With sharp modern looks, featuring sculptured curves and dramatic swoops (the forthcoming three-door model will apparently be even more dramatic), the five-door Astra's coup-like lines are infinitely braver than the usual bland Euro boxes we've become accustomed to, and the same goes for the interior.
A wrap-around, driver-focussed dashboard and intricately sculptured door pulls are reminders of Vauxhall's goal of providing an upmarket feel. This is underlined with similarly plush trim, slick switchgear and smart chrome-ringed instruments to those in the much-praised (and more expensive) Insignia.
The impressive amount of standard equipment is further proof of Vauxhall's status-chasing.
Even the entry-level S cars come with most of what you need, including air-conditioning, electric front windows, remote central locking, daytime running lights and a CD player with MP3 socket. Stepping up to Exclusiv trim adds more niceties, such as ambient lighting, cruise control, and stereo buttons on the steering wheel.
SRi cars add alloys, an electronic parking brake, a leather steering wheel, front foglamps and, on all but the 1.4, sports suspension. Buyers of the SE will get powered rear windows and automatic lights and wipers, while Elite cars have heated leather seats with electrical adjustment, climate control and electrically folding mirrors.
If space equates to luxury, then the Astra also scores highly. Wider in every direction than the outgoing car, all occupants get bags of shoulder-room, while rear passengers gain a good deal more legroom.
The Astra's rakish roofline is a bit of an optical illusion. There's far more headroom than you might expect, so there's little chance of granny's hat getting skewed as you give her a helping hand into the back.
Not quite so encouraging are those small windows and a shallow rear screen, which limit the amount of light that gets into the cabin and demand a pronounced over-the-shoulder double take before pulling out to overtake.