New Astra fits the bill very nicely

MHDE'Vauxhall Astra
MHDE'Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall is hoping to increase its presence in the compact estate sector with the latest Astra Sports Tourer.

MPVs and 4x4s might offer more interesting options for family buyers but the solid, practical virtues of a good estate are not to be under-estimated.

This estate line-up starts with a modest 100PS petrol 1.4, beyond which there’s a 1.6-litre petrol with 115PS. For diesel drivers, the range starts with a 95PS 1.3-litre CDTi ecoFLEX model, but most customers choose the 1.7-litre CDTi unit, offered with either 110 or 130PS. Beyond that, there’s a 165PS 2.0 CDTi powerplant or, at the top of the range, a 195PS BiTurbo 2.0 CDTi.

Like the rest of the Astra Sports Tourer, bar the bit behind the rear wheels, the suspension is shared with the Astra hatchback. Traditionally, the Astra has had a simple torsen beam suspension at the rear end while rivals like the Focus and Golf used more advanced fully-independent set-ups. Today’s Astra, however, uses a Watt’s linkage rear suspension that helps distribute cornering forces more effectively than a conventional torsion beam while retaining the cost and space saving advantages.

The improved Astra Sport Tourer we’re looking at here get a smarter front grille, with a repositioned logo-bar in the upper section and a re-styled lower section too. Neater front indicator lamps and a fresh design of fog lamp complete the front-end revisions. The wheelbase of this estate variant is identical to that of the Astra hatch, so the extra capacity that this model gains inside is all the product of an extension to the rear overhang. The maximum load length rises by 28mm compared with the five-door car to 1835mm and the 500-litre volume is a 30-litre improvement. So the Sports Tourer Astra gives you extra space -but we sort of knew it would. What are the other benefits?

The boot has flat sides making it easy to slide bulky items in and higher specification versions of the Sports Tourer are fitted with the FlexFold seating system. This allows both sections of the 60:40 split rear bench to be folded down at the touch of a button inside the boot. It means that you don’t have to traipse around to the back doors to fold the seats before loading. With all of the rear seats folded down, the Sports Tourer gains a flat load floor and a total capacity of 1,550 litres.

With all the other options facing family car buyers in the modern marketplace, the estate car is sometimes overlooked. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting option next to the plethora of tough-looking compact 4x4s and MPVs with their elaborate seating arrangements but it is reassuringly simple in what it offers and surprisingly practical too. Vauxhall’s improved Astra Sports Tourer seems to fit the bill very nicely.

It is just an Astra hatchback with an extended rear and a few other practical features but that’s precisely what some buyers will want in a car.