7 April 2005

This is the final installment in Vauxhall’s Astra range – the steel-roofed Astra Convertible, expected to make its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September, and on sale in spring 2006. The car follows Peugeot’s 307 CC and Renault’s Mégane in ditching its cloth hood for folding metal. However, because of the design, and the extended chassis the car is based on, the Astra should offer a genuine four-seat cabin, a decent-sized boot even with the roof folded and more attractive proportions than either of its rivals.

The innovative design of its roof will be a key advantage. Made by CTS, the Porsche-owned company that also makes the roof for Mercedes’ SL, it will be unique in its class. Like the roof on Vauxhall’s Tigra, it stows in three shorter sections rather than two long ones, helping both design and packaging. The new Astra Convertible’s cabin should be more generous than either of its rivals’, as Vauxhall has opted to use the wheelbase shared by the Astra Estate and seven-seat Zafira. At 2700mm, it should provide ample space for four, and for a price ‘competitive with the alternatives,’ a Vauxhall source told us. Expect 140bhp 1.8-litre, and 168- and 197bhp 2.0-litre SRi Turbo versions to be available from launch, priced from £18,000 up to £21,000. A cheaper 1.6-litre version could join the range later, as well as 1.9-litre CDTi options with 120- and 150bhp.

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