IN order to stand out from the crowd, and not be eclipsed by the growing tide of crossovers and SUVs, an estate car must be a little bit different.
The available options to attract buyers are: unbelievably economical, indecently quick or ridiculously cheap.
The Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer in 1.6 SRi guise focuses mainly on the speed element, yet manages to include qualities of value-for-money and reasonable frugality within its formula.
Priced at little more than £23,000, the elegant estate is more spacious than its flowing lines would suggest. The four-seater - five at a pinch - can swallow up 540 litres of luggage without flipping down the back seats. When this is done, cargo space expands to 1,630 litres which measures up well to some seriously larger models.
But it is the ‘Sports' part of Sports Tourer title that will interest many potential buyers. The turbo-charged 1,598cc four-pot petrol engine may not have the rorty rasp of a hot hatch but its acceleration and mid-range shunt will put many more overtly macho models to shame.
Sixty comes up in a shade more than seven seconds and max is around 146mph. With nearly 200bhp available under your right foot, this is a seriously enjoyable load-carrier despite its practical nature and unthreatening looks.
Handling and road holding is reassuringly safe with a degree of feedback that will please enthusiastic drivers. The six-speed manual gearbox has an easy, smooth action even if the movement is long-throw and a bit slower than some rivals.
Despite the swift performance, the Astra sips fuel at miserly rate. The official combined figure is 45.6mpg and my average during was 38mpg - not bad considering some of the challenging routes it was put through.
The cabin is cleanly styled and uncluttered if slightly unexciting. The sweeping facia is dominated by a large central screen that, among other things, houses the sat nav, a standard item on the SRI.
Also included is Vauxhall's OnStar system which offers full connectivity and access to an operator who can arrange for assistance in case of a breakdown or the need to know where the nearest fuel station is.
The 1.6-litre turbo is generally refined and unstrained, but some cabin noise is generated from various road surfaces via the tyres. The test car was fitted with optional 18-inch alloys - a Â£405 extra. Perhaps the smaller 17-inch wheels with higher profile rubber may prove quieter.
Ride standard is good with excellent suppression of road irregularities, but I found driver's seat to be lacking in lateral support despite the generous range of adjustment.
One problem sparked by the Astra's elegant shape is the steeply raked front screen is supported by fairly thick pillars which can obscure the driver's visibility through right hand bends.