appearance, accentuated by the chrome window trim that sweeps from front to back.

Of course, it’s here that you’ll find one of the main advantages of this body shape. While the hatchback has a 370- to 1210-litre boot, the Astra Sports Tourer boasts a 540- to 1630-litre capacity, which is 40 and 80 litres more, respectively, than its predecessor, despite having similar exterior dimensions – and those rear seats are a cinch to fold down and give a near-flat, 1705mm load floor length, which should provide plenty of space for all your touring gear.

But it’s not just here that more efficient interior packaging has liberated more space. Drivers enjoy 26mm more headroom and rear-seat passengers 28mm more legroom than before, plus Vauxhall claims that you can fit three child seats across the rear bench, all of which means increased comfort for families on caravan holidays.

Engine-wise, all three diesels are 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged units, delivering 108bhp/221lb ft, 134bhp/236lb ft and, for the range-topping biturbo, 158bhp and 258lb ft of torque.

The turbo petrol line-up starts with a 999cc, 104bhp engine with 125lb ft of torque. There are then three 1.4-litre options, with between 99 and 148bhp, plus the top-of-the-range 1.6 with 197bhp and 221lb ft torque. 

Predictably, you’ll get more miles per gallon than before with the latest range. The new Sports Tourer is the most aerodynamically efficient estate car built by Vauxhall, helping the manufacturer to claim headline-grabbing combined economy figures such as 83.1mpg for the 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 67.3mpg for the 158bhp twin-turbo diesel.

Reduced kerbweights have, as ever, also contributed to these figures, which is rather less pleasing news for caravanners; the new Sports Tourer is up to 190kg lighter than the outgoing model. Do the numbers work for you? Kerbweights of this new range go from 1273kg to 1435kg, giving 85% match figures of between 1082kg and 1220kg.

Trim lines broadly follow the format established by the Astra hatchback, starting with Design which features, among other items, 16-inch alloys, black roof rails, air-con and cruise control. Tech Line adds a leather-trimmed steering wheel and an adjustable front armrest, and upgrades the speakers and the infotainment system. Go for SRi and the alloy wheels go up an inch to 17, other extras including front foglights, silver-effect roof rails, sports-style front seats, storage pockets on the front seatbacks and rain-sensitive windscreen wipers, SRi Nav also adding the Navi 900 IntelliLink system with fully-integrated European sat-nav and an eight-inch colour touchscreen.

The top trim line is Elite, this marked out by features including multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, two rear USB charging points, electronic dual-zone climate control and an electric parking brake; again, as with SRi Nav, Elite Nav upgrades the sat-nav.

At next month’s 2016 Tow Car Awards test week, our resident tow car expert David Motton will be putting the 1.6-litre biturbo variant through its paces, so for our first drive of the new Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, we focused on other models from the range.

We started in the 148bhp, 1.4-litre turbo petrol, in SRi Nav trim. As with its hatchback counterpart, getting set behind the wheel is easy, the steering column adjustable for reach and rake, and the sporty front seats both comfortable and with a good level of adjustment. Thanks to the intuitively arranged and simple-to-use switchgear, you soon feel at home in the smart, well-specced cabin.

And, again, like the hatch, the Astra Sports Tourer is a pleasing, rewarding drive. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick with a light action, the steering is neat and direct, and this powerplant lives up to the promise of its quoted 8.2-second 0-60mph time, feeling usefully quick. Our only grumbles were the increased road noise and less compliant ride due to the optional 18-inch alloys fitted to our test car.

Indeed, jumping from this into a car with 17-inch wheels proved right away that wheel choice is crucial with the new Astra. In fact, this next car was a hatch, not the estate, and in top-of-the-tree Elite Nav trim, with super-supportive seats. The reason for driving it? Its potent 1598cc petrol engine was introduced to the range with the Sports Tourer’s launch.

How potent? Well, 197bhp between 4700 and 5500rpm isn’t a bad start, and then there’s 221lb ft torque served between a generous 1700-4700pm. A strong, flexible engine that sounds great under load, you can really feel the turbo kick in and whisk you along. In fact, this top-of-the-range petrol engine has more power and just a touch less torque than the twin-turbo diesel, and is actually faster from 0-60mph, although the diesel’s power delivery is more linear. If the numbers add up for you and you prefer petrol to diesel, in Sports Tourer guise this could be a very easy touring companion.

Finally, it was a chance to sample some diesel power. The mid-range 134bhp model’s healthy 236lb ft torque gives plenty of low-down go, with the reassurance of a decent, turbocharged punch. The 1598cc engine and this SRi Nav-spec car’s 17-inch wheels combined to give a peaceful ride.

The Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer is in showrooms now, from £16,585 OTR, with prices up to £1870 less expensive than the outgoing model. As a solo drive there’s a lot to like about the latest chapter in the Astra story. We look forward to finally towing with one during Tow Car Awards testing next month – stayed tuned!

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