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RX300 Has Never let me Down... Until Now.


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Well, the nearly four years of reliability I've had with my 2004 had to end eventually. I had leaky seals on the rear diff and although it never really seemed to lose any oil) I kept checking it) the bearings started making a noise. Bearing noise in a Lexus? Unacceptable. 😉 

And on the way back from Manchester earlier this month it started to lose coolant. Looks like a leaky water pump (coolant dripping from near the crank pulley) and the radiator looks like is sweating coolant but not actually leaking yet. It's strange it never overheated on the gauge, the first thing I knew was the heater going cold. As an aside, why is it motorway service stations don't sell coolant any more? At a motorway service station with an M&S food hall and the usual food outlets I can also get the weekly shop in the petrol station kiosk, but they're a bit thin on actual car stuff. Madness.

Thankfully it should be relatively cheap to sort it. £100 for a used diff, £85 for a rad but the cam belt & water pump kit was £210. I suppose it's still not bad for 4 years and 40,000 miles of motoring with 170,000 miles on the clock because all I've done before is oil and filter changes and pads and discs all round. So I really can't complain I suppose. 

Fingers crossed that's it for now, but I suspect once the water pump and the rad are renewed, the heater matrix won't be far behind, because experience tells me that's how  things work: sort out one part of the coolant system, the older weaker bits will fail. And the heater matrix is a major job that I'm not looking forward to.

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It's a <drum roll please> Vauxhall Astra 1.6 (Petrol-very important at the moment thanks to the lack of Diesel) Elite.  Hang on, please bear with me, I've not gone mad!

With the Elite spec I still get the leather and some of the toys of the Rx300, but in a smaller, more economical package. 

I've been pleasantly surprised by the Astra, as I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is.

The seats are very comfy, almost Volvo-esque. Electrically adjustable lumbar support including height adjustment is a bonus. The rear seats have a folding armrest in the centre with cubby and two cupholders just like the RX. It's almost as if they nicked the idea off Lexus.

No reversing camera and no electric tailgate, but it's small and short, so not essential. On the positive side it's got electric folding mirrors, auto dimming rear view mirror and auto lights and wipers. Interior quality is good. Not Lexus quality, but very good for a mass-produced hatch. The Astra J interior is a lot better than the previous Astra H with the sticky control knobs.

The interior even has mood lighting at night, you get the red LED shining onto the centre console from the roof console a-la Lexus, the gear shift has a red lit surround and the door handles are bathed in red at night too. Not too shabby!

The big loss is only a single cupholder at the front!  The cheaper spec models have two up front, but the Elite spec gets a leather armrest and loses a cupholder. The horror!

30-ish mpg round town and 40-ish mpg on the motorway. Better than the RX, but not as frugal as a Mazda Skyactive engine of a similar size. I'm sure a decent service will allow it to do better.

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