LIKE good wine, the Vauxhall Astra has matured with age and the latest model is arguably the best car in its market sector - because it ticks all the boxes for style, economy, low emissions and bags of standard equipment, writes Bryan Longworth.
I still have very strong personal memories of the Press launch of the original Astra many years ago and each successive new model has got better. But this model is the daddy of them all.
It was the Astra Tech Line Hatchback 1.7 CDTI Ecoflex Start/Stop which is a bit of a mouthful but the best way of describing the car is to refer to it as the Astra Tech Line.
There are significant benefit-in-kind savings for company car drivers and because of the 99g/km CO2 emissions there is no road tax to pay plus the combined fuel consumption of 76.3mpg - although the on-board computer showed this to be around ten miles per gallon less which is still a very impressive mpg return.
The standard kit on this model, which costs £19,865 on the road includes sat nav, Bluetooth, 17inch ten spoke alloy wheels, cruise control, DAB digital radio and rather appropriately the paintwork was Olympic White which cost an extra £100.
The smooth and lively 130bhp diesel engine produced a top speed of 126mph and a zero to 60mph time of 10.4 seconds with a six speed manual gearbox which was a bit stiff on some changes.
I liked the handling and roadholding and the suspension coped well with some bumpy country roads I regularly drive on that are a bit of a pain for test cars with firmer suspension systems.
There is a large boot under the hatchback which has a bigger load area than the Astra’s Focus rival from Ford but a puncture kit has replaced a spare wheel which may not be to the liking of some owners.
Cars like this particular Astra with its exceptional fuel economy and a full tank of diesel providing fuel for around 650 miles are in my opinion a reason why very expensive electric cars with their very limited ranges do not have a real future until batteries providing more realistic ranges are invented.
I had just two grumbles. The start/stop system was a bit erratic at times and the handbrake handle caught the trim around the central console each time it was released trapping my left forefinger - an electronic brake would resolve this problem.
An added bonus for private owners is that the Astra has Vauxhall’s 100,000 mile warranty which really means that this will cover the whole lifetime of the car which is another temptation for potential Tech Line private owners especially.
The Astra Tech Line has a roomy and comfortable interior and for less than £20,000 it is a very tempting all round package and is very much a car for these times of high fuel prices and taxes.
My Verdict: The complete frugal tax busting car.