What we can say is that it handles tight, twisty, Alpine roads with ease. The steering is a bit numb, but other than that the body stays well controlled through turns, even when a mid-bend bump tries to catch it out.
Astras seem to have a fair degree of variance when it comes to the way the brake pedal feels, although they always stop effectively. This one had less unwanted travel, then built pressure more progressively as you pressed harder, making it much easier to judge your braking. We quizzed Vauxhall about reasons for this, and the answer was that how they've been bled could cause it to differ.
Beyond the new engine, the Astra still works as a proper family hack. There’s loads of space front and rear, and the boot is large enough to rival all but the class-leading Skoda Octavia when it comes to carrying pushchairs and shopping.
The driving position is also fine, with lots of adjustment to cater for most body shapes; having driven from Monte Carlo to Geneva in various versions, I can tell you it’s a pretty comfortable cross-country tourer.
It’s nicely finished inside, too, and compared with the old car much better thought through in terms of ergonomics. Even the infotainment system – the downfall of many a car without a BMW badge – is perfectly usable, if you excuse the odd menu foible here and there.
Should I buy one?
What a difference a year makes; the Astra has gone from way off the pace to a real contender in the last 12 months. While there have been plenty of engine options for those that want to keep running costs low, until now there’s been nothing for those who want to live in the fast lane a little.
This Astra 1.6i Turbo 200 has sorted that anomaly, and that’s before Vauxhall has wheeled out the VXR branding. By the way, we have reason to believe those letters will be appearing on an Astra model soon too.
The only criticism is that it doesn’t stand out from the rest of the range, particularly the SRi model; you’ll certainly stand out more in a Focus ST or Octavia vRS. However, if you prefer to leave the flashiness to others, pop along to a Vauxhall dealer and try one.
Vauxhall Astra 1.6i Turbo 200 Elite Nav
Location France; Price £21,855; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 197bhp at 4700-5500rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1700-4700rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1350kg; Top speed 146mph; 0-60mph 6.6sec; Economy 46.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 141g/km, 25%