23 August 2004

The Astra is getting sexy at last. Vauxhall’s traditionally dour but worthy Ford Focus rival has come of age with this new three-door, shown for the first time in these official pictures.

Arriving in the UK next March, the three-door Astra is actually a deceptive 39mm longer than its five-door sibling, and just 15mm lower, despite the sleeker profile. The company has successfully transformed the upright stance of the five-door Astra to a much sportier three-door that closely resembles the GTC concept car shown at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show.

The main difference is production head and tail lamps, while the door shutline is now visible compared with the concept’s frameless doors. Under the skin, the three-door remains unchanged from an engineering point of view, and will be built alongside the five-door and estate at the GM plant in Antwerp, Belgium. A choice of four petrol and three diesel engines will be offered, crowned by a range-topping 170bhp turbo unit, along with 125bhp 1.8-litre, 105bhp 1.6 and 90bhp 1.4 petrols. Diesel options are the 1.9 CDTi in 120bhp or 150bhp form, and the 100bhp 1.7. A hot 230bhp VXR performance version of the petrol turbo will follow next summer, equipped with the usual sporting makeover, inside and out.

Despite the tapered roofline and small rear windows, Vauxhall claims that two adults can fit comfortably in the rear. The seat in the back is a conventional three-seat rear bench, which folds 60:40 as standard or 40:20:40 as an option. Officials claim that boot space is only slightly impaired by the sloping rear end, but Vauxhall has yet to back up this claim with comparitive figures. Across Europe, Vauxhall and sister company Opel expect the three-door to take 15 per cent of Astra sales, totalling around 70,000 units a year. The new philosophy of giving the three-door a new more sporting stance and unique bodyshell mean Vauxhall will pitch the two cars at similar prices. Historically, the three-door Astra has cost slightly less than the five-door. Expect prices from around £11,000.

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