Fleet News

Vauxhall Astra Coupe

Vauxhall

Review

FORGET carbon dioxide emissions and miles per gallon just for a moment, because the winning ingredients for a coupe boil down to just beauty and brawn.

Under certain circumstances, extreme beauty can compensate for a lack of brawn (note the sparkling appeal of the Peugeot 406 coupe even in 2.0-litre guise). But an excess of brawn does not guarantee cars racing out of showrooms (note the muted success of the Ford Cougar with its 2.5-litre V6 engine).

The Astra Coupe sits somewhere between these two extremes, gorgeous from some angles, ordinary from others, and with a healthy but not suffocating appetite for speed. For more than a few fleeting moments I have left my house in the morning thinking I had an Audi TT in the driveway - just about the biggest compliment I can pay the Astra Coupe. The Bertone styling on its front quarter, with colour-coded, wrap-round bumpers, crystal clear headlights and fat alloy wheels, is so pretty and purposeful that it should set hearts fluttering among even the most jaded user-choosers. And if the neighbours aren't looking, I'll take a moment to run my eye up the sleek side profile of the Coupe, admiring it like punters assessing the favourite in the paddock before the Derby.

Then I'll try to climb into the car without looking at it from behind - because the back of the Coupe is pure Astra and a desperate disappointment. If coupes are about show and performance, what's the point of designing a car that looks fabulous in the mirrors of cars ahead, giving it the get-up-and-go to make overtaking a blast, and then designing the rear view like the backside of an Astra?

And as an aside, why did Vauxhall retain the Astra name for the Bertone-styled Coupe? The old Calibra may have been Cavalier under the skin, but its sharp lines and sexy name created a mini-brand in its own right, adding the pizzazz to the Griffin badge that Vauxhall is seeking so keenly today.

Beyond the shallow and superficial world of beauty, however, our Astra Coupe 2.2 makes an extremely reasonable fleet case. Its previous test driver spent two months driving in his best Mafia-style concrete boots, and still managed to exceed 30mpg, and my more modest commute has returned figures in excess of 34mpg.

My route home does, however, include six miles of narrow roads and sharp bends, and here the Coupe proves a marvellous companion. All along I have attested to the strengths of the ride and handling of the Astra, and its eclipse in the driving stakes by the Ford Focus is no disgrace. With buckets of grip and a sporty suspension set-up the Astra Coupe and its 2.2-litre engine offer tons of fun.

So does it have beauty and brawn? Enough of both to make it on to my sub-£17,000 company car shortlist.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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