Vauxhall Astra Elite

Nav 1.6i Turbo

Vauxhall Astra, front
Vauxhall Astras, front
Vauxhall Astra, front
Vauxhall Astra, front
Vauxhall Astra, rear
Vauxhall Astras, rear
Vauxhall Astra, interior
Vauxhall Astra, interior
Vauxhall Astra, interior
Vauxhall Astra, boot
Vauxhall Astra, interior

AFTER 36 years of motoring the Astra is one of the most enduring cars on British roads - with almost three million sold its name is almost synonymous with the family hatchback.

So popular is it that Vauxhall claim one in four drivers have owned one at some time or other - and it is currently enjoying a new lease of life after the launch of the seventh generation last year, with a clutch of industry awards already in the bag.

What was missing at launch though, with enthusiasts still waiting for the arrival of a VXR-badged hot-hatch version, was a model with a bit more oomph.

The arrival of this 1.6-litre turbo earlier this year solved that quandary and, going forward, will offer a more mature alternative to those who shun the showy, boy-racer trappings the inevitable VXR is likely to sport.

Offering a 0-60 sprint time of just 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 146mph, the 200ps engine is the most powerful in the range and a weekend trip to see my wife's uncle in Wales provided an ideal opportunity to see what it could do.

As it was, the winding mountain roads of the Principality were food and drink to the Astra - proving the perfect environment to showcase its pace and agility.

Built on a brand new chassis and up to 200kg lighter than the previous model, this car handles very nimbly and offers great balance and grip, staying perfectly settled through faster bends - even over some patchy roads and riding on 17-inch alloy wheels.

A prod on the gas pedal elicits a prompt and positive response, while a snappy action and short throw make the six-speed manual transmission a joy - the perfect combination for powering effortlessly past the caravans, motorhomes, tractors and other assorted farm vehicles we encountered en route to Aberystwyth.

But while the fields of sheep were flying by at a fair pace outside, all was serene inside the comfortable and impressively appointed cabin.

The Astra is surprisingly refined and an improvement in interior space means that four can easily get comfortable on long journeys.

Wales being our destination the climate was, of course, variable.

Automatic lights and wipers coped with the inevitable downpours, while the fluctuation in temperature during our brief stay meant that the aircon and heated seats, which you get in the back too, all got a workout.

While cabin quality and equipment levels have made great strides forward across the range in the latest Astra the kit included with range-topping Elite Nav trim really adds a premium feel - as well as high-tech practical solutions geared towards the modern family life.

Star billing in this department goes to Vauxhall's OnStar system, which offers connection to advisors, emergency services and roadside assistance at the push of a button.

Of more interest to our kids, though, was the integrated mobile wi-fi hotspot it includes, allowing up to seven devices to be connected at a time.

This, along with two USB charging ports in the back, meant that my daughter - streaming her favourite tunes from Spotify - and her brother - hunting for new beasts on PokemonGo - could both stay powered up and connected on the journey while the other half updated her Facebook status.

The OnStar service is free to Astra buyers for the first 12 months, when subscription fees kick in if you want to keep it - Vauxhall no doubt working out that by then you're likely to face a family revolt if you try to take it away.

With all this technical wizardry on board it is a little disappointing there is no reversing camera or parking sensors included as standard on this range-topper, although they are available as options, and the impressive performance also means some compromise in terms of fuel efficiency and running costs.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Astra Elite Nav 1.6i Turbo

Price: £22,005

Mechanical: 200ps, 1,598cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 6.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 46.3

Insurance Group: 21

C02 emissions:141g/km

Bik rating:25%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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