Is a small es­tate bet­ter than a fam­ily SUV?

What Car? - - Contents - LAST RE­PORT Si­mon Strang Edi­to­rial@hay­mar­ket.com

Mileage 10,283 List price £22,685

Tar­get Price £19,904 Price as tested £25,320 Test econ­omy 37.2mpg

THE AS­TRA SPORTS Tourer has been ab­sent from my drive­way for a week now and when I ask my­self whether I’m miss­ing it or not, I’m sur­prised that the an­swer is yes.

When I first took de­liv­ery, it felt like noth­ing more than a tool and I found my­self ques­tion­ing whether I should have gone for the au­to­matic gear­box. Yet, through more than 10,000 miles, it ex­celled as a child­de­liv­er­ing de­vice, gen­eral-pur­pose fam­ily droid and com­mut­ing car in­cred­i­bly well. And what’s more, in a world in­creas­ingly ob­sessed with form over func­tion, the As­tra main­tained enough personality to keep it­self mostly in my good books through its ten­ure as our fam­ily mule.

I al­ways think that a key in­di­ca­tor of whether a com­muter car is any good is how sprightly you feel at the end of each jour­ney. And on those morn­ings when the As­tra de­liv­ered the chil­dren to school and then ne­go­ti­ated a quar­ter of the M25, I of­ten felt as if I had hardly driven at all. I put this down to sup­port­ive seats and good in­te­rior build qual­ity; I never de­tected so much as a rat­tle.

Ap­ple Carplay smart­phone mir­ror­ing is in­creas­ingly stan­dard these days, and it’s al­ways wel­come. Yet, as with some Fords I’ve driven, I found it would from time to time en­gage in civil war with the car’s own en­ter­tain­ment and phone systems, as well as Vaux­hall’s On­star concierge ser­vice, leav­ing you stuck in a no-man’s land. More­over, our car was equipped with an on­board wi-fi hotspot, yet I strug­gled to make it work con­sis­tently enough for it to be of any pur­pose­ful use.

Of big­ger ir­ri­ta­tion was the As­tra’s over­sen­si­tive ap­proach to safety. On one in­stance, the car wor­ry­ingly en­gaged the au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing without an ap­par­ent emer­gency in progress. And then there were its var­i­ous alarms. In fact, audi­ble alarms, warn­ings and con­fir­ma­tions in gen­eral were a nui­sance.

All that said, though, the As­tra was a trusty steed. I quickly got used to look­ing down at the dash­board to check speed lim­its and then re­ly­ing on the lim­iter to pre­vent me from breach­ing them, just as ha­bit­u­ally driv­ing away without hav­ing to dis­en­gage the hand­brake caused some frus­tra­tion when re­turn­ing to our other fam­ily car.

I’m also still im­pressed with how much kit the As­tra comes with. The LED ma­trix lights were ex­cep­tional and, should you get the chance, take a mo­ment to watch the un­in­tended homage to the old mo­bile phone game Snake when they ini­tially il­lu­mi­nate. Mar­vel­lous fun. The op­tional heated seat and steer­ing wheel were also a boon in the chilly win­ter weather.

We never once lacked for space, and we take up a lot be­tween my wife’s busi­ness and the chil­dren’s var­i­ous as­sem­blage.

So, the As­tra provided me with trou­ble-free, ef­fort­less mo­tor­ing, which is pre­cisely what it was de­signed to do. And while I was pre­vi­ously cer­tain that I wanted to re­place it for the back­sav­ing height of an SUV, the As­tra has given me cause to con­sider an es­tate for our next car.

As­tra proved prac­ti­cal and comfy dur­ing its time with us

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