The Vauxhall Astra has been a feature of British roads for 40 years and for those people who can first remember them arriving they were to replace the Vauxhall Viva, affectionately known as the Vivi by an ancient aunt of mine.
The Astra was Vauxhall’s first model to have front wheel drive and while it was a good seller it just couldn’t dislodge the Ford Escort from the number one spot in the UK. Later sales of the Mark Two Astra were threatened by the Rover 200 and the Austin Maestro, were the later models to close the gap on the Escort.
By 2001 it was the Astra Mark 4 which was the second best selling car in Britain overall just behind the Ford Focus and the combined sales of the Astra and the equivalent Opel saw production totalling almost four million sales in a 20 year period.
In March 2009, nearly 2,500,000 Astras had been sold over five generations since its launch 30 years earlier and three million have been sold since 1980. Among them was one for the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car back in 2013 on the Top Gear programme. Quite an honour, while Astras have been used by 54 police forces in the UK.
And so it goes on and on, with the claim being that a quarter of British motorists have owned or driven a Vauxhall Astra.
Now we are in the seventh generation and last year the model was refreshed again with a new engine with a view to improving fuel economy, emissions and performance plus trim.
The petrol range consists entirely of turbocharged three-cylinder engines: three 1.2-litre units with 110PS, 130PS and 145PS respectively, plus a 1.4-litre unit with 145PS that’s available exclusively with a CVT transmission. The three diesels are turbocharged three-cylinder units too; 1.5-litres with 105PS or 122PS. They each can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox but the more powerful version is the only car in the range with a conventional automatic – a nine-speed unit.
The availability of each engine and gearbox depends trim level. The more expensive trims are linked to more powerful engines, with some cheaper models only available with manual gearboxes and lower-powered units.
The trim level is SE, Business Edition Nav, SRi, SRi Nav, SRi VX-Line Nav, Elite Nav and Ultimate Nav with each giving you varying levels of standard kit, styling additions and interior trim differences. Astra customers just have a five-door hatch.
The Astra is quite spacious and well put-together by a team up in Liverpool where they have been turning them out for some years.
But now Vauxhall is part of the Peugeot empire and there is a doubt whether production will stay there. After all there is bags of capacity production in France and it would make sense to a Frenchman to move the Astra over the channel.
Prices begin just under £19,000 going to around £27,000 for the top-spec.
There is a top speed of around 120mph with 0-62 in under nine seconds. The petrol engines will give almost 50 miles to the gallon and around 65mpg for the diesels.
The new Astra is available with a new digital front camera which recognises both vehicles and pedestrians and the digital rear view camera, available on selected models, is also more powerful. This ties in with the new Multimedia Navi Pro infotainment system.
Astra gives customers a high level of connectivity with the smarter, faster and more intuitive Multimedia Radio, Multimedia Navi and Multimedia Navi Pro systems.
All systems give you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the top-of-the-line Multimedia Navi Pro has an eight-inch colour touchscreen which can also be operated by voice control.
There is an excellent Bose sound system, which is featured on selected models with seven loudspeakers and just to make things safer the Astra has a heated windscreen on selected models, making driving in the winter safer and more comfortable. And what has been useful at the moment has been the heated steering wheel which keeps your hands warm.