Not so long ago, company drivers chose estate cars because box-on-wheels shaping allowed maximum load versatility.
But things are changing fast as business users are starting to appreciate that transport designed for practicality can also have the kerbside appeal that’s good for promoting trade.
After decades of producing workhorses that were worthy but purposeful in appearance, Vauxhall signalled a dramatic switch with a smooth, flowing silhouette for the Insignia - and now its next load-lugger car achieves even greater visual impact with surprisingly dashing lines.
In its latest guise, the Astra discards plain-Jane estate lineage for Sport Tourer, a designation that reflects the manufacturer’s ambitions to widen the appeal of the brand to the point of taking on the compact premium products that are winning increasing popularity in the corporate sector.
Few could dispute that the transformation has been a success in turning a humble vehicle into a car with attitude. Better still, the sleek styling is backed up with remarkable interior packaging that somehow defies logic by creating Insignia-like load potential in more compact overall dimensions.
Developed by engineers based in Britain, the layout features increased load length, flat wall linings and a flat floor capable of swallowing up to 1,550 litres of cargo when the rear seat cushions are folded against the back of the front seats.
The arrangement includes a luggage compartment cover that slides up and out of the way to provide easier access to the load platform - and a simple tap sends it rolling up into a cassette holder that fits under the cargo area when a luggage cover is not needed.
On our SRi, loading convenience is extended still further by a new feature that allows either section of the split rear seat backrest to be dropped flat at the touch of a button.
Such innovative detailing results in a much improved, higher-grade product that is as pleasing in use as it is attractive to look at. And with lowered suspension and a firmer ride, the SRi goes a long way to rewarding the discerning driver with sharper steering response and crisp handling characteristics.
With more than 3,000 miles behind it, our car’s engine still feels tight and average fuel economy continues to be disappointing when compared with the claimed figure of 62.8mpg.