Prices start at £5000 for a high-mileage 2016- reg 1.6 CDTi, so a used Vauxhall Astra is a tempting proposition. It won’t look or feel as classy as a Volkswagen Golf but then you’ll pay £2500 more for the pleasure of owning that particular people’s car. The Ford Focus is closer in appearance and feel to the Astra but even that will set you back around £1000 more.
Of course, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for, and in the Astra’s case, what you get is a reputation for unreliability. According to the latest survey by our sibling magazine, What Car?, the Astra diesel is the least reliable family car you can buy.
The petrol version fares better, but better still are the Focus and the Golf. Not a good start for Vauxhall’s family hatchback, then, except there’s so much to like about it that it seems a shame to condemn it on the strength of a survey. For one thing, it was developed on UK roads, earning it a big tick on any thinking driver’s score card. It’s light, and light on its feet. It’s also roomy and practical and its engines – a range of petrol and diesel units – are, by and large, economical, refined and fun to punt.
The range of trims is a little baffling but, regardless, even basic Design is well equipped (7.0in colour touchscreen with Vauxhall’s IntelliLink phone connectivity, a digital radio, air-con and 16in alloy wheels). Our pick is SRi, the next up, but if you fancy more luxury, there’s Elite (leather-covered and powered sports seats, automatic lights and wipers, and lashings of chrome).