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Vauxhall Astra

Have you ever walked into a shop and thought: “Wow, there’s so much to choose from.”

Trouble is, if it’s a shoe shop or clothes store I always end up buying a load of useless tat that I’ll never have the guts to wear.

Like those cowboy boot sandals or those shopping trolley platform shoes.

Even the ripped blazer was too embarrassing to wear at the office.

Why, oh why, did I bother?

Now imagine walking into a garage showroom and thinking the same thing.

It would be all too easy to make a mistake. Only this time it could be a very expensive one.

That’s why I fully approved of Kia’s recent decision to sell just one model of the Soul.

That’s right. Just the one, and it’s all electric, with a range of 280 miles.

You can read all about it here:

Anyway, that got me thinking.

The car I’ve just been testing was a Vauxhall Astra, and while Vauxhall, now part of the giant PSA group of Peugeot, Citroën, Vauxhall (aka Opel) and DS Automobiles, don’t yet offer an all electric Astra, you can still choose from a range that contains an abundance of cars.

Walk into your Vauxhall showroom and the salesman could literally blow your mind with a choice of THIRTY SEVEN different Astras, all with varying spec levels, ranging from £18,885 for the first of five SE models to the appropriately named Ultimate Nav, with a nine-speed automatic box, at £29,310.

Four engines currently on offer are a 1.2-litre three cylinder turbo, a 1.4 petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel. Power outputs range from 110–145hp and emissions from 99–120g/km.

Take your pick, but even without driving the rest I reckon I got the best of the lot – a 1.2 with 145hp rather than the starter spec car’s 110hp.

That 145hp meant 0-62mph in 9.0s, a top speed of 137mph and 54mpg.

Its remarkable fuel efficiency makes the Astra feel like a mild hybrid, even though it’s not.

Vauxhall have concentrated on wind tunnel development to achieve a fantastic drag co-efficient figure of 0.26 and, even better for the Sports Tourer (estate), at 0.25.

Most of this is due to a full-face radiator grille shutter that automatically opens and closes different sections of the grille.

Vauxhall say: “It delivers thermal advantages by delaying cooling after switching off the engine, or by accelerating the engine warm-up time after a cold start.

“This is especially important in winter, providing significant benefits in fuel consumption and comfort.”

In fact the new Astra range is a huge 21% more fuel efficient than the cars they replace, while a “significant” number of suspension changes, including new dampers and revised steering, have made it far smoother, especially on bumpy surfaces.

It’s because it’s so much better that I’ll start this review (at last) with its power and handling. It’s amazing.

Fair enough, the car takes a second to think about things when you put your foot down, but once it’s decided you mean it, this is a surprisingly quick car.

It’s best driven on motorways where it pulls away quickly and powerfully in fourth.

Once you’ve reached your desired speed it is so quiet you could be forgiven for thinking you’re driving a far more expensive car.

At 70mph in the top gear (sixth) of its manual gearbox the engine is only turning over at 2,100rpm, while 100mph comes up with it doing 3,000rpm, which is again not going to make much of a noise inside the car.

How do I know this? Because it was doing 1,500rpm in top gear (sixth) at exactly 50mph. I’m no law breaker.

The 1.2 Astra also proves to be a little tempter on country roads, where it handles so well it’s almost shocking.

What a great car to drive on Scotland’s near deserted open spaces, with only distant sheep for company.

Opening the doors to the Astra provides another surprise.

Parts of the dashboard light up in a dark, glowing, purple. Its comfy white stitched seats are all leather (in Elite trim), silver-topped, grip-sided, switches sit among a sea of piano black which extends to the door pulls and passenger fascia, and the tops of the doors and dash are finished with soft touch trim.

Rear seat passengers get enough leg room for adults and on those occasions when you need to sit three people in the back there’s no transmission tunnel forcing you to spread your legs over each side.

The boot lives up to the test, too. It’s 40in (102cm) wide and 29in deep, more than enough to make it worth your while being sandwiched into a supermarket car park, and once you fold down the rear seat backs totally flat there’s a good sized 5-5ft 6in loading area to play with.

At just 27mm (2in) shorter than its big rival, the Ford Focus, the Astra looks shorter, probably because it’s so pretty from the side, where it appears to be crouched and ready to pounce.

There’s no doubt that the Elite Nav 1.2 turbo (145PS), with a WLTP fuel economy of 54mpg and low emissions of 99g/km, will pounce on quite a few bank accounts in the years to come.

I bet PSG are rubbing their hands with glee at their new acquisition.

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IMAGE RATING

Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav 1.2 Turbo (145PS).

REAR MIRROR MONSTER: Super swish LED headlights look like they’re part of the wheel arches and bonnet. Twin grilles and LED driving lights add to the posh effect, but it’s too small to be a monster.

BACKSIDE BEAUTY: Uncluttered and smooth, with tail lights that swoop in deep from the side and no sign of an exhaust. It’s undoubtedly pretty, even if it’s not quite a beauty.

PLAYTIME PLEASER: Touchscreen sat nav with 8in screen, twin-zone climate control, heated leather front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, trip computer, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, 17-inch multi-spoke (20) alloys, heated electric door mirrors, auto lights and wipers, speed limit display, DAB stereo with Bluetooth, four USB ports (two in rear), audio streaming, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto.

NAUGHTY NIGGLES: Six and a quarter inch (16cm) deep centre console pocket is irritatingly 2in (5cm) short of holding a 33cl plastic drinks bottle. Door mirrors don’t fold in when the car is locked, which is annoying in a modern “pack ’em in” supermarket car park with its pathetic parking spaces. 20-spoke alloys, below, must be a nightmare to keep clean

TASTY TOUCHES: Corrugated-effect boot floor is designed to stop stuff sliding around. Two sturdy shopping bag hooks are the required height above it, 18in, the same depth as a supermarket shopping bag.

FAST OR LAST: Has fun been banned yet? If not then the Astra is both a joy to drive around bends while also being a smooth, quiet and reasonably powerful long distance cruiser.

WOULD CHANTELLE LIKE IT? If Chantelle ever thought of becoming a mum she’d probably name her baby girl Astra.

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