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Old stager is no fuel.

Byline: By Bill McCarthy

Giving a facelift to an old model doesn't always work - just look at some Hollywood stars. But a dash of Italian styling by Bertone gives Vauxhall's old stager a look more associated with Milan than Luton.

That's just as well because the Astra has more models than an Italian catwalk and it takes something special to make one stand out.

The sexed-up Coupe does that with style and is an elegant addition to the stable.

It is also a good drive, and thanks to the extra LPG gas tank in the test car, has more range than the space shuttle.

Well the space shuttle analogy might be a slight exaggeration, but it certainly has outstanding range, so if you're too tight and (or) too lazy to keep going to the petrol station, this really will suit.

Press a button and watch as the nearly exhausted fuel gauge rises like a balloon so you can keep your wallet or purse firmly in your pocket where it belongs.

Added to this you'll get the company car tax bonuses because of low emissions for LPG, which is also around 50 per cent cheaper than petrol. Gas is also exempt from congestion charges in London.

There are drawbacks. The extra fuel tank sits in the well where the spare wheel would be. That is now secured in the main part of the boot and cuts the load carrying capacity dramatically. It is also expensive, but the Chancellor seems to like all things green so conversions are subsidised by the Government.

If the exterior is flashy, the interior is functional. I was not overimpressed with the plastic look of the central dash, which is only saved by the neat-looking dials with their blue background.

However the cabin has a well-made feel to it and carries four occupants in comfort.

The seats are firm but comfortable, the driving position is good, but all round vision is only so-so.

On the road the Astra is a very refined drive. Handling is impeccable thanks to the lowered and stiffened suspension, the steering is crisp and the gearbox precise.

Performance from the 1.8 16-valve engine is also lively. It completes the 0-60mph sprint in 9.5 seconds and has a top speed of 127 mph. This is only marginally affected by the switch to gas power. On hill starts and pulling away at junctions I found it needed slightly more revs, but other than that there was little between them.

This top end Elegance model also boasts air conditioning, satellite navigation, alloy wheels, steering wheel mounted audio controls and Xenon headlights.

Safety and security is comprehensive with twin airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, alarm and deadlocks as standard.

Although now long in the tooth, the coupe gives the Astra range a touch of youthful panache.

Facts and figures

Make: Vauxhall

Model: Astra Coupe 1.8 16v Dualfuel

Price: pounds 17,390

Mechanical: 116bhp, 1,796cc injected, 16v dualfuel petrol/LPG driving front wheels via 5-spd manual transmission

Max speed: 127mph

0-62mph: 9.5secs

Combined mpg: 27.5mpg

Insurance group: 9

CO2 emissions: 166g/km

BiK rating: 17%

Warranty: 3 years/ 60,000 miles; 6 years anti-rust
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 19, 2003
Words:532
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