Yesterday I spent most of the day in a hot warehouse somewhere in Paris looking at the new Vauxhall Astra. Luckily it was worth it, because in the flesh the Astra is a handsome-looking car, strikingly more appealing than the press shots that were released.

Judging by the amount of times the team from Vauxhall mentioned the Insignia in the same breath as the Astra, it is clear the company is very proud of its saloon. And so they should be, it is a good all-round car which has lifted Vauxhall beyond the baggage the Vectra seemed to carry with it.

New Astra 'better than Insignia'

Astra Sport Hatch is 'outlandish'

The Astra, with bits of trim and styling pinched from the Insignia, is very much a Mini Me of its big brother. In official Luton speak, however, it is “sporty with an elegant touch” instead of “elegant with a sporty touch” for the Insignia. Even the “blade” design on the side has been turned around the other way on the Astra.

One thing that struck me about the car is how big it is. It is larger than the current Astra and to be honest it shows. It is almost a one-box design and chief designer Malcolm Ward even told me the bonnet is designed so that it doesn’t have to cover the wipers, in a bid to make it appear shorter.

Making cars bigger is often inevitable with ever-stricter crash regulations but what happens if it actually becomes larger than the car above it in the Vauxhall range? Strange but true, when I was heading back to the station in a black Insignia I noticed my head almost touched the roof, yet there was plenty of room spare in the Astra. The bottom line is if you want to be chauffered around in comfort, try a Vauxhall Astra.

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