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Road test: Vauxhall Astra

By Roger St. Pierre with Hazel Kempster

No, the latest rendition of Vauxhall’s Astra hatchback has not shrunk in the wash.

Yes, viewed from the outside, this ever-popular hatchback has a smaller footprint than the previous model but clever revisions mean there’s now far more space inside.

The reward for these and a raft of other improvements has been the winning of the ‘European Car Of The Year’ title, wide acclaim from the nation’s motoring publications and resultantly winning back customers previously lured away by the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf in what is arguably the most increasingly competitive market sector of the car industry

Vauxhall is 100 per cent owned by America’s mammoth General Motors Corporation, with Germany as its European base, but the Astra ­– marketed under the group’s Opel brand across the Continent and beyond – is now actually manufactured in Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire, and has been designed with UK and Irish sales especially in mind.

Sticking with the Vauxhall identity makes a sensible strategy because there’s a lot of loyalty attached to a company that, whatever the nature of its current ownership, has been and remains perceived to be a quintessentially British make.

So, just how good is the latest incarnation of a model whose line began way back in 1979 with an Anglophile version of the Opel Kadett that was adapted to right-hand drive and sold under Vauxhall badging?

For sure, there are faster sector competitors than the 2017 Astra offering. Some are more frugal, some more spacious, several as good-looking – but as an all-round package the Astra is leader of the pack.

To start with, it’s a good looker both inside and out. Build quality is commendably good, prices affordable and resale values are improved. The estate version that found its way on our drive was the, wait for it, Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Tech Line 1.6CDTi 110Ps S/S ecoFlex. How’s that for a name tag?

The specification is equally long-winded. For a base line price of £20,105, you get a potent 1598 cc engine that’s good for 10.6 seconds from 0-62 mph, a potential 121 top speed and a frugal 85.6 mpg in the combined cycle that, combined with a 48 litre fuel tank, provides class-leading range.

There’s ABS and ESP electronic stability and braking systems, hill-start assist, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitoring system, height adjustable front and rear head restraints and a full complement of air bags.

The lighting system is comprehensive, with automatic lighting control, LED daytime running lights, and door-to-door illumination, while options on our test car included front and rear parking sensors, pearlescent paint, a fragrance diffuser, a flex organiser pack, a powerFlex bar and the sophisticated OnStar system, bringing the total price up to £21,675.

Using an easy to view touch-screen, OnStar places a huge range of sophisticated information and entertainment apps and functions at your finger-tips, including wi-fi, smartphone remote control, stolen vehicle assistance, automatic SOS crash response, destination download and vehicle diagnosis.

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