New Vauxhall Astra unveiled

* First official pictures * Bigger and more practical * On sale late 2009...

New Vauxhall Astra unveiled

This is the first official picture of the all-new Vauxhall Astra, which goes on sale later this year.

The picture shows the influence of the larger Insignia, with similar front-end styling and heavily sculpted sides. Vauxhall hasn't released details of the interior yet, but says that it will be 'a different take' on the wrap-round dashboard found in the Insignia.

Mark Adams, vice president of GM Europe Design, said: 'We're continuing with the same premium design cues as the Insignia, inside and out of the car.'

At 4.4m long, the new Astra is 15cm longer than the current car, while there's an extra 7cm between the front and rear wheels. Vauxhall has promised big improvements in packaging, seat design and cabin storage, too.

There will be four petrol and four diesel engines available from launch. One of the most significant is a new turbocharged 1.4-litre, 138bhp petrol unit that should deliver strong performance, but low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The other petrol engines range between 99bhp and 178bhp, while outputs for the diesels offer between 94bhp and 158bhp.

Vauxhall's FlexRide suspension system will be available for the new Astra. This system provides a choice of Normal, Comfort and Sport settings, and adjusts the suspension and throttle to suit each.

Vauxhall hasn't confirmed pricing or an on-sale date yet, but we expect the new Astra to hit showrooms in December, with entry-level models priced at around 13,000.