Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

The wide range of engines is kicked off by the 90bhp 1.4-litre model. With a 0-62mph time of 13.2 seconds, it's acceptable for buyers who spend most of their time in town and fuel consumption is a useful 46mpg, however it's outclassed on the motorway. The 1.6-litre offers similar performance but better punch while the 1.8-litre has more than enough performance for most.

Two turbocharged 2.0-litre offerings - with either 170bhp or 200bhp - give Astra the punch to take on hot hatches. The 2.0T was replaced by a 180bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre in late 2006 and the non-turbocharged 1.6-litre went from 105bhp to 115bhp.There's an equally strong diesel choice too with no fewer than three engine sizes and five power outputs - all of which deliver good economy.

The 1.3 CDTi (from mid 2005) has 90bhp and although it can feel stressed at times, it returns a good 58mpg. The 1.7 CDTi isn't a particularly refined engine, it's available with 80bhp or 100bhp but the 1.9 CDTi is smoother and more powerful - plus with 120bhp and 150bhp its as fast as the petrol models. Our choice would be the 150bhp version of the 1.9CDTi which offers strong performance but will return 50mpg (identical to the 120bhp version).

In late 2008 an ecoFLEX model with a 1.7 CDTi engine was introduced. This has 110bhp - 10bhp more than the standard 1.7-litre diesel, and yet thanks to engine management tweaks, emits 119g/km of CO2 and averages 63mpg.

The Astra estate seems to handle almost as well as the five-door Astra hatchback. The estate is a little heavier and has a longer wheelbase, but the steering is still precise - albeit with little feel - and the Astra estate always feels composed when pressing on. It corners with little body roll and settles down with little fuss following sudden direction changes.

Sophisticated electronic systems govern unruly behaviour on the road, with higher-spec cars offering ESP+ anti-skid control. Sporty SXi and SRi models have lowered suspension and quicker steering but whichever model you go for, all ride well.