The Focus will need to be particularly good, as Vauxhall has a very strong offering here. Going by official figures, it already has the Ford beaten in the most important area for an estate – load capacity.
The new Astra estate has a wheelbase around 9cm longer than the outgoing model, and this provides up to 470 litres of load volume up to the rear seat top, which increases to a maximum of 1,550 litres with the seats folded. The Focus, by comparison, has 455 litres capacity with the rear seat up, and 1,439 litres when folded.
The Astra offers further storage options beneath the boot floor and in a side compartment, and buyers requiring even more loadspace may specify a £1,500 Versatility pack, which adds a sliding rear bench seat and foldable front passenger seat.
Talking of options, our test car was loaded with them, including the £1,000 leather pack with heated front seats, £500 driver control pack with cruise control and rear parking sensors, and a £650 sports pack.
That’s not to say the SXi’s standard equipment is poor – air-con, alloy wheels, front fog light and sports front seats are all included – but dealers are provided with plenty of opportunities to wring extra money out of buyers, as more than £4,000 can easily be added to the bill for all the driver aids and conveniences offered. This will push its price tag up almost to the level of some low-spec prestige competition.
However, the company has great confidence in its Astra estate in the UK where it will account for 9-10,000 registrations, with the 100bhp 1.7 CDTi the range best-seller.
Strengths:Spacious, long service intervals, 5-star Euro NCAP result
Weaknesses:Options will significantly raise the price...
Opportunity:...but strong portfolio of options means increased profit for dealers
Threat:New Focus estate on sale this month
The USP:Space is not sacrificed for style