Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

Thanks to a lowered driving position the Sport Hatch feels racy from behind the wheel with sports seats plus there's good reach adjustment in the steering column. Unfortunately the button layout on the central console is somewhat haphazard with the air con controls placed low down making them tricky to see. On the plus side build quality is solid and there are some nice touches like the optional panoramic glass roof.

The 1.8 metre-square glass panel finishes in line with the front headrests and provides a totally uninterrupted view out. It's certainly impressive, especially at night and makes the cabin light and airy. It also features a sliding sunblind with two fold-out visors that acts like a conventional roof.

While the Sport Hatch is great on twisting roads thanks to the stiffened suspension, the trade-off is that the ride is not very forgiving and doesn't deal very well with rough roads. There can be vibration through the steering column too and on longer trips the three-door Astra lacks the comfort of the standard car. The seats are good however and offer decent side support while there's plenty of space for the driver and front passenger with road and wind noise levels kept low.

. It's quiet on the motorway and engine, road and wind noise is kept to a minimum. Rear legroom is acceptable for two adults, but headroom is a bit tight for taller passengers. There's a string of innovations to improve the feel of the cabin: a 'Panoramic' windscreen (see 'Other' in the image gallery) extends into the roof and lets extra light into the cabin.

Astra also uses audio technology that's currently rare, but likely to be standard on most cars within the next five years: Digital Radio - which gives CD quality and more stations - and an MP3 playing stereo (which virtually does away with the need for an autochanger - a £60 option). You can even have 'Twin Audio', which allows the front passengers to listen to the radio, whist the rear passengers listen to a CD through headphones.