Emphasis on comfort rather than agile handling
Driver-focused layout but that dashboard is confusing
Top-notch: stability control, six airbags and clever anti-whiplash head restraints are standard
An altogether average showing so far
Good for a car of this size with a useful two-stage load cover and seat release buttons in the boot on some models
Air-con, MP3 and electric front windows are standard but youll need to upgrade for anything more
The Astra is pleasant car to drive, whichever version you pick. Most versions have very effective suspension that quietly soaks up bumps, keeping things comfortable. The body control is a little on the slack side, but the firmer suspension on SRi models sharpens things up without sacrificing too much in the way of ride comfort. You can also specify the Flexride adaptive suspension as an option, but although you can feel the difference between the various driving modes, it doesn't make the Astra any better.
The wrap-around dash looks stylish and high-tech, but actually navigating the multitude of similar-looking buttons takes some practice. There's lots of adjustment to help you perfect your driving position, but you might find some blind spots created by the snazzy rear styling.
At least the shape doesn't compromise passenger space, which is good for a car of this size. The wide body leaves decent shoulder room, so fitting three adults into the back doesn't require too much shoving. The boot is bigger than that of a VW Golf or Ford Focus, and the rear seats will fold or come out altogether to increase the space.
There's a dizzying array of trim levels to choose from. All versions have air-con, electric front windows and remote locking, while top-end Elite cars come with niceties such as climate control and heated leather seats with electric adjustment. Tech Line trim is the best: it provides alloys, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio but, oddly, costs far less than trims with less kit. All models have Isofix on the outer rear seats, including top-tether points.
The Astra was rated only 'average' for reliability by owners in the latest JD Power survey, and was ranked last overall in its category. Dealer service, running costs and the interior layout all came in for criticism.
Safety kit is excellent, though, with standard stability control to help keep you on the straight and narrow, six airbags, and active head restraints to minimise whiplash. In Euro NCAP crash tests, the Astra scored 95% for adult protection and 84% for child protection - better than a Ford Focus and a whisker under the VW Golf's score.
Our biggest gripe with the Vauxhall Astra is the list price. It's significantly pricier than many major rivals, and the prices climb steeply as you progress up the trim structure. The big discounts available should help offset this, but resale values can't match those of a VW Golf. Running costs are lowest in the Ecoflex models, some of which offer up to 76mpg and are exempt from road tax. Otherwise, running costs are so-so for the class.