Pros: Fuel economy, handling, braking, cornering, unique European look, overall quality, price, safety features (abs, 6 airbags, traction control, etc.), comfy front seats, roomy cargo area, overall value. Cons: Leisurely acceleration (0-60 mph in just over 10 seconds with a manual transmission), somewhat noisy cabin over 65mph, cramped backseats for adults taller than 5'11", confusing radio controls and board computer operation (need to be studied carefully before using them becomes second nature), no automaker standing behind the car (once 36K miles warranty is gone) since Saturn no longer exists. Great car for singles or couples (with only 1-2 kids). Great for commutes but only OK for long trips (once again, it's pretty noisy over 65mph). Great gas saver. Solid German quality all around. Perfect for practical, level-headed drivers looking for a fun drive, too. NOT for speed demons, thrill-seekers and insecure people. Not for big people who require a ton of space and who use their car as a restaurant. Get used to the fact that hotheads/losers (usually driving Mazda's, Mitsubishi's and pickups) will constantly be racing you at traffic lights (out of envy maybe?) and on freeways, and you WON'T be winning any contests (other than the higher IQ contest and the most gas saved...). Enjoy your Astra!
Overall, it's been a dependable car and for a simple way to get to and from work, it does the job well. However, it's just missing a truly fun and entertaining essence that all cars should have.
We recently purchased a 2008 Astra XE as a replacement for our 1999 SW1. We also own a 2000 SL1 manual and 2001 SL2 which my teenage sons drive. We had looked at the Astra in 2008 and did our research. As most reviews indicated, the lack of and placement of cupholders is an inconvienence. Also, a premium sound system with an input jack and XM radio would have been nice. Upgrading to the XR gives you a few more features and steering wheel controls but does not change the basic deficiencies noted. However, the Astra compares well with the SL2 only with a bit more power and European feel. We averaged 32 mpg on a recent trip to the ocean, slightly less than the S series obtained in a similar trip. The European feel takes a bit getting used to but with it you get a tighter suspension and brakes, quicker steering, and tighter turning radius. And with only 18,000 sold in the US, you'll have a unique vehicle. If you loved the S series and miss its passing, this is as close as you will come to reliving the experience.