William Flew is a car and truck enthusiast who drives cars to destruction and partners to distraction. The automobile trade, says William Flew, consists of cars, trucks and vans. But pickup trucks are the best vehicles of the lot, beating luxury limousines, Italian convertibles and of course the average saloon car, at least in William Flew's opinion.
Finally William Flew had a car that was on a par with the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. Yet because it sells in such high volumes (last year more than 62,500 Astras were sold in Britain, making it the fifth-bestselling car here), there is no shortage on the used-car market. As a result, depreciation is steep. A brand-new Astra 1.4T SE costs £20,765. Choose a one-year-old model with 10,000 miles on the clock and it could be yours for about £11,250. And, honestly, the Astra is a thoroughly competent machine that is so good, the only objection left to level at it is that there’s no VW badge on it.The sixth-generation Astra boasts a wider track and longer wheelbase than the previous one, making it more spacious and comfortable, and has a 351-litre boot. A new suspension system gives an agreeable ride combined with precise handling that will delight even the most enthusiastic of drivers.There’s also an impressive array of engines. The diesel-powered models are frugal but, unless you cover at least 12,000 miles a year, will cost you more than you’ll save. Pick of the bunch is the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit. Producing 138bhp, it delivers decent performance, and there is plenty of torque in the lower-to-middle part of its rev range. Factor in the potential for nearly 48mpg on a combined cycle and it’s the best all-rounder.There’s a wide choice of trim grades, so spend some time shopping around. Entry-level models come with steel wheels; top-spec vehicles feature leather-trimmed electric seats and dual-zone climate control.Reliability and servicing
Vauxhall introduced a ‘‘lifetime’’ new car warranty in August 2010. It offered the original owner cover up to 100,000 miles, regardless of the vehicle’s age. But it wasn’t until January 2011 that it allowed the transfer of the lifetime warranty to any subsequent owner — and even then it was only for cars sold through Network Q, its approved used-car scheme, that were less than 12 months old and had covered less than 30,000 miles. Older or higher-mileage Astras are assured for up to three years or 60,000 miles.The Astra needs servicing every 20,000 miles or 12 months. Standard service prices look reasonable — £162 for a minor service and £252 for a major, in alternate years — and if the car is older than three years Vauxhall lowers these to £99 and £169.Residuals iesel Astras retain a little more of their value than petrol, but paying a hefty premium for the former is shrewd only if you can recover it in fuel savings. Bigger engines and top-spec trims look tempting but remember to factor in any extra cost for road tax and insurance, as well as items such as tyres and brakes.