Some good engines and feels controlled and comfortable
Smart interior but too many fiddly buttons and poor view out
Six airbags and stability control
Feels solid and reliability record is very decent
Lots of room inside
Every car comes with most of the basics
There's a wide range of petrol and diesel engines our favourite is the turbocharged 1.4T, which is quite punchy though it's also pricey. The Astra feels super-smooth on standard suspension but it's not as sharp to drive as the best in class. The sports suspension on SRi models gives better body control while remaining pretty comfortable. The Astra is generally very quiet, although you will notice some wind noise on the motorway while the diesels can be a bit noisy.
The cabin has wow-factor as long as you don't look too carefully at the plastics, as some aren't as sumptuous as they first appear. Still, there are lots of gadgets and it all looks quite high-tech. However, that also means there are a lot of buttons and they're not all easy to make out. Visibility isn't great either. At least it's easy to get comfortable as there's lots of seat and steering wheel adjustment.
There's plenty of space for occupants in the front and rear, and split-folding rear seats give the boot extra versatility, although you have to heave bags over its high lip.
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.
Overall the Astra's cabin feels high quality but Vauxhall's reliability record is more of a concern; the company finished second to bottom in the latest JD Power customer satsisfaction survey and near the bottom of What Car?'s 2012 Reliability Survey. All models get stability control and six airbags, while active head restraints help minimise whiplash. There's the option to disable the front passenger airbag so you can fit a Group 0+ child seat here, and security measures are decent too.
The Astra costs about the same as a Ford Focus, so it's not cheap. There are big discounts from dealers but you need to weigh this against the Astra's weak re-sale values. Most of its running costs aren't as low as the class leaders, either.