WORKERS should celebrate birthdays with “nuts and cheese” instead of cake, say health campaigners.
I appreciate your concern but treating work pals to an M&S caterpillar cake or box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts guarantees an easy shift.
And it’s a bit of a British tradition, like downing tools for PopMaster.
And what about cheat days? If ever there was an excuse for a blowout, it’s a birthday.
So how did the Vauxhall factory at Ellesmere Port celebrate the Astra hitting the big 4-0? I don’t know. But if I was in charge I’d have ordered a lorry load of chocolate eclairs.
Let me explain. The current Mk7 Astra is a good car. So good, in fact, that it was crowned 2015 European Car Of The Year.
But now that the French have got hold of the Griffin, the Astra has been honed to a whole new level for its midlife facelift.
Out go all the old GM engines, replaced by a trio of all-new aluminium turbo motors — all of which have three cylinders.
There’s a 1.2-litre petrol, 1.4-litre petrol (which is actually a 1.3, mated to a CVT gearbox) and a 1.5-litre turbo-diesel.
Vauxhall insists these excellent engines are all its own work and were engineered in Germany. Hmmm. Maybe so. But the 1.2 has the same capacity, two of the same outputs and almost the same overall stats as the Peugeot-Citroen PureTech motor.
And Groupe PSA owns Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall, don’t forget.
All I can tell you for certain is that the 1.2 is a little better.
It replaces the old 1-litre but is lighter, quieter and more powerful. It’s better everywhere.
Combine that with improved aerodynamics — an active shutter in the grille and smoother underbody cladding — and you’ve got the greenest Astra yet, with lower CO2 outputs and fuel economy up to 54mpg.
Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav – Key facts:
- Price: £26,210
- Engine: 1.2litre 3cyl turbo petrol
- Power: 145hp, 225Nm
- Economy: 54mg
- CO2: 99g/km
- 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
- Top speed: 137mph
- Out: Now
That’s good news for the pockets of both private and business buyers, because Vauxhall says it will save you around £2,000 in whole-life costs over the pre-facelift model, while it’ll also cut benefit-in-kind bills by a grand.
What else is new?
Vauxhall engineers also took the opportunity to fiddle with the suspension.
This is genuine magic — it has a nicer ride than before, with a floaty level of comfort, while the handling is sharper too, making it a bit of a shame that the most horses the chassis has to deal with is a mere 145. Inside, there’s a new digital speedo, wireless phone-charging and heated windscreen.
The final cerise sur le gateau?
The Astra’s good money, starting a whisker under 19 grand.
The top-selling SRi 1.2 costs from £21,765.
Equipment levels are decent top to bottom and demand for the Astra remains strong — with more than 30,000 UK sales in 2018.
All in all, the new Astra is a tasty proposition for families but the icing on the cake is that it is built in Britain.
READ MORE FROM ROB GILL’S SUN MOTORS COLUMN
Ask Alfie — used car specialist Q&A
Q) COULD you help with the valuation of my car? It’s a June 2017 Honda Jazz 1.3 SE VTEC CVT petrol, 3,900 miles, FSH, immaculate. I paid £11k less than six months ago. Its auto gearbox means I can’t tow my motorhome. I’ll lose a bit of money but what can I get privately?
A) EVEN 2017 Jaz S models with less than 5k on the clock can ask five figures, so you could stick yours up for £11,000 and accept an offer of £10,500 minimum. Shouldn’t leave you too much out of pocket.
Q) I HAVE a Mercedes 190E registered in 1991 on the J-plate. It’s done 107,000 miles and has a full service history. How much is it worth?
A) THESE are difficult to value because they have become affordable classics – so prices are all over the shop. Realistically, if it’s a four-cylinder model in decent nick, you should be looking at about £2,500. You might get more like £3,750-£4,500 if it’s a 2.6-litre version.
Q) I HAVE a Hyundai i10 1.0 SE with delivery mileage from a main dealer. The excessive interior noise when I’m on the road left me very disappointed. I can feel vibrations through the floor and the sound system is basically redundant – if you turn up the volume, it sounds like a brawl in a disco. Hyundai said it was down to tyre noise. So should I risk changing the tyres?
A) THIS is a weird one, Phil, because the i10 is reckoned to be one of the quietest cars in its class. It shouldn’t have rubbish, cheapo tyres on it if you bought the car from a main dealer. But if you are going to try new rubber, then go for Pirelli or Avon – both of which make tyres to your car’s size. Good luck with it!
- LAND ROVER provided ten new Defenders for the upcoming Bond movie No Time To Die. We are told eight of them could be trashed during filming in Scotland, but chassis 001 and 007 had to be kept pristine and only used for beauty shots. The revamped Defender will be officially unveiled at Germany’s Frankfurt Motor Show on September 11 . . . finally.
- SPANISH brand Seat – best known for its very good Leon and Ateca models – has launched its first plug-in hybrid. The seven-seat Tarraco SUV produces 242bhp and promises an electric-only range of 31 miles.
- TOYOTA and Suzuki are extending the tie-up that was announced by the Japanese giants earlier this year, with plans to work together on self-driving systems. That is on top of plans for Toyota’s Derbyshire plant to build Suzuki-badged hybrid vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla.
- TALKING of Suzuki, the Celerio and Baleno are being axed from its UK line-up, with bosses opting to focus on big sellers like the Swift and Vitara. Wise move.
- YOU have probably seen the ads for VW’s upcoming ID3 electric hatchback. In fact, you can’t miss them. But the Golf will remain its most important car. The eighth generation, described by the firm as a “genuine eye-catcher”, will be revealed later this year.
- Rachel Burgess is deputy editor of Autocar magazine.