New Astra a Brit built star car

VAUXHALL'S seventh generation Astra has become an award winning star car only a few months after its launch which is not surprising for as a former Astra owner I found the new car to be a brilliant five door hatchback with real style writes Bryan Longworth.

The very first Astra appeared in 1979 and mine was an early Mark 2 model which impressed with its smooth engine and body style so it was not surprising that nearly three million Astras were sold over those 36 years and Vauxhall say that around 25 per cent of British motorists have either owned or driven one.

Compared to my Astra the latest model is a lightweight being up to 200kg lighter than its predecessor but in fact is a real heavyweight when compared with the opposition such as the Golf and Focus as was evident as I first started driving the new Vauxhall which is built in the North at Ellesmere Port.

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My test car was the Astra SRI Nav 1.4i 150PS Turbo costing £19,595 on the road with the vital statistics of a top speed of 134mph zero to 60mph in 7.8 seconds a combined fuel consumption of 51.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 128g/km.

First good impression was that this latest Astra is a real looker with bags of street appeal thanks to its very sleek body and the second was that as soon as I started driving the car it felt just right with very satisfying handling and light and positive steering.

The slimline Astra felt lighter to drive than my Astra of yesteryear and the six speed manual gearbox provided slick smooth changes that also helped to provide quite sporty driving which was especially appreciated on demanding Peak District roads where I enjoyed the full potential of the car and its very punchy engine.

There is a roomy and comfortable interior with a very user friendly feel about it with easy to see instruments and a very comprehensive on board computer which showed numerous features including the tyre pressures and the fuel consumption that was less than the combined figure and nearer to the urban driving return of 38.7mpg.

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The test car with its very cool 17-inch five twinspoke alloy wheels was loaded with standard kit but also had the optional LED Matrix headlights costing £995 which were well worth the expense because they provided extremely effective lighting that was much appreciated on dark winding country roads.

A very useful and really cool piece of standard kit was the On Star personal connectivity and service assistant which at the touch of a button will connect the driver to features like the nearest petrol station or supermarket plus having the facility for responses in emergencies and the car being stolen.

The boot is the same size as on the former Astra which means it is very roomy for a car of this size and it easily accommodated a major shopping exercise plus two large travel bags.

The brakes were rather sharp and passengers were not too happy when I had to brake hard several times shaking them about and I found the windscreen wipers were a little noisy which could be a bit irritating.

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As a former Astra owner I was able to fully appreciate the qualities of the latest model which is extremely impressive in every way and a tribute to the workers at Ellesmere Port.

Verdict: A Brit built star car.

Fact File.

Model: New Vauxhall Astra SRI Nav.

Engine: 1.4 petrol turbo.

Output: 149bhp.

Transmission: Six speed manual.

Top speed: 134mph.

Acceleration: 0 to 60mph 7.8 seconds.

Fuel consumption: 51.4mpg combined.

CO2 emissions: 128 g/km.

Price: £19,595 on the road.