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ST’s another shining star for Astra range 

VAUXHALL’S new Astra beat all-comers last year when it was crowned Scottish Car of the Year.

And that made it a hat-trick of trophies for the model which was also judged as best Family Car and Eco Car by myself and fellow members of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers.

The hatchback is proving to be a popular model and the arrival of an estate version should boost Astra sales even further.

I’ve just spent a few days with the Sports Tourer and reckon it has the credentials to go toe-to-toe with its compact estate rivals.

It looks good with a new streamline design – although not quite as nice as its fab-looking hatchback sibling.

The ST is much the same size as the previous model but offers more space for driver, passengers and luggage.

There’s 26 millimetres additional headroom up front while rear passengers get 28mm more legroom.

And if you’re looking to cater for small children the rear seat can accommodate three child seats.

The load area is fairly large at 540 litres, extending to 1,630 litres with the rear seats flat-folded, and a low sill allows easy loading.

The estate is 190kg lighter than the outgoing model and good news for buyers is that it is up to £1,870 less expensive with on-the-road prices starting at £16,585.

Trim levels are Design, Tech Line, SRi and Elite, with Nav versions of the SRi and Elite also available.

The Astra ST also offers a high level of standard equipment.

On entry-level Design models this includes cruise control with speed limiter, auto lights function, electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors, adjustable steering column and steering wheel mounted audio controls, IntelliLink system with smartphone connection, seven-inch colour touch-screen Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, rear spoiler and black roof rails.

The test model was an SRI Nav with further spec including 17-inch five-spoke alloys, front fog lights, silver-coloured roof rails, leather covered steering wheel, sports-style front seats, sport switch, six speakers, OnStar connectivity, Navi 900 IntelliLink system with fully-integrated European sat nav and eight-inch colour touch-screen.

There’s also a driving assistance pack which features forward camera system, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, forward collision alert with automatic city emergency braking.

The Astra features latest-generation Vauxhall engines, offering a wide choice of efficient diesel and petrol units.

My model featured the smallest engine available – a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol.

And my advice to motorists who wouldn’t consider an engine of this size is – give it a try.

This 105ps turbo unit proved to be super efficient, never lacking for power going up and down a slick five-speed manual gearbox.

It was surprisingly punchy and boasts a zero to 60mph sprint time of 11 seconds and top speed of 121mph.

The ST cruised smoothly on the motorway and didn’t disappoint on ride and handling on some bumpy minor roads.

Road grip was good while cornering at speed with little body lean.

And a big plus for buyers opting for this stop/start ecoFlex engine is the impressive fuel economy figures of 62.8mpg combined, 53.3mpg urban and 70.6mpg extra urban, with 103g/km CO2 emissions.

Priced at £20,585, I reckon this latest Astra Sports Tourer offers super value.

Build quality is excellent, inside and out – and that’s down to the workers at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port manufacturing plant in Cheshire who fought off competition from across Europe to build the new car.