Thunder from lightening

Vauxhall has announced details of its new Astra, before its unveiling at next month's Frankfurt Show. Longer, roomier, safer and more fuel-frugal than the model it replaces, it will also be shown at the London Motor Show in October, before sales start next spring.

The new hatchback, to be built in Britain, will boast the best fuel figures in its class: Vauxhall claims up to 10 per cent better than the current model. There are six four-cylinder petrol engines in the range, and two turbodiesels.

A longer body gives more cabin space, but the use of more aluminium and magnesium alloy helps reduce the car's total mass, thereby improving fuel economy. The new model gets revised suspension, to try to give the car some bumpy-road poise.

Safety is also improved: the optional anti-lock brakes are more powerful, the air-bags are full size (rather than the less effective "Euro" bags) and there are three, three-point seatbelts in the rear. Vectra-like collapsible pedals - which cut down foot and leg injuries in accidents - and a totally zinc galvanised body are other Astra features.

Prices will be announcednext spring. You can expect a modest rise on today's prices of just over pounds 11,000.

Gavin Green

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