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Vauxhall Astra GSe

The independent definitive Vauxhall Astra GSe video review
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    A GRANDER KIND OF ASTRA (some text hidden) SECTIONED_new_vauxhallastragse_2023

    By Jonathan Crouch

    Is Vauxhall's Astra GSe really a hot hatch? Jonathan Crouch decides.

    Ten Second Reviewword count: 68

    Vauxhall's Astra GSe is the first model from the company's EV sporting 'Grand Sport Electric' sub-brand, a PHEV targeted directly at Volkswagen's Golf GTE. It's a little less of a hot hatch than that Wolfsburg model, but it's not for the want of trying, handling and suspension tweaks aiming to elevate this Astra a little above the usual Plug-in Hybrid family hatch and estate choices you could make.

    Backgroundword count: 251

    After forty years of fast Vauxhalls, some great, some not, this apparently is where the company's performance pretensions enter a new electrified era. And on initial inspection of the car in question here, the brand's Astra GSe, it doesn't sound all that promising: 1.8 tonnes of weight, eco-conscious tyres, automatic transmission and an engine from the Stellantis parts bin. Yes an engine. This fast Astra may be the debut model of the marque's new electric performance brand but it isn't fully electric (though these days, you can buy an Astra that is). Instead, the GSe uses the fastest 225hp version of the 1.6-litre Plug-in Hybrid powertrain already in use in 180hp form by the Astra PHEV. Other similarly-sized Stellantis Group models like the Peugeot 308 and the DS 4 offer the faster of the two versions of this drivetrain with nothing more than an expensive price hike and the models in question have largely stayed rooted to the showroom floor. Vauxhall's been a bit cleverer, re-packaging the 225hp PHEV Astra model with all the GSe tinsel you see in the pictures here to better justify its ambitious asking price. Students of automotive history might remember that the GSe badge first appeared on Vauxhall Opel models back in the '80s with the big Monza coupe. But then, the letters stood for 'Grand Sport Einspritzung' (German for 'Injection'). Today, the acronym has been reborn as designating 'Grand Sport Electric' and, we're told, here offers us a glimpse into the future of warmed-up Vauxhalls.

    Driving Experienceword count: 331

    You might at least be pleased to find that this is rather more than an Astra PHEV with an inconsequential power hike and a body kit. Lots of work's been done on the suspension, though you can't specify switchable dampers in the way you can with this model's Golf GTE arch-rival. Instead, special Koni shock absorbers have been fitted with a clever bypass valve to aid ride control. Apparently, there are slightly more permissive stability system settings too, plus a lower ride height and a faster steering rack. None of which you'll really need because the powertrain characteristics don't encourage you to drive this car like a hot hatch. It's a PHEV package designed for an eco-conscious hatch not a shopping rocket and since it hasn't been altered for this installation, the driveline vibe you get is slightly out of kilter with the sporty looks and firm ride of this GSe. You don't even really feel the extra 45hp over an ordinary Astra PHEV (the torque figure is the same) though the stats say that this more powerful variant is fractionally quicker against the stopwatch; rest to 62mph takes 7.5s (a way off a rival Golf GTE's 6.7s) but at least (for what it's worth) the top speed is a very un-EV-like 146mph. To recap, in case you're not familiar with the four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbo petrol powertrain in use here, it's assisted by a 107bhp electric motor powered by a 9.9kWh battery and drives through the front wheels via an 8-speed auto gearbox. EV range in the Hatch is rated at 40 miles. That's limited by the 1.7-tonne kerb weight, one of the things that discourages you from throwing this car about too much. Another is the drivetrain's momentary hesitation when you step on the throttle, which eventually elicits a rather thrashy engine note. At least the handling tweaks work quite well - the darty steering and damping that keeps body roll in check but isn't too busy over coarser surfaces.

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