Pick four British motorists at random, seat them in a Vauxhall Astra and at least one should feel instantly at home. Such has been the success of this hatchback in the UK – fuelled by its unpretentious versatility and value for money for 36 years and six model generations now – that a quarter of all licence holders in this country have owned or regularly driven one, says Vauxhall.

The seventh-generation Astra goes on general sale this month. Underneath the revised styling, there’s a great deal that’s brand new about this car, from its platform to its engines, suspension tuning and more besides. That’s something we haven’t been able to report about every ‘new’ Vauxhall these past few years. Perhaps most enticing, the car is up to 200kg lighter and £2200 cheaper than the outgoing one, depending on which model you’re looking at.

Vauxhall parent General Motors appears to have gathered together all of its latest and greatest technology and thrown it at this car – as you’d imagine it might when replacing a model so crucial to its European fortunes. This is the first Vauxhall or Opel developed on GM’s D2XX platform, announced in 2012. As you’ll read, that platform has allowed space to be made inside while also eliminating weight and outward size.

GM’s turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine lines up beneath an all-new 1.4-litre Ecotec petrol turbo from the same family. The oil-burners are powered by the 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper Diesel’ ushered into the broader Vauxhall range during the past 18 months.

Meanwhile, from active LED matrix headlights, through automatic crash mitigation and avoidance systems, to Vauxhall’s latest IntelliLink infotainment set-up, Vauxhall hasn’t held back on convenience or safety features, either. Stand by to find out what rivals have to fear from this leaner, cheaper, better-equipped Vauxhall, then – and exactly how much more it offers the legions of British drivers whom it’ll ultimately serve.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

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