Vauxhall has been servicing the UK’s curiously voracious appetite for small estate cars since the very first Astra was introduced in 1980.
The Mk1, as boxy as a pine wood coffin, was followed by five generations of dog-walker specials, each as familiar to British drivers as roundabouts and T-junctions thanks to the Astra’s perennial place near the top of the nation’s biggest-selling car lists.
The latest version, while obviously curvier and comprehensively more sophisticated, doesn’t stray far from the format established more than 35 years ago.
The Sports Tourer is still modestly priced (it starts at £17,825), decidedly capacious (the boot is 170 litres larger than that of the not under-endowed hatch) and – with the very latest range of downsized General Motors engines aboard – comparatively cheap to run.
It is also built in Britain. And because it shares its underpinnings with the hatch, which is European Car of the Year 2016, lest we forget, the Tourer is up to 190kg lighter than the car it replaces. The weight loss was a key feature of the hatch’s transformation, and we expect no less of an impact here – especially in conjunction with Vauxhall’s top-of-the-range 1.6 CDTi BiTurbo diesel.
We’ve opted to test the new small-capacity, high-output four-pot because it is with this engine that the Tourer is potentially best configured to overhaul the larger 2.0-litre oil-burners that continue (for now) to feature in the more powerful versions of both the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf estates.
With the business to private buyer ratio running at around 80/20, delivering the right combination of potency, parsimony and efficiency in a suitably practical shell ought to ensure that the seventh generation of the Astra estate becomes as instantly recognisable as the previous six. So can the new Sports Tourer deliver on these promises?