The engineers created a completely fresh platform for this MK7 model Astra but it isn't one featuring the multi-link rear suspension set-up that does so much to make a rival Ford Focus ride and handle so sweetly. The downside of that kind of arrangement lies not only in its cost but also in the way it intrudes on bootspace (which is why a Focus' boot is so relatively small). Hence the decision with this Astra to stick with the previous model's relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system, a set-up enhanced with a so-called 'Watts linkage' feature to improve cornering stability.
The engine range offers the option of the old 1.4 litre petrol unit in 125 or 150PS forms (which is what we trcently tried) but we'd prefer the smaller 105PS 1.0-litre three cylinder unit. Most Astra buyers though, are probably going to want a diesel. The old 1.3, 1.7 and 2.0-litre CDTi units have been pensioned off and in their place sits the quieter, torquier 1.6-litre CDTi diesel, offered with either 110 or 136PS. Both petrols and diesels benefit from a sweet-shifting six speed gearbox manual gearbox.
You know at first glance that this is a Vauxhall thanks to the corporate grille, which flows into headlights which come with the option of full LED technology. There's also the familiar 'blade' graphic stamped into the side of the body and rear lights that spread into the tailgate like the smaller Corsa. Another nice touch is the 'floating' roof, an effect created by a dark trim on the C-pillar and highlighted by a chrome strip that runs the length of the roof. There's also the option of quite a sleek estate variant, the Sports Tourer.
Up-front, there's the expected smart fascia with splashes of chrome and the expected standard touchscreen infotainment screen that as usual reduces dashboard button clutter. The General Motors 'OnStar' system is available, the set-up providing an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, 24/7 assistance from a dedicated service team and the ability to call the emergency services if the airbags deploy. Out back, there's very class-competitive rear legroom. And you get a 370-litre bpoot - or 540-litres in the Sports Tourer estate.
Prices start from just under £19,000 and range up to around £28,000 and there's the usual mainstream bodystyle choice of five-door hatch and Sports Tourer estate. With the latest generation hatch and estate, there are nine main trim levels - 'Design', 'Tech Line Nav', 'Griffin', 'SRi', 'SRi Nav', 'SRi VX-Line', 'SRi VX-Line Nav', 'Elite Nav' and 'Ultimate'. Diesel variants start around £20,500 and get the much quiet 1.6-litre CDTi engine.
And equipment? Well, if you opt for base 'Design' trim, you get 16" alloy wheels, air conditioning, a DAB stereo with Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto & Apple CarPlay compatibility, cruise control and all round power mirrors and windows. Business users will be interested in the 'Tech Line' trim that adds sat nav and a leather steering wheel. Move up to the 'SRi' grade and you get sportier wheels, a driver assistance pack, sports seats and the OnStar system that will offer help in an emergency. Top 'Elite' models gain leather electric seats that are heated front and rear, climate control and a few other luxury items. Safety kit available on plusher models or as an option includes a 'Traffic Sign Assistant' that displays traffic signs on the dash as you pass them, a 'Lane Keep Assist' system, plus a 'Forward Collision Alert' set-up with auto braking.
Put simply, you're not going to find an Astra that's going to cost you a huge amount to run. Even the 1.4 petrol turbo we tried is likely to return around 40mpg with a light right foot, while of course the 1.6-litre CDTi diesels will manage much more. The 1.0 three cylinder petrol model manages up to 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and 107g/km of CO2. If operating costs are your biggest worry then step forward the 1.6 litre CDTi 110PS diesel BlueInjection model, a car capable of up to 60.1mpg on the combined cycle while emitting only 107g/km of CO2. All fuel figures are WLTP-rated; all CO2 readings are NEDC.
These days, Vauxhall only offers a standard three year 60,000 mile effort; the industry standard in other words. Residuals may be marginally improved by a recent extra focus on quality - we'll wait and see on that. As usual, you can help yourself in terms of model depreciation by exercising a little restraint when it comes to ticking boxes on the options list. It's very easy here to get up towards a £25,000 car without too much effort. Stick to the essentials that will make the vehicle more appealing to its potential second owner and you shouldn't do too badly.
In a family hatchback class stuffed with appealing options, it would be easy perhaps to overlook this seventh generation Astra - or at least to assume it to be an also-ran in this tightly-fought segment. You shouldn't do that - and it isn't. Or at least it isn't if you choose your engine and spec carefully. The really desirable and efficient variants may well require you to negotiate a sharp deal with your local Vauxhall showroom to keep within budget, but such is the value emphasis in today's Griffin brand network that you're pretty likely to be able to do that.
And assuming that you do, you'll get yourself a car that feels quite up to the challenge posed by an army of efficient, plush and dynamically able rivals. Of course the MK7 model improvements have helped enormously here - the smarter look, the more efficient engines, the extra hi-tech features. Best of all, it's mainly British, with hatch and estate models built at Ellesmere Port near Liverpool to a quality at least as high as anything the Japanese brands can manage. That reason alone might be enough to give this car a place on your family hatchback shortlist. Fortunately for Vauxhall, there are also many others.