Vauxhall Astra

12 Mar, 2008 5:17am Sam Hardy

Rakish new Astra is ready for Ford Focus face off.

Vauxhall is set to launch a fierce new attack on its bitter rival Ford with this: the next Astra.

Boasting a fresh look and a wide range of engines, the striking hatchback will combine style and driver appeal like never before.

It goes on sale in 18 months’ time, and is the next step in Vaux­hall’s renaissance. The new Astra will follow in the footsteps of the Vectra-replacing Insignia – which debuts at July’s Brit­ish Motor Show in London – as well as the redesigned Meriva, due in deal­ers here early in 2009.

As with those models, the Astra has received a style overhaul, bringing in a shape which is sleeker than before. And with replacements for big-hitters such as the Volks­wagen Golf and Renault Mégane scheduled to arrive within 12 months, that’s just as well.

We told you about the new Astra in Issue 947. But now, our spies have scooped one of the first prototypes undergoing testing – and our main pictures show what’s lurking under the disguise.

The nose is clearly inspired by the Insignia, and wears bold headlights and deep air intakes, while at the rear there is a squat Seat Leon-style tail, as well as distinctive C-pillars.

As well as the five-door shown here, there will be a three-door Sport Hatch model. And as is the case with the current generation, this car will be completely different from its more practical brother, with a rakish tailgate and lower roofline creating a coupé-like profile.

Inside, the Astra will take the fight to the Golf and Ford Focus head-on, with a quality cabin that takes a leaf out of the Insignia’s book. Soft-touch plastics are fitted throughout, while standard equipment will include Blue-
tooth phone connectivity, plus integrated sat-nav and audio technology.

Parent firm General Motors has conceived the newcomer as a world car, and it will share its platform with Saab’s forthcoming 9-1 (see Page 14). Astra mechanicals will also underpin several Chevrolets, including the new Volt, plus the next Aveo and Lacetti.

The model will reach the US, too, wearing a Saturn badge. Diesel isn’t so popular there, but the car’s close relationship with the Volt means a hybrid petrol drivetrain will be available for the first time. A FlexFuel bio­ethanol model will be offered as well.

In Europe, though, small-capacity turbocharged petrol and diesel powerplants will account for the vast majority of sales. And sitting at the top of the new Astra range will be a 250bhp 2.0-litre turbo VXR version, complete with four-wheel drive.

The rest of the line-up is front-wheel drive, although engineers have developed a new multi-link independ­ent rear suspension set-up. That should ensure the Vauxhall delivers handling to match the class-leading Focus.
Expect to see the first concept car previewing the new Astra at a major motor show in 2009. UK sales will then start a few months later.

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