The everyday hatchback – but buy it for less

The Vauxhall Astra has been around since the end of the 1970s, and this 7th generation car was introduced in 2015. Last year however it was refreshed and updated, and it is unquestionably the best looking of all the Astras so far.

It’s modern and sleek with sharp features, and a highly stylised rear three-quarter angle, with a back window that appears to be reaching forward to join up with the side glass area. Creases on the upper side profile and along the lower section give it more visual interest and less bulk in profile.

Available as a five-door hatchback, prices start from £18,885 for the entry level model with a three-cylinder 110bhp 1.2-litre turbo. There’s also a 130bhp 1.2 turbo and of course diesel versions, but the car we’re testing is the 1.4-litre three-cylinder turbo with 145bhp and 236Nm of peak torque provided between 1500-3500rpm.

It’s mated to a CVT ‘stepless automative’ transmission and capable of 0-60mph in 9.0 seconds, a top speed of 130mph with combined fuel consumption of 46.3mpg (I achieved 44mpg) and 112g/km CO2 emissions.

This SRi VX-Line Nav is priced from £25,635 but add in options such as an space-saver spare wheel; emergency call; front and rear parking sensors (£480); climate pack with climate control and heated windscreen; traffic sign recognition and pedestrian protection (£275); plus Flip Chip Silver Premium paint (£655) and the price of this test car creeps up over £28k.

It comes well equipped as standard though with a 7-inch touchscreen with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and a six-speaker sound system. There’s sport-style front seats with adjustable base for the driver, cruise control, LED headlights, front fog lights, 18-inch alloys, tinted rear windows, rain-sensing wipers, anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, six airbags and driving assistance package.

Sitting up front and confronted with this generous specification you’d think you were in something more upmarket. The dashboard is both very well laid out, and appealing to behold. The seats are comfortable and the seating position is accommodating even for my 6ft 2in long-legged frame, with good visibility all round.

There’s useful storage, but it could do with more space around the centre console to keep your phone on etc. By some contrast it feels spartan in the back with not even a middle armrest. However there is no faulting the space and comfort on offer – you could easily transport four tall people in this car.

The boot has generous load-carrying capacity with a clever corrugated felt floor that offers some level of grip to items you leave in there, so they don’t go flying around. There is some under floor storage, but most of it was taken up by the optional spare wheel on this car. 60:40 split folding rear seats increase the Astra’s cargo space.

On the go it becomes clear that this car is designed not only for comfort and ease-of-use, but easy driving too. With light steering, and a transmission that’s mostly unobtrusive and doesn’t get strained very often, this is a car that demands very little of its driver, and that makes it ideal as a city runabout.

It’s the kind of car that’s perfect to do your chores in. It doesn’t turn your trips into events, it simply gets you where you need to go with as little fuss as possible. As such there are no sports modes available, and little in the way of sporty pretensions, despite the SRi badge which to my mind would have conjured up impressions of, if not hot, then at least a warmish hatch.

The ride is well damped and although you will feel and hear the occasional bump and ridge, it’s way less than harsh, and body roll is reasonably well contained. The handling is sure-footed and faithful enough, but there is little feedback from the steering and chassis. It may be less than engaging and far from memorable, but it’s all part of its pain-free persona.

So the latest Astra continues a tradition of useable and useful comfy mile-munching hatchbacks, and is actually quite good-looking in this case. As such it’s well worth putting on your short list for those seeking a capable and competent hatchback.

Having said that, although it’s nice to have and to show-off all the toys and extras on a car of this spec, nearly £30k seems a lot to pay for an Astra. Take a closer look at the lower spec car, and test drive the 1.2-litre versions as they might be more than sufficient for your needs, plus fuel consumption extends to over 50mpg and emissions drop to under 102g/km.

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