It has a sleek profile and the sweeping lines that make it the most attractive mid-size dual-purpose car yet to roll from a Vauxhall production line.
So it’s small wonder that the latest Astra workhorse model is already established as a major success in the fleet sector.
In its first year of availability, the slinky car has won more than 9,000 registrations with business buyers to register a 50 per cent gain on the final full-year total achieved by its predecessor, the boxy Astra Estate.
That sales performance underlines the fact that style matters as much in fleet as in retail - but there’s another reason why the Sport Tourer is helping keep the Ellesmere Port factory running at full steam to meet demand from home and abroad.
Excellent packaging means this car’s beauty is more than skin deep. After swallowing passengers, their suitcases and pushchairs on airport runs and coping with luggage and our dog during two continental trips, the comely Vauxhall has demonstrated that shapely rear-end design no longer need impinge on carrying capacity.
With its rear seats in place, the Astra conceals a generous 500 litres of luggage beneath its load cover but drop the rear seats and cargo space potential increases to more than three times that volume.
Thanks to smart engineering, converting the car from people carrying to load lugging couldn’t be easier – just a tap sends the luggage compartment cover into a cassette that can be stored under the floor and the touch of a button is all that’s needed to fold the seatbacks forward and out of the way. An optional adjustable bar system also allows the luggage floor to be divided up for easier stowage.
As a result, the Sport Tourer makes a strong case as a best-of-both-worlds model for customers seeking to combine stylish transport with practicality – and it speaks volumes for Vauxhall’s design expertise that all three of the storage features on the Astra have been used by Jaguar in the posh new estate version of the XF.
Sitting on lowered suspension, our SRi has been pretty good to drive, too, although the firm ride that promotes nimble handling can prove jarring at times over the poor surfaces of many British roads. In all other respects, comfort and convenience score high marks in an interior featuring cosy ambient lighting. On a more practical note, the hill-hold device that comes with the electronic parking brake is a boon in traffic jams.
For most of the six months the car has been with Fleet News, I’ve been disappointed by economy that has hovered around 47mpg, but significantly better returns have been recorded since total mileage topped the 11,500 mark. The computer reading reached 62mpg on one occasion after a gentle, 180-mile motorway run and my last two trips have resulted in averages of 52.5mpg – big improvements but still considerably down on claimed economy.
Could it be that the motor is finally approaching the ‘run in’ stage?