Vauxhall Astra SRi

Nav 1.6CDTi

Vauxhall Astra 2015, front
Vauxhall Astra, front, action
Vauxhall Astra, side, action
Vauxhall Astra, interior
Vauxhall Astra 2015, rear
Vauxhall Astra 2015, side
Vauxhall Astra, boot, maximum
Vauxhall Astra, rear, action
Vauxhall Astra, rear seats
Vauxhall Astra, European Car of the Year 2016, motif, Geneva Motor Show
Vauxhall Astra, European Car of the Year 2016, Geneva Motor Show

IN motoring terms the Astra dates from the dawn of time - but the latest small family hatchback to bear the famous name is bang up to date.

Just as the original - a British version of the 1979 Opel Kadett - broke new ground for Vauxhall as its first front-wheel-drive car, the seventh-generation is similarly innovative in terms efficiency and technical wizardry.

So impressive is the new Astra that it - and its Opel-badged sister ship - has just picked up the European Car of the Year award for 2016.

Helped by the use of clever materials the British-built Astra is up to 200kg lighter which, coupled with an engine range averse to fuel consumption and polluting the atmosphere, leaves running costs in good shape.

The 1.6-litre diesel power unit under the bonnet of the car I drove was both punchy and refined.

Yes, the claimed fuel economy figure in excess of 70mpg is perhaps a tad optimistic in the real world, but trips to fill up are refreshingly infrequent.

Emissions of 103g/km minimise the tax bill and if 16-inch wheels are specified the magical 100g/km figure is broken making road tax free while keeping company car tax liabilities to a minimum.

A raft of gizmos are included with the interior dominated by a simple-to-use large touchscreen display that sits in a stylish glossy black surround.

The dashboard features a main instrument binnacle that offers an information display between the speedo and rev counter while smartphone connectivity is assured.

There's also a star performer in the form of Vauxhall's OnStar navigation and concierge system available on higher specified models - including the SRi Nav.

OnStar has been offered in the US for almost 20 years but the European version only went live last year.

It has three buttons - a blue one used to contact an OnStar advisor, a red SOS button for emergencies and a privacy button to switch the GPS locator off should you not want anyone to know where you are.

A call centre manned 24/7 can help you find a destination before sending it to the sat nav system in the car while every family in the land will welcome the mobile phone 4G wifi hotspot it provides allowing up to seven devices to use Internet services.

Smart technology is one thing but what is the latest Astra like to drive? Well, with a chassis tuned for UK roads it is no surprise the car handles well.

It is both great fun on country lanes and a composed cruiser on the motorway. Some motors immediately give the right vibe and the Astra - with its composed ride and slick six-speed manual gearbox - ticks all the boxes.

The cabin manages to offer more space than the old model - despite the car's exterior dimensions being smaller than before. This Tardis-like trick allows five adults to be accommodated in reasonable comfort.

Wide-opening doors make it simple to get the ankle-biters and any child seats they require into the car, while the driver's seat and steering wheel are fully adjustable.

The boot is also a good size easily meeting a family's needs with the weekly supermarket shopping swallowed with the efficiency of an anaconda. There is also a ribbed floor to stop the squash bottle rolling around after its usual bid for freedom.

Further space can be gained as the rear seats split and fold.

There's plenty of safety equipment included with electronic aids to prevent an accident and a full complement of airbags should one be unavoidable.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Astra SRi Nav 1.6CDTi

Price:£21,480

Mechanical:136ps, 1,598cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:127mph

0-62mph:9 seconds

Combined MPG:72.4

Insurance Group:16

C02 emissions:103g/km

Bik rating:18%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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