First drive Vauxhall Astra

It was a year of strikes and rising unemployment, when a cetain lady was “not for turning”, when former Beatle John Lennon was shot dead in New York and 1980 also saw the Vauxhall Astra first hit the streets of the UK.

Launched as a replacement for the Viva (now of course, also returning to our streets), the Astra was Vauxhall’s first front-wheel drive model and became a runaway success for the

Now in its sixth incarnation (with a seventh about to appear in the autumn), the Astra has also achieved success on the racetrack, most notably on the touring car scene - and is a familiar sight to fans of Top Gear where various “stars” have put it through its paces as the show’s latest “reasonably priced 

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There’s no question about it - the Astra has a proven pedigree, but is it worth hanging on until the new model arrives in the showrooms?

Our test model was the Astra Hatch Tech Line 1.6 CDTi, which has a 16v 110PS engine and Vauxhall’s ecoFLEX start-stop technology, making it exempt from road tax. The fuel economy figures are certainly impressive - Vauxhall quote a combined figure of 76.3mpg - and our test car lived up to those expectations both around town and on the open road.

So if economy is top of your list of priorities, the Astra certainly ticks that box. The start-stop system works well and after a while, you’ll hardly notice it at all. The six-speed gearbox is smooth and there’s a shift indicator to tell you when to change up or down for maximum efficiency.

It handles well too, with a ride which is firm yet comfortable - cobbled streets were a breeze - while twisty country roads were also tackled with ease.

Our model was extremely well-equipped, with features including a sat nav system, digital radio, multi-function trip computer, daytime running lights, aircon, cruise control and steering wheel mounted audio controls. The only slight niggle for me was the somewhat cumbersome and bulky door pillars, which I felt led to restricted sightlines at junctions.

Interior space was good, with plenty of comfort and legroom for passengers both front and aft, while the boot can swallow large loads with ease, especially if you fold down the rear seats. A boxed set of garden furniture proved no problem for the Astra.

So, with its impressive economy, good handing, high level of equipments and ‘green’ credentials, this incarnation is certainly worth checking out. And with the seventh generation model lurking just around the corner, we reckon that there could be deals to be had in the near future at your local Vauxhall dealer.