Then again and thanks to the limitations in the Astra’s suspension configuration already explained in the design section, there’s a lot of catching up to be done if it is even to come close to the standards now routinely expected of its twin nemeses, the Golf and Focus.
In the end and regardless of which model you drive – including the GTCs with their bespoke suspension tune – it’s the same story we’ve been telling about the Astra’s dynamics relative to its rivals that we’ve been telling for years: it’s close – perhaps closer than you might expect given the raw material – but not close enough to mount a convincing challenge.
Unsurprisingly the car you’ll enjoy driving most – and excepting the VXR as a special case – is the SRi. In fact we like its firm but still compliant set up quite a lot. It makes the car feel quick, controlled and manageable on a good road, backed by unfailingly precise and well weighted steering. GTCs are better still, particularly in higher powered versions where you really do notice the reduction in torque steer.
However what all versions of the Astra fail to do is provide that same almost liquid sense of fluidity and fluency across the many differing the difficult surfaces provided by the British country roads found in a Golf. Also, the electric power steering while impressively accurate, lacks the feel required for a truly interactive driving experience.
And nowhere are the compromises in the car’s design felt more keenly than in its ride quality. Again it’s not bad, indeed on most surfaces the Astra is commendably comfortable. But as conditions deteriorate so too does the Astra’s ride degrade, and at a faster rate than that of the class leaders.
It never becomes unruly but while the best in this category are easily good enough to challenge standards now being set by the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the Astra still lacks the sophistication to be able to compete at that level.