Few things about cars wind me up as much as marketing speak. Vauxhall£€™s new Astra estate is now a Sports Tourer because the company£€™s sales folk think everyone wants to think they are sporty. Yet the best version of this family car is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine not thundering great petrol V8.
That said, thanks to losing a huge 190kg in weight compared to the previous model, or the equivalent of leaving two adults male passengers at the side of the road, the car obviously handles better through corners than the previous model.
It really is a good drive and it almost; almost, feels like a sports car compared to the previous Astra. Naturally on the £€˜sporty£€™ SRi model, tested here, there is a sport button you can press.
You don£€™t get any more power, or stiffen the suspension as on more exotic cars, but the steering gets a bit heavier and you don£€™t have to push the accelerator as far for the same performance. And that£€™s it.
In view of the improved agility in bends, it£€™s a pity the springy electrically assisted steering doesn£€™t feel more connected to the road. But this is being picky and few drivers will realise how well this car compares to expensive premium models from Audi and BMW.
The diesel engine is available with 109 or 134bhp and we had a more powerful version which sent its power to the front wheels via an again, very light, six-speed gear change to the front wheels.
The engine is very efficient if a bit brusque when accelerating and even going briskly you can get 55+mpg. We saw a best of 67.3mpg. There’s not much body roll and plenty of grip unless you are pushing really hard indeed.
Some might find the ride too firm at times but I was more concerned about tyre noise on some roads. A VW Golf estate feels more comfortable and more solid but less alert.
Honing controls takes time, skill and money and personally I would have liked more bite to the brakes which deliver a strange £€˜feel£€™ through the pedal and take getting used to.
The clutch is light but spongy. Sports Tourer prices start at £16,735 and there£€™s five trim levels to pick from. Our SRi Nav model was £22,770 but optional extras took the price to £25,880.
Most expensive was the LED matrix headlights (£995) which automatically adjust to other traffic, followed by metallic paint (£545), keyless entry (£395), electric tailgate (£350) and winter pack (heated seats and steering wheel) for £345.
The car was also fitted with Vauxhall£€™s OnStar system which will call the emergency services automatically if you crash or you can use it to call help for others if you see an accident.
OnStar knows where you are from the satellite navigation, though at times the system tried to use strange routes to get us to destinations. Perhaps deep in the system, someone had set it to follow routes used by Queen Boudicca and her chariots.
The system creates a 4G WiFi hotspot which is available in the car. Sleek looks mean the Astra looks more delicate than a Golf estate and the styling is a bit fussy where that chrome strip runs into the tailgate.
The new Astra is bigger than before with 540 litres boot space though it£€™s beaten by the Skoda Octavia£€™s 610 litres. The rear seats split and fold 40:20:40. Vauxhall used to offer a £€˜lifetime£€™ warranty on its new cars, but the Sports Tourer gets the usual three-year warranty.
Also consider; Ford Focus, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia.
Verdict Good value compact estate with some class leading technology on board