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The Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra have been fighting it out at the top of the company car hatchback market for years now and although the Focus has historically taken the largest share of sales, the seventh-generation Astra (launched last year) moves the game forwards and places Vauxhall's best-seller back in contention for top spot.
Here we're testing the new Astra in it's cleanest and most economical guise, there's a 1.6-litre diesel under the bonnet combined with the firms ecoFLEX technology which adds start/stop, low rolling resistance tyres and lightweight materials to get the best CO2 possible.
When it comes to drivability and power, there are more versatile engines in the Astra line-up. That said, the 108hp diesel here is smooth and for the most part, very refined. It prefers a relaxed driving style and can accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds officially. Mated to the engine is a well-matched six-speed manual while the 300Nm of torque offers enough pull when overtaking.
In the corners the car is composed and surefooted, although lacks any real flair and the steering is well-weighted. Some 200kg lighter than the model it replaced, the Astra feels more nimble on the roads too, especially around town.
Our test car is fitted with upgraded 17-inch alloys (£395) which pushes CO2 emissions from the headlining 88g/km up to 91g/km, while fuel economy drops by just 2mpg to an average combined figure of 83.1mpg. Although there's little compromise on running costs and they look more distinctive, ride quality suffers a little as a result.
As well as being lighter than the previous generation, the Astra is bigger too and interior roominess is much improved. There's plenty of space for all occupants and ample storage options on offer for your personal belongings while on the move, boot space is a fraction bigger than the Focus too at 370 litres.
Inside the latest Astra has took a huge leap forwards in terms of interior quality and overall refinement, the cabin is a much more pleasurable place to be and the technology on offer is far more advanced and easier to navigate around too.
There's a couple of cheaper plastics lurking still, though, but for the most part fit and finish is very good, especially when you consider the £18,140 P11D price.
Tech Line is the firm's company car specific trim and there's a whole lot of kit on offer like satnav, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, an eight-inch colour touchscreen system, automatic lights, DAB radio and Bluetooth as standard.
One of the options fitted to our test car that we would recommend considering is the firm's new connectivity service called Onstar for £395 which includes built-in Wi-Fi and an automatic crash response which will pinpoint the cars location and the emergency services if the airbags are deployed.
Residual values are strong for this Astra at 32.7%, beating its mainstream rivals, while whole-life costs of 39.4p are lower than the comparable Golf and Focus that achieve 44.2p and 49p respectfully.
Vauxhall Astra Tech Line 1.6CDTI 110 Ecoflex
|Model price range: £15,295 - £23,520|
|Residual value: 32.67%|
|Service, maintenance and repair: £1352|
|Vehicle Excise Duty: £0|
|National insurance: £1514|
|Cost per mile: 39.35p|
|Fuel consumption: 83.1mpg|
|CO2 (BIK band): 91g/km (18%)|
|BIK 20/40% per month: £54/£109|
|Boot space: 370 litres|
|Engine size/power: 1598cc/108hp|
Low running and whole-life cost figures make a strong case for this Astra, even if the engine is a little underpowered and interior quality doesn't quite match the competition - it's a small compromise for the savings on offer in BIK and at the pumps.