ALREADY the Vauxhall Astra has hit the big time by being named European Car of the Year and now it's getting even bigger with the introduction of an estate.
Measuring a whole foot longer than the hatchback, the new Sports Tourer - as Vauxhall now calls its estates - has retained all the sleek design that has made the latest Astra one of the best looking cars around.
It also comes with some new engines including a BiTurbo diesel which will power the flagship models.
Like the hatch, the Astra Sports Tourer is built in Britain at Vauxhall's factory in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire and although the same size as the previous estate it is significantly lighter.
That helps on the performance front and with the 1.6-litre BiTurbo engine developing a healthy 160ps it packs a fair punch as well as delivering the necessary pull needed for an estate car.
Previous twin turbo diesels from Vauxhall lacked a little mid-range firepower but this one has plenty of get up and go.
More importantly this diesel engine is very economical. We managed to average 59 to the gallon in everyday driving - not that far away from Vauxhall's claimed fuel return of 67.3mpg which gives the car a CO2 figure of 112g/km.
Top speed is a claimed 137mph with a 0 to 60 acceleration time of 8.4 seconds which makes the new BiTurbo the quickest diesel in the Astra range and second only to the other newcomer in the line up, a 1.6-litre turbo petrol rated at 200ps.
On the road the BiTurbo, six speed manual powertrain suits the Astra estate to a tee and it feels accomplished and refined.
It also allows for a towing limit of 1.7 tonnes which makes it the most practical of the 12 engine set ups available in the estate range.
While the Astra Sports Tourer line up starts from Â£16,585 - that's some Â£1,300 more than the hatch - the BiTurbo engine is not available until mid-range SRi trim where it costs from Â£22,685.
We tried it in slightly more expensive SRi Nav specification priced from Â£23,385 which comes with sat nav and an 8.5-inch displays screen as well as safety aids such as lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and Vauxhall's OnStar emergency connectivity system.
Not only is it exceptionally good looking for an estate it has lost none of the practical appeal which have made Astra load luggers so popular for the best part of 40 years spanning seven generations of cars.
This one has a load capacity of 540 litres stretching to a maximum of 1,630 litres and the load bed opens out in a flat and wide fashion.
It's not quite as capacious as the VW Golf estate or the class leading Skoda Octavia but it is bigger than a Ford Focus and Vauxhall has kept the pricing very competitive.
Convenience features such as automatic tailgate operation are becoming de rigueur in the estate car world and the Astra is no exception with the back opening and closing from the now familiar foot waggle motion under the rear bumper.
A full array of cargo devices such as luggage rails, dividing nets and fasteners are also available while roof rails are standard fit.
Cabin space front and back is bigger than before and that all adds up to make this version of the Astra very family-friendly, especially for those who live an active lifestyle.
As mid-sized estates go, the Astra Sports Tourer BiTurbo is a very capable all-rounder with above par performance, plenty of practicality and very attractive looks.