I've owned this car for just over 6 months. I'm from Europe and so I already knew the Astra well. It's a very solid car in every way. On average, I get 34mpg out of mine even at 75mph on the highway. The car is very quiet and gets slightly noisy only at speeds above 65mph (but nothing unbearable, really). It's made of very high-quality materials, inside and outside, and it makes for a very comfortable ride even on long trips. The handling, braking and steering are simply superb and unmatched for a compact car in this price range. The shocks are a bit stiff, especially at the back and on rough roads, but that's the price you pay for stability. As far as reliability, I haven't had a single issue with mine so far. Overall, I'm very satisfied with this car and would highly recommend it to anyone who can appreciate a truly European ride. Shame on GM for not marketing and advertising this car adequately.
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.
I absolutely love this car - after buying it I like it even better than I thought that I would. I purchased a 3-door, with the 5-speed manual transmission, optional upgraded stereo (Optra CD-40, I think it is called) with the 6-disc CD changer and the optional 5 spoke 18-inch tires and wheels. The performance, ride, handling, ergonomics, controls, exterior styling, etc. are excellent. I especially like the automatic rain sensing wipers, the electronic turn signal and wiper controls and all of the data and settings available via the display screen and computer controls (which come with the upgraded stereo). Now that it has turned cold the heated mirrors are a nice touch as well. The car has a lot of features for its price range. Even though it is geared low for performance, I have averaged 32 mpg over the 3,000 miles that I have had the car. Plus the car drives like a go-cart around the corners, has the smoothest shifting manual transmission that I have driven (I've been driving manual transmission cars for over 34 years now) and has excellent room inside.