REVIEW DATE: 17 Jun 2010
Models Covered: (2 dr convertible, 1.6, 1.8, 2.0 turbo, 1.9 diesel [standard, Air, Design, Sport, Exclusiv])
There are more stylish folding hear-top convertibles than the Astra TwinTop but buyers will pay substantially more to get one of them on the used market. It's a complex piece of engineering that was executed very effectively by Vauxhall, enabling the TwinTop to retain the good looks of the Astra hatchback. The diesel and the 2.0-litre turbo are the engines of choice and will be worth shelling out extra for.
Peugeot will claim that it brought the folding hard-top roof to the mass market with its 206 CC but it was Vauxhall that made the technology affordable on a car without a grossly distended bottom. For that, Vauxhall, we salute you and we salute your surprisingly elegant Astra Twin Top. Elegance is relative and while the Astra Twin Top wouldn't be considered particularly well-proportioned in the context of the wider car market, it is a bit of a looker for an affordable folding hard top convertible circa 2006. Look at the Peugeot 307 CC, the Ford Focus CC and the Renault Megane CC. These are the Twin Top's contemporaries and to a car, they have rear ends the size of Gloucestershire. It's a product of needing somewhere to store that metal roof once it's folded but the Astra gets round this by using a three-piece canopy that concertinas into a smaller package and can be stowed within a less bulbous behind. Today, the technology has moved on but if you're after the sharpest looking of the early coupe cabriolets, a used Twin Top is a good place to start.
The Twin Top is based upon the 2005 version of the Vauxhall Astra but this convertible car didn't materialise until early in 2006, succeeding in marrying its neat front end with a suitably modest rear. The engines were carried over wholesale from the hatchback range with unremarkable 1.6 and 1.8-litre 16-valve petrol units to kick things off. More enticing was the 2.0-litre Turbo engine that appeared in hot Astras and which gives the Twin Top a good turn of speed through its 198bhp output. The sole diesel option might not seem an obvious choice for a convertible but is worth a look. It's a 1.9-litre unit with 148bhp. The Twin Top was launched with the choice of Design or Sport trim levels, the Design being the more expensive option. After just over a year, these were supplemented by bog standard models called simply 'Twin Top' which gave a more tempting look to the pricing. Later, special edition Exclusiv models were added and the standard trim was replaced by one called Air.
The Astra TwinTop moved the affordable folding hard top game on by offering a folding roof that's composed of three main sections instead of the usual two piece affair. This means that you don't need to fold two huge pieces of metal into the car's rear end, avoiding the strangely mis-shapen looks of some coupe-cabriolets. At the press of a dash-mounted button, the two overhead sections of the roof stack on top of the glass rear window and hinge backwards into the boot, offering the usual benefits of added security and safety of a hard topped car with the wind in the hair feel of a convertible. The whole process should take 26 seconds. What's more, the Astra TwinTop isn't merely an Astra hatch that's had an angle grinder taken to it. The body was designed from the ground up as a convertible and Vauxhall says the two cars share just 30 per cent of their body parts. With good chassis rigidity when the roof is in place and substantial bracing to sure things up when it's folded, driving dynamics are good for this type of car. The styling is well resolved thanks in no small part to that clever folding roof arrangement. The rear end carries over the petal-shaped lights of the Tigra and luggage space is better than you might expect, even with the roof stowed. Utility is enhanced by 'Easy Load', a feature raising the horizontally stacked parts of a folded roof at the push of a button to make cargo easily accessible. Great when you've got an armful of shopping in other words.
The 1.6-litre engine isn't easy to come by as most new buyers gave it a miss in favour of one with a bit more poke. The cheapest cars you're likely to come across are the 1.8-litre ones which start from £7,600 on 55 plates in Sport trim and cost around £300 more for a Design. The fiery 2.0-litre turbo cars will cost £500 to £800 more and it's a premium worth paying for that extra performance. Diesel Twin Tops have held up well in terms of value primarily because of the lower running costs they bring to the table. They still command £8,250 for a Sport on a 55-plate and a late 58-plater will be around £13,825.
The basic mechanical make-up of the Astra has given few causes for concern as yet but as with all convertibles, used Twin Top buyers should give the roof special attention. It's a complex piece of engineering so ensure that it works efficiently and in a smooth motion. There have been reports of water leaks from the roof and window seals on the car, so check the carpets and upholstery for signs of water damage.
The 105bhp 1.6-litre Twinport engine is affordable but it may well be worth saving a little harder for the usefully quicker 140bhp 1.8-litre model - the only engine that was available with an automatic gearbox. Those who really want to feel a hurricane in their hair should plump for the 197bhp 2.0-litre Turbo model which uses the same engine as the popular Astra 2.0T SRi and can hit 60mph in 8.3 seconds. The 1.9-litre 150bhp CDTi diesel unit offers a nice blend of pace and economy. It's pleasantly refined and its languid, torque-laden performance suits the TwinTop nicely. The low roof and steeply raked windscreen puts the rear-view mirror directly in the eye-line of taller drivers but otherwise, the TwinTop is an easy vehicle to pilot. It handles well and feels more solid with the roof down than most of its contemporaries. Running costs for the Vauxhall Astra TwinTop are manageable but not great by modern standards, the 1.8-litre car returning nearly 37mpg and producing 185g/km of CO2. The 1.9-litre diesel is the best performer economy wise with 46mpg on the combined cycle and the 2.0-litre turbo turns in a pricey 30mpg with 228g/km emissions.
BY STEVE WALKER
(approx based on a 2007 1.6 Sport) A new clutch assembly is £145, whilst front brake pads can be found for around £20. Rears are nearer £35, whilst a radiator for an air-conditioned car will; cost around £130. Alternators are slightly pricier, nudging the £300 mark, so make sure your prospective purchase is generating a healthy current to its battery.
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