Now comes Vauxhall’s moment of truth. You’ve read all about its plans for an innovative family of Astra-badged cars. But what is the model on which this brave effort is based like to drive? We caught up with the 1.4-litre five-door to find out.
Free from the disguise that covered prototypes, the Astra (driven in Opel spec) makes a bold impression. It’s inspired by the Insignia, and gets the same detailing, including the trademark tick along the flanks.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Vauxhall Astra
Inside, there’s lots of space. Cabin build quality is good, and the raked dashboard impresses. With its carefully arranged instruments and controls, it is easier to use than the previous car’s – even if the huge number of buttons (we counted 40) is overwhelming.
It’s practical, too, with small cubbies between the front seats and a useful drawer under the passenger chair. The rear bench folds flat, and there is a hidden stowage bin under the boot floor. However, the most significant changes are under the skin...
The new platform is 70 mm wider, and has a wheelbase stretched by 71 mm. There are fresh springs at the front, and revised rear suspension which is much softer than before.
The good news, though, is that the improved refinement has not harmed the car’s roadholding ability. Boosting driver appeal even further is the new FlexRide adaptive damping system. It offers Normal, Comfort and Sport settings, and automatically tunes the dampers to suit drivers’ needs.
Under the bonnet, we tried the new 140bhp 1.4-litre direct-injection petrol engine and 2.0-litre CDTI diesel with around 160bhp. Both are mated to six-speed gearboxes – in our case the petrol was offered with a manual, while the diesel came with an automatic. Both engines provide smooth performance, and the gearchanges are slick – even though the auto isn’t quite as good as VW’s DSG set-up.
Overall, the Astra delivers a workmanlike performance on the road. But will it be enough to put it back where it needs to be, at the top of the class? With an array of talented contenders to beat, that will be a tough challenge. Log on to www.autoexpress.co.uk now for an exclusive drive against its key rivals to see how it fares.
* Engine: 1.4-litre turbo
* Price: From £15,675
* Power/torque: 140bhp/230Nm
* Economy: 45mpg (approx)
* CO2: 150g/km
* Standard equipment: Electric windows, FlexRide suspension, air-con, split and fold rear bench, secure boot stowage system, driver, passenger and side airbags, MP3 compatible stereo
* On sale: December