What do the words Astra and estate mean to you? Images of damp dogs and absent-minded drivers, perhaps, or a herd of photocopier salesmen charging up the M1?
No longer. This is the new, sharper Astra estate, on sale in November and containing in its lexicon for the first time a 170bhp turbocharged petrol and 150bhp turbodiesel engines and optional adaptive suspension. And not a damp mutt in sight.
The pick of the range is the powerhouse diesel from the Vectra, with its sweet shifting six-speed gearbox and Euro4 compliant combustion. A version of Fiat’s torquey JTD, it delivers the acceleration and economy we’ve come to expect from modern diesels. An 8.6sec 0-62mph dash is warm-hatch territory while 47.9mpg will keep the household budget in check. In the same package they’re a persuasive combination.
Like most diesels, this CDTi unit is at its best when running in a cross-country rhythm, whether on the motorway or a more challenging A-road. Tall gearing (35mph per 1000rpm in sixth) takes the sting out of any diesel rattle at speed and there’s just enough torque to hot up the pace without dropping a gear. Third and fourth are the gears of choice on back roads, with lots of punch for overtaking or pulling out of tight bends.