► 222bhp plug-in hybrid
► GSe performance models spread across the range
► All electric or electrified
Those familiar with ’80s Opels may already be familiar with the fresh badging on the back of the Vauxhall Astra GSe. Standing for Grand Sport Einspritzung (German for injection), the big Monza was glued to the back of his coupe after ditching the carburetor.
Unsurprisingly, Opel and Vauxhall aren’t pushing the benefits of fuel injection these days. Instead, the ‘e’ stands for electric, as expected, whether it’s a full EV or a plug-in he hybrid. GSe will launch the latter in the form of a revamped PHEV version of him in the Astra Hatch and Estate alongside the Grandland SUV.
If you’re expecting VXR-level insanity, you’ll be disappointed. The GSe model is the most powerful version of any Vauxhall, but the powertrain is lifted straight out of the parts box. For the Astra GSe, the widely used Stellantis Hybrid 225 powertrain.
Like many other cars and SUVs that share this powertrain, it’s paired with a 178bhp 1.6-liter turbocharged petrol engine, a 108bhp electric motor, and a 12.4kWh battery. Combined, it produces up to 222bhp, up to 39 miles of electric-only range, 26g/km of CO2 and a 0-100 mph time of 7.5 seconds. Warm like the Skoda Octavia vRS iV or the Volkswagen Golf GTE, but not quite hot.
So why bother with GSe? Unlike his 225 versions of the Peugeot 308 and DS 4, Vauxhall has tuned his Astra’s chassis to be more attractive. The spring rates have been increased, the ride height has been lowered and the steering has also been retuned with a faster rack.
You can’t use switchable dampers like the vRS iV or Golf GTE, but you can use the Trik Koni shock absorber with a clever bypass valve that helps keep the ride smooth. All of this is wrapped in more aggressive looking bumpers, fancy alloys and two-tone paint.
Fun and thrifty?
On the road it feels lively rather than outright fast, though it struggles to deploy its electric assist punch at low speeds. You can also get it. Putting Michelin Primacy on instead of Pilot Sport tires certainly won’t help.
Still, the Astra is satisfying to drive up to a point. Suspension tweaks certainly helped with agility, but not an average feat considering the Astra already felt like the most athletic Stellatis hatch, but the suspension still had plenty of It’s compliant. Boldly rounds up big bumps without finding annoying fidgets over rough surfaces.
Coming into the bend, you’ll find a reassuring brake pedal (no PHEV guarantees) and surprisingly low levels of body roll. I wish the steering was a little more talkative, but I rarely feel the size of 1700kg. The eventual understeer is picked up by the writhing of tread blocks and the sound of widening lines, rather than being filtered through the steering.
Here comes the rub…
So far so good, it’s a shame the hybrid system is still a bit unpolished. The hesitation you feel when you hit the throttle, the strange rattles and thumps when a gear is selected, the scream of a tortured 4-pot can often be annoying.
Unsurprisingly, the GSe is the most expensive version of Astra, with a starting price of 4, higher than both the GTe and vRS. At least you get a very generous level of standard equipment to offset this. The Sport Tourer’s 39 miles drop brutally to 12%, while the 40-mile electric range puts him in his BIK tax bracket of 8%.
Thankfully, too many touch-sensitive controls can be one of your pet peeves. Like a normal Vauxhall Astra hatchback or sport tourer, there are physical switches and knobs to control things like the heater and stereo. In addition, the GSe-branded Alcantara sports seats offer a little more shoulder support. The GSe steering wheel has perforated leather and light stitching.
Vauxhall Astra GSe: The Verdict
So should you avoid the hot Octavia and Golf plug-ins for high-voltage Vauxhall? At first acquaintance, there are some thick warnings, but we say yes. Although good, most people would prefer the mostly slower and much cheaper Hybrid 180.
If you want a racy badge, how does it compare to the Golf GTE or Octavia vRS? It is also more efficient under conditions and much less noisy.
Vauxhall Astra GSe hatchback specs