An iron fist in a velvet glove

From Docile to Missile

This is the mighty 160PS/350Nm BiTurbo version of the award-winning Astra. It's an engine with a relaxed, softly metallic thrum, and is tractable and well-behaved, delivering power and economy smoothly and quietly. It will pootle round town and is a doddle to park, with or without electronic assistance. However, if you press the loud pedal and stretch its legs, it changes from docile to missile – the BiTurbo is an immense engine. It doesn’t matter what gear you’re in, it pulls like a steam train. Its party trick, with now 5000 miles on the clock, is to accelerate in 5 th gear from 20 mph to ‘a lot’ in one seamless surge of brute strength as that 350Nm of torque fires you towards the horizon. 6 th gear motorway cruising is a serene and relaxing experience; A483 numpties are dispatched with an ease that’s borderline funny.

And if there’s fun to be had, the ‘Sport’ button adds a whole new epic and surprising dynamic to the driving experience, with quicker accelerator response and meatier steering. It doesn't add any power, it just lets you tap into what's there a whole lot quicker. A word of warning, though - drive like a hooligan and the overall average of well over 50mpg will be a distant memory.

In fact, ‘drive it like you stole it’ isn’t what the BiTurbo is all about. It’s more of a Q-car, a mighty fist wrapped in a velvet glove. The interior is a nice place to be, and over the first few months of its life the Winter Pack has proven to be worth every penny. Heated front seats are a wonderful indulgence and the similarly warmed steering wheel is brilliant. The seats are comfortable and supportive, with good rear legroom (so I’m told) and a thumpingly loud hi-fi system with DAB. Now that warmer days are here, the sunroof is proving to be a useful addition, with the lighter headlining bringing a sense of airiness.

YFL is packed with toys such as Lane Keep Assist, Cruise Control and a reversing camera, along with things that I’d really miss if I didn’t have them - AutoPark is a consistently effective way to park the car when either space is tight or I can’t be bothered with all that tedious turning round. The Speed Limit Recognition system is a boon, firing up a clear version of the sign as you pass it. The SatNav is superb and coupled with Destination Download from the OnStar system, foolproof.

Over the first 5000 miles nothing has gone wrong, nothing rattles and with a daily Buckley > Rhostyllen commute YFL has averaged 54mpg, while a long run to Leeds and back in heavy motorway traffic returned 73mpg!

It will soon be time to swap into something else, but it will struggle to match YFL... mind you, New Insignia isn't far off...

Astra Sri Nav 1.6 CDTi BiTurbo (160) CX66 YFL

Options fitted: Sovereign Silver metallic paint, Winter Pack (heated front seats & steering wheel), Parking Pack (Fr & Rear sensors, autopark), Upgraded 19” BiColour alloys, Power Bar with phone holder, Deep tinted rear windows, Tilt & Slide sunroof

Registered: 31/10/2016

160PS @4000rpm/ 350Nm @ 1500-2250rpm

Official Fuel consumption, combined 68.9 mpg - Actual Fuel consumption, since new 54.7 mpg