By Patrick James on 2018-04-15 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
WHEN it comes to producing excellent family hatchbacks, few are better than Vauxhall and the evergreen Astra.
Around for nearly 40 years, with its lightweight vehicle architecture, powertrains and technology, the Astra accounts for around for 12 per cent of mid-sized family hatchback sales.
A fine performance when you consider it is up against excellent rivals like Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf.
The proof of the pudding is in the sales figures with a car that appeals to both private and fleet sales.
Vauxhall says it prides itself on offering customers the highest levels of specification and technology across its model line-up and as a result introduced the top-of-the-line Ultimate trim level.
An ambitious name indeed featuring h the 1.4 150ps Turbo petrol engine with both manual and automatic transmission, the 1.6 (200ps) turbo manual petrol engine and the 1.6 (160ps) bi-turbo manual diesel engine. All with excellent performance.
An upgrade on the Elite Nav model the Astra Ultimate it is packed with standard equipment, the most highly-equipped ever says Vauxhall, with still a competitive price.
The model driven here, the 200ps turbo is a real firecracker, hot-hatch performance with a bit more, stylish looks decent economy and the legendary practicality.
It is worth listing what is included in the price over and above what you would expect of a £20,000-plus car.
In truth, on this model optional extras worth nearly £3,000 were also added.
Ultimate specification includes 18-inch bi-colour alloy wheels, IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights, Navi 900 IntelliLink navigation system and the Driving Assistance Pack featuring the intelligent forward camera system.
The camera powers a number of the safety systems including forward collision alert, traffic sign recognition, following distance indicator and lane departure warning with lane assist.
In addition there's a Parking Pack, which comes with advanced park assist, rear view camera and side blind spot alert.
It's quite a package of goodies really for the price of £26,375
The upgraded trim also adds perforated leather seat trim, a heated steering wheel, heated seats front and back, LED rear lights and tinted rear windows, steering wheel controls, dual zone climate control, multi function trip computer, rain sensing wipers, auto lights and dimming rear view mirror plus a whole lot more.
Also standard is Vauxhall's OnStar navigation and concierge system, which, along with infotainment and connectivity systems iscontrolled by an eight-inch colour touchscreen.
On the road, the turbo-boosted 1.6 litre engine is a real flier, hitting 60mph in just 6.6 seconds.
Mated with a slick close-ratio, six-speed gearbox its a real fun drive and among the best handling in its class as it clings limpet like on tight curves while remaining stable.
Overcook it and the myriad safety systems kick in to keep you on the straight and narrow. Economy is a claimed 45.6, pretty good for a performance car with emissions of 144g/km.
Like all Astras, it is practical with stowage capacity of 370 litres expanding to 1,210 litres with the rears split folding seats down.
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