Astra is still a car for all seasons

Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra

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HANDS UP if you’ve ever owned an Astra? That’s one in four of you who have had one of Vauxhall’s cars for all seasons.

An incredible number, but then again Astra has been around for a long time - 36 years in fact. And it seems it’s going to be around for quite a while longer if the latest version is anything to go by.

It is quite simply the best Astra ever - the best to look at, the best to drive, the most hi-tech and packed to the hilt with premium features that once only appeared on very expensive BMWs or Mercedes-Benzes.

It seems Astra is no longer the cheap-and-cheerful car of every day motoring. It has matured into a very smart and well-equipped motor which need not cost the earth. They start at just over £15,000 and even the well-appointed test version costs £20,315.

No wonder the new Astra is not only European Car of the Year, but it has won a raft of other awards including Autocar magazine’s Game-Changer award to recognise the fact that Astra has leapt forward in many areas.

So, what exactly do you get for your money? Well, it is lighter (by 200kg) than its predecessor and is smaller outside but bigger inside. It also has a new range of engines including a 1.4 litre petrol unit tested here which manages 60-plus miles per gallon on a run yet hits 60mph in under eight seconds.

That’s good but it isn’t the best bit. By far the most outstanding feature of the new Astra is its cabin, packed to the brim with user-friendly technology.

Some car companies throw everything into the mix leaving the driver confused and over-awed, but Vauxhall have been a little more intelligent.

Instead, they have concentrated on creating useful features which really do enhance the car.

OnStar, for example, is Vauxhall’s onboard assistant. OnStar allows customers to contact an advisor using the built-in blue OnStar service button or the mobile app.

For example, if you have a crash and the airbags inflate, the driver is immediately connected to a Vauxhall OnStar advisor. A vehicle data report is sent to the Service Centre and emergency services are notified.

OnStar can also download driving routes to the vehicle’s navigation system, provide assistance in case of a vehicle breakdown and send emails on vehicle health. It can also creates a wi-fi hotspot in your car, with a stable and quick internet connection for up to seven devices.

Add to that a cabin which, for any car let alone a humble Astra, is quite stunning and you have a very pleasant car to drive.

It also has systems to ‘read’ traffic signs in case you miss them, and then displays the speed limit on a screen. It signals if you wander from your lane on the motorway and even brakes if the car thinks you’re going to crash.

The choice of engines is impressive, covering diesel and petrol from 100PS to 200PS. The highlight is the all-new 1.4-litre (145PS) ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo, a four-cylinder unit from the same family as the one-litre, three-cylinder engine seen in Corsa, Adam and Viva.

There’s also a base-level 1.0 ECOTEC Direct Injection Turbo (105PS) petrol engine and a 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel’ range with outputs starting from 110PS up to 160PS. It is called Whisper, in case you hadn’t guessed, because it is so quiet.

The Astra is, unusually for a new car, smaller than its predecessor. With a total length of 4.37m it is almost 5cm shorter than the old model. With a height of 1.46m it is also 2.6cm lower. The wheelbase has been reduced by 2cm, too, but the amount of space inside increased.

Making its debut in new Astra is the new generation IntelliLink infotainment system that is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Each system builds off of the features smartphone users rely on most. Android Auto is built around Google Maps, Google Now and the ability to ‘talk’ to Google, as well as a growing audio and messaging app ecosystem that includes WhatsApp, Skype, Google Play Music, Spotify, and podcast players. A full list of supported apps is available at Android.com/auto.

One the UK’s top-selling and best-loved cars, the Astra is a household name for British car buyers with over 2.9 million sold in the UK over the last 36 years with over 50,000 last year. It seems new Astra makes a quantum leap over the previous version.

Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav 1.4i 150PS Turbo

PRICE: £20,315. Astra begins at £15,295 on the road

ENGINE: A 1,399cc four cylinder petrol engine generating 150ps

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 134mph and 0 to 60mph in 7.8 seconds

COSTS: Town 38.7mpg; country 62.8mpg; combined 51.4mpg

EMISSIONS: 128g/km

INSURANCE: Group 18E

WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles

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