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Astra is one of the best known names currently on the motoring scene; however it is relatively new and adorns both Vauxhall and Opel models.

Kadett was the name previously favoured by Opel for its compact hatchback, and it was in use until 1991, then the Astra badge was used across both Opel and Vauxhall and here in Ireland we have both. Kadett adorned a small family Opel which was produced from 1936-1940 and re-emerged from 1962-1991. GM Europe decided to standardise model names across its two brands, and Opel adopted Vauxhall’s name for the Kadett.

Down through the years both Kadett and Astra have had a strong presence in motor sport, the Kadett was popular in rallying and Astras competed in racing, namely the BTCC. Turning to the Vauxhall Astra, it has been around since 1979 in one form or another and recently I spent a week with the latest generation Astra and my test car carried the Griffin badge. My first encounter with an Astra came in Killarney where Vauxhall decided to launch the early model, distinctive by its pear-like profile. We flew from Shannon to the hotel by helicopter and the sight of the Astras lined up outside the hotel remains with me to this very day.

I have to say that the roads proved ideal to put the new car through its paces and hence Vauxhall have returned to Ireland on a number of occasions for new product launches. This time round I did not venture as far as Kerry to put the latest model through its paces, but I did endeavour to find roads that really assisted in discovering the good handling qualities of the new model. My test example was in SRi trim, one which tends to lean to those who like their motoring, dare I say, on the sporty side. The claim is that the new Astra is the most efficient to date, with lower emissions and improved fuel economy. Styling is key to many and the new model features clean lines but you will still recognise it as an Astra. Manufacturers are careful not to stray too far when it comes to design especially when it is a mainstream model. Yes you can update, change what ever re the interior and more technology is becoming a standard feature in the modern car- and that is no bad thing.

We are totally in focus with tech in our homes and workplace so it follows that we now expect the same with the car that we drive. So it is with the new Astra, always informed, the ability to keep in touch and of course entertainment on the move. Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay all come as standard. This was all aided by the multi media system with a generous screen with sound courtesy of a six speaker arrangement.  Earlier I hinted at the good handling; comfort for the driver aided by the ergonomic active seat; however my fellow front seat passenger did complain on the lack of adjustment with that particular seat.

Now to the heart of the matter with a 1.4 litre turbo assisted engine. I had 145PS to play with, and in conjunction with the stepless automatic transmission, performance was certainly adequate with rest to 100kph (62mph) in nine seconds and on to a top speed of 210kph(130mph). A quick response, aided by the turbo, really added to the driving pleasure making it all a satisfying and rewarding drive. On the practical side, this is a compact hatchback with 370 litres of boot space with the rear seat up, of course need to transport more then you simply drop the rear seat backs.

Summing up, the Astra in its new form has lots of appeal and will be accepted well by its many Opel and Vauxhall fans.

Ian Lynas