The new Astra is a big car for GM, and this, the 123bhp 1.7-litre diesel Astra, feels like... a big car. On the road, I mean. This is our first shot in an oil-burning Astra, and it devours motorways like a big premium saloon. The ride is nicely judged for long-distance schlepping, feeling far longer of wheelbase than the Astra's modest footprint suggests.
Problem is, it feels like a big car when you get off the motorway too. Chuck the Astra about and, though it grips like a Velcro limpet, it isn't as light-footed as, say, the Focus, its reactions slightly more benign.
The mid-spec turbodiesel (a 104bhp version of the same engine is available) is similarly relaxed. There's a good slap of torque once you get it spinning, but below 2,000rpm or so it heaves against the weight of the Astra, revving a little less cleanly and generally making a bit more noise than the silkier French and VW diesels.
Hardly a problem if you spend your time on the M-roads, where the Astra's long gearing scores points for economy and emissions: Vauxhall quotes 124g/km of CO2 and 60mpg (identical figures to the less powerful diesel), and we topped 50mpg on our test run. This is a fine cross-country cruiser, but if you want your diesel Astra with a little added vim, it's worth saving up for the range-topping 158bhp 2.0-litre unit, which is only marginally thirstier but should big-up the entertainment with it.