THE Opel/Vauxhall Astra has been a big-selling family hatchback for many years, providing strong opposition to mainstream rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.
In recent months, the Astra has been extensively revised with sleek and more aerodynamic styling and a range of greener and more economical engines.
With prices starting from €22,643 (£18,885), Astra usually undercuts its main rivals and this helps cement its reputation as an attractive value-for-money family or business car.
There are more than 30 variants in the Astra range which features petrol and diesel engines and manual and automatic transmissions.
My test model was the entry level SE version with a 1.5-litre 120 hp diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox.
This version is priced at €24,400 (£20,350) and standard features include infotainment touch-screen, digital radio, Bluetooth, USB and smartphone connectivity, plus alloy wheels, air-conditioning and cruise control.
The diesel engine is smooth, quiet and responsive, with a 0-100 kph time of 9.6 seconds and top speed of 209 kph (130 mph). Average fuel economy is 21.7 kpl (61.5 mpg) and emissions are low at 92 g/km.
Out and about, the Astra handles well with light steering, a slick gearshift and a comfortable ride, though the suspension is set slightly firmer than some in the class and can be a little bumpy on rougher surfaces.
The cabin is well-designed for ease of use, with plenty of adjustment on the driver’s seat and steering wheel to allow an ideal position.
The dashboard is functional and unfussy in layout and easy to understand. There is good head and legroom in the rear even for six-footers and while the boot space at 370 litres is not the largest in the class, it is a usable square shape and with the rear seats folded, space can be boosted to 1,210 litres.
The Astra comes across as a very competent and practical family or business car offering good fuel economy and low emissions and its latest revisions and upgrades – and its keen pricing – will ensure it remains a significant competitor in the hotly-contested hatchback sector.
Facts at a glance
- Model: Opel/Vauxhall Astra SE
- Engine: 1.5 litre diesel
- Transmission: 6 speed manual
- Performance: 0-100 kph 9.6 seconds , top speed 209 kph (130 mph)
- Economy: 21.7 kpl (61.5 mpg)
- Emissions: 92 g/km
Model tested was UK-specification and equipment levels and prices may vary in other markets.