The News Astra is a dominant contender

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THE seventh generation of the Vauxhall Astra has just been launched amid glowing reports from motoring writers about the new car which first appeared in 1979 as a replacement for the Viva and Chevette and was Vauxhall’s first front wheel drive model.

Nearly three million Astras have been sold over the last 36 years and Vauxhall say that over 25 per cent of British motorists have either owned or driven an Astra which includes yours truly and I still clearly remember being impressed by that early Astra.

It was the Mark 2 model which replaced several Ford company cars and I particularly liked the lively and smooth engine plus the handling and the body style which left me a lifelong Astra admirer.

Since then I have always enjoyed driving the various new Astra models and the latest seventh generation Astra which is up to 200kgs lighter than the previous model looks really good and has created a very favourable impression in the motoring press.

Built in the North of England at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant the Astra has a very diverse customer profile appealing to people from all areas of society plus a very strong representation in the company car and fleet sector.

The Ellesmere Port site was once an RAF station and has been the manufacturing home of every compact class Vauxhall sold in the UK and is now not only producing the seventh generation Astra but also Opel versions sold across Europe.

Priced from £15,295 on the road the new Astra has a powertain portfolio featuring petrol and diesel units ranging from 100PS to 200PS including an all new 1.4-litre 150PS direct injection turbo and the recently launched 1.6-litre “Whisper” diesel.

It is also the first Vauxhall to feature OnStar ground breaking connectivity technology which includes high speed 4G LTE mobile network, emergency response notification and stolen vehicle recovery alert.

New Astra is also the first Vauxhall to get glare free Intellilux LED Matrix headlights which provide outstanding night time performance and work in conjunction with the front camera system to prevent dazzle for oncoming drivers and then automatically revert to high beam when the vehicle exits urban areas.

New Astra has a very stylish body and looks lower longer and wider than the previous model but it is actually smaller on the outside but larger on the inside which has added to its overall appeal.

The new model is up to £2,200 less expensive than the outgoing Astra with a simplified range which includes Design, Tech Line, Energy, SRi and Elite with Nav satellite navigation versions of the SRi and Elite trims also available.

Two of the Astra’s main rivals have been the Ford Focus and VW Golf but there is now a growing concensus that the latest Astra is such a good car it could now become the dominant contender in this market segment.

Verdict: New Astra acclaimed.

Fact File

New Vauxhall Astra five door hatch.

Engines: Petrol and diesel.

Transmissions: Manual and automatic.

Production site: Ellesmere Port.

Prices: From £15,295.