As­tra sets the stan­dard

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Pe­ter Keenan

AVING a fa­ther who is a con­firmed fan of the Vaux­hall As­tra means this eval­u­a­tion will be sub­ject to a foren­sic anal­y­sis wor­thy of Emilia Fox in the hit TV show Silent Wit­ness.

The fact that he is one of the few things older than Vaux­hall’s com­pact fam­ily hatch­back will give him no com­fort – but the way the model con­tin­u­ally man­ages to set new stan­dards, af­ter al­most 40 years on the road, will.

In­deed the lat­est ver­sion al­ready has a car of the year crown to its name and is a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to As­tras of yore.

De­vel­oped in the UK you can see why judges were im­pressed as the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion model is good look­ing, packed with the lat­est tech and ex­cit­ing to drive.

The ex­te­rior of the SRi Nav model is a sharp-dressed dude with natty 17-inch twin-spoke al­loy wheels, smart LED day­time run­ning lights and a neat chrome ef­fect for the up­per win­dow trim.

The in­te­rior is roomy for a small fam­ily hatch­back with four adults able to be ac­com­mo­dated in com­fort and five with­out the need to be dou­ble­jointed.

Lug­gage ca­pac­ity is good at 370 litres with the rear seats in use, which in prac­ti­cal terms means the weekly fam­ily shop is swal­lowed with aplomb. The sports-style front seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive while the leather-cov­ered steer­ing wheel is fes­tooned with con­trols.

There is a lot of tech­nol­ogy packed into the As­tra with the head­line act be­ing Vaux­hall’s OnS­tar nav­i­ga­tion and concierge sys­tem – ac­cessed through an eight-inch colour touch­screen and avail­able on higher spec­i­fied mod­els, in­clud­ing the SRi Nav.

It has three but­tons – a blue one used to con­tact an OnS­tar ad­vi­sor, a red SOS but­ton for emer­gen­cies and a pri­vacy but­ton to switch the GPS lo­ca­tor off.

A call cen­tre manned 24/7 can help you find a desti­na­tion be­fore send­ing it to the sat nav sys­tem in the car while the mo­bile phone wifi hotspot al­lows con­nec­tion to the in­ter­net.

Dual-zone air con en­sures a pleas­ant at­mos­phere while handy fea­tures in­clude an ad­justable front arm­rest and pow­ered win­dows front and rear.

Vaux­hall re­ally go to town on the gizmo front from the mo­ment you open the doors via the re­mote con­trol fob, turn the key and take the As­tra out for a spin.

There is au­to­matic ev­ery­thing – from the wipers to the head­lights – while cruise con­trol with speed lim­iter, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and hill start as­sist are use­ful aids for the driver.

Start to wan­der out of your lane and the steer­ing wheel vi­brates and re­sists. In­di­cat­ing be­fore ma­noeu­vring stops this oc­cur­ring and so pro­motes a good but van­ish­ing habit among mod­ern mo­torists.

A com­fort­able po­si­tion be­hind the wheel is easy to achieve as the driver’s seat is fully ad­justable and the steer­ing wheel can be set for reach and rake.

There’s a wide range of petrol and diesel en­gines to choose from in­clud­ing the punchy 1.6-litre oil burner sam­pled here.

Aided by a slick six-speed man­ual gear­box it pow­ers the car from a stand­ing start to 60mph in nine sec­onds on its way to a top speed of 127mph.

It of­fers low car­bon diox­ide emis­sions and, with the ad­di­tion of stop­start tech­nol­ogy, an ex­cel­lent av­er­age fuel econ­omy fig­ure claimed at 72.4mpg that dur­ing a week of mixed mo­tor­ing proved not to be to­tal pie in the sky.

There is a Sport switch to sharpen up re­sponses when you feel in the mood for a bit of ex­cite­ment while safety is han­dled by an in­tel­li­gent for­ward cam­era sys­tem, traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion, fol­low­ing dis­tance in­di­ca­tor and for­ward col­li­sion alert with au­to­matic city emer­gency brak­ing, as well as six airbags and a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.

The whole pack­age adds up to one of the top com­pact hatch­backs on the mar­ket, which will please my dad no

TEST DRIVE VAUX­HALL AS­TRA SRI

Model: Vaux­hall As­tra SRi Nav 1.6 CDTI Price: £23,280 Me­chan­i­cal: 136ps, 1,598cc, 4cyl diesel en­gine driv­ing front wheels via 6-speed man­ual gear­box Max speed: 127mph 0-60mph: 9 sec­onds Com­bined mpg: 72.4 In­sur­ance group: 19 CO2 emis­sions: 103g/km BiK rat­ing: 22% War­ranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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