* Clever packaging means more occupant comfort and space
* Distinctive exterior design cues echoed in cabin
* Quality feel throughout cabin enhanced by extensive use of premium materials
These are the first interior pictures of the Vauxhall Astra, which will debut at this September’s Frankfurt Motor Show and will reach UK dealers by late this year.
Echoing the flowing forms of its bodywork, the new Astra’s interior marks a major shift towards premium design and quality in the UK’s compact sector, and continues Vauxhall’s design evolution which started five years ago with the current Astra, followed by a further step-change last year with the launch of the Insignia.
The Astra’s interior employs the recurring wing and blade motifs that were first introduced in the Insignia and are now used in a fresh and innovative way. The blade theme is expressed in details like the gooseneck shape of the door grab handles and the trim for the gearshift moulding and steering wheel.
As you look at the Astra’s wraparound instrument panel, which embraces both front seat occupants, the wing design is immediately visible as it arcs across the cabin into the door-top mouldings. The dashboard has a black, grained finish with a subtly different texture to other mouldings in the cabin.
Ambient lighting enhances the quality feel of the cabin, with lighting points framing the gearbox surround, and providing illumination from above the centre console and within the door handle recesses, depending on trim level.
The feeling of cabin space and depth is augmented by a centre panel mounted at a shallow 30-degree angle, which sweeps down from the top of the instrument panel to the centre console, creating a flowing surface that incorporates the gearshift. Like the Insignia, the Astra’s main clocks and gauges are ringed with chrome, with the speedometer and tachometer pods angled inwards towards the driver.
Special emphasis has gone into the design and engineering of the Astra’s seats, which now have industry-leading levels of adjustment. Their height can be raised by up to 65mm, while their fore and aft range extends to 280mm, allowing all drivers and passengers to find their ideal seating position. In addition, the Ergonomic Sports Seats (standard in all Elite models) have improved tilt adjustment, four-way power lumbar support, superior side support and supporting foam pads.
STORAGE AND PACKAGING
‘So do people actually put gloves in their gloveboxes?’
This was one of the many questions put to potential customers by Vauxhall’s designers as they researched what people stored in their cars, and where they put various items in their cabins. As a result, the new generation Astra has a raft of clever storage solutions unparalleled in the compact sector, some of which have even been patented.
Using feedback from the survey, the interior team first compiled a list of the 20 most common items customers stored in the cars: pens, coins, a flashlight, a road atlas, a parking disc, sunglasses, a wallet, paper tissues, a mobile phone, CDs, MP3 players, cups, magazines, newspapers, fruit, a first aid kit, a jacket, a 1.5/1.0/0.5-litre drinks bottle. And, of course, gloves.
Next, they noted where owners wanted to keep the items and looked for practical solutions. They found that car companies tended to focus on storage size alone, and that led to irritating problems, such as CDs being stored in the centre console, preventing the arm rest from being fully dropped down.
Max Kuncl, the team’s Performance Integration Manager likened the challenge to a puzzle: “It was important for the team not only to find places for the items to fit, but for the new Astra’s interior to still look great, and maintain high quality standards throughout the cabin.”
This painstaking attention to detail has resulted in a variety of simple, but effective storage solutions. A hard-shelled sunglass case has been inserted above the door opening on the driver’s side; coin slots and pen holders are moulded into the inside edge of the glove box lid; and the glove box itself has two removable compartments, while a second mini-glove box has been added just below the light switch.
Further storage innovation is illustrated by the centre console, which can accommodate nine CD cases, as well as having a small storage area and an insert for two cup holders. There’s also the option of an under-seat drawer beneath the passenger seat which is big enough to hold a pair of shoes. Rear passengers also benefit, with a 12-volt connection available for mp3 players, in addition to space for drinks bottles.
The new Astra’s boot also came under close scrutiny. A recess was created in the side of the boot to accept either a first aid kit or warning triangle, while a patented Flex-Floor was devised to offer further under-floor storage, while the floor itself can be fixed at different heights.
And those gloves? According to the survey, most owners don’t keep them in the glovebox at all. They usually get thrown in the door’s side pocket, next to the ice scraper.
MATERIALS & QUALITY
“Our goal was to make the perceptual quality in the interior of the next generation Astra as great as that of the Vauxhall Insignia,” says Peter Hasselbach, in charge of Design Appearance Quality. “This is in line with Vauxhall’s mission to bring innovations and quality to the compact class.”
The quality of the materials used in the new Astra can be seen in areas like the grained surfaces, the textured panels, the chrome trim elements and the feel and operation of the buttons and switches. In addition, all the Astra’s main surfaces are textured with upscale materials and top grains to give a strong, premium feel.