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Vauxhall Astra interior, tech and practicality

Comfort and visibility

Seat comfort in the Astra is generally impressive. There's a wide range of adjustment for front passengers and all models apart from entry-level Design cars include adjustable lumbar and under-thigh support for the driver. Even the rear passengers get a reasonable amount of passive lumbar support and aren't sat bolt upright like some hatchbacks.

Visibility out front and to the sides is unimpeded and the car's dimensions feel totally manageable on tighter urban roads. Like all rivals, rollover protection means the rear pillars are quite thick, so they do impact over-the-shoulder visibility. Parking should be easy, however, thanks to all-round sensors coming as standard and a 360º parking camera from GS Line trim and up.

Standard equipment

All Astras come well equipped. Design models come with 16-inch alloy wheels and LED exterior lighting, plus cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, climate control, all-round parking sensors, and auto lights, wipers and high beams. You get a pair of 10-inch screens – one for the driver's dials and one for the central infotainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

GS Line is the mid-range option, gaining desirable extras like adjustable lumbar and under-thigh support for the driver, as well as adaptive cruise control, a 360º parking camera, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and starting. There's also a contrast-colour black roof, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sporty body kit and tinted rear windows.

Ultimate is, as you'd expect, the pinnacle of the standard Astra lineup. You get 18-inch wheels and clever LED headlights with full beams that automatically adjust to avoid dazzling other motorists. Inside, there's a wireless charger for your phone, a driver's head-up display and an upgraded eight-speaker stereo. The cabin is upholstered in Alcantara suede and brightened up by a panoramic sunroof, while the front passenger also gets adjustable lumbar and under-thigh support to match the driver.

GSe is as close as the Astra gets to being a hot hatch, exclusively fitted with a 225hp plug-in-hybrid engine. It has most of the same equipment as Ultimate models, as well as a unique GSe body kit and 18-inch alloy wheels. There are also posh Koni suspension parts with frequency-selective damping for better handling and a 10mm ride-height drop, plus revised steering and stability control settings.

Infotainment and audio

There are few genuine complaints we can throw at the Astra's infotainment system. All cars get a modern-looking dual-screen setup in a pod that sweeps along the top of the dashboard. Every model also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are both still superior to any brand's built-in software, so we expect many buyers to simply use this function.

The techy parts behind the screens are shared with Peugeot and Citroen cars, so there are obvious visual similarities with those systems on the Vauxhall's front end. For the most part, menus are easy to understand and navigate, and the graphics on the driver's information screen behind the wheel aren't too fussy, so you can pick out important details quickly.

You'll find simple shortcut buttons beneath the screen to hop between functions and we're always pleased to see a proper volume knob for the stereo. More points are scored by the Astra's physical climate controls, which can be adjusted at a glance without faffing around in on-screen menus.

We were a bit disappointed, however, that our plug-in-hybrid test car didn't have buttons dedicated to controlling the car's energy use. Rivals give you proper controls to switch to EV-only mode, or to hold battery charge for later urban driving. The Astra does include these functions, but you have to go hunting through the infotainment system for them, which isn't very intuitive.

Rear seat space

If you're going to be carrying rear passengers regularly, the Astra makes a better choice than the Corsa hatch or even the Mokka small SUV – though the practicality focused Crossland is larger still.

With tall adults sat in front, you can just about fit another pair of tall adults in the rear, but they'll have almost no spare kneeroom to speak of. Rear headroom is reasonably good – better if you avoid the panoramic glass roof on Ultimate models – although taller passengers might find they have to bend their neck quite a bit to avoid the slightly low roofline as they step into the car.

As you'd expect, average rear-seat practicality translates to average practicality if you're ferrying kids in child seats. There's enough space to secure a seat in place – and enough to wrestle your offspring into it – but many similarly sized SUVs are easier thanks to their larger side doors and taller seat height, which means less bending over.

Boot space

With 422 litres of boot space, the Astra has one of the largest boots in the class. It's not just an impressive on-paper performance, either, with the space itself being square and having minimal intrusion from the side mouldings. You lose a little under-floor space on plug-in hybrid versions – dropping to 352 litres – but this compares favourably to other PHEV hatchbacks, which are often more compromised.

Loading the Astra is easy, too. The boot opening is wide and low, with only a small lip to lift heavy objects over, and no awkward intrusion from the brake light housings.

The Astra Sports Tourer estate is, as you'd expect, more practical still, with a 597-litre space that'll swallow big dogs or flat-pack furniture without fuss.

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