Since it first went on sale back in 1979, the Vauxhall Astra has always been a popular choice for those after a sensible family hatchback. It's sold in big numbers, too, becoming one of the UK's best-selling new cars year after year.
Despite its popularity, though, you could never call it a class-leading car, something that Vauxhall has tried to remedy with the latest version. Thanks to a fresh platform, the Astra is smaller than its predecessor on the outside yet bigger on the inside. It also has a brand new look and comes loaded with new technology.
Even with those improvements, though, the Astra is still competing in one of the most crowded vehicle markets around. Cars such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia all offer a similar blend of practicality and everyday driving enjoyment, so to really stand out this Astra needs to be exceptional in almost every respect.
We named the original Astra as our Car of the Year way back in 1980, and, just like its predecessor, this new version has been lapping up awards – it recently won the European Car of the Year title.
On paper, then, the Astra sounds like an impressive car, but does that translate to an affordable, enjoyable and practical package in the real world? Read on to find out.