I've owned my Astra for three months now and still love it. I have the 5-speed manual transmission, which is fun to drive. It's fuel-efficient; I have averaged about 30.5 mpg between fill-ups. It's a beautiful car with a huge sunroof, imported directly from Europe, where it is sold as an Opel /Vauxhall Astra. OK, it is deficient in the cupholders and needs an aux-in port for the iPod. But it's a sporty and beautiful car.
This car is a dream to drive. It features taut steering, very powerful ABS braking (even on wet roads), decent acceleration (sure, it's no Ferrari!), and simply amazing gas mileage: mine averages 34/35 mpg on highways (I use Texaco 87 gasoline and Castrol Edge 5W-30 synthetic oil) even at 75 mph! It feels solid and well-built all around and is very comfortable. Mine is a manual and the only thing I'd change is adding a 6th gear (it'd make for even better fuel economy on highways by lowering rpm). It does get a bit noisy at higher speeds (65 mph and above), but it's nothing unbearable for me (my wife is much noisier!). The only downside to the taut shocks is that the ride gets somewhat bumpy on rough roads (especially on the backseats), but you can't have it all in life. Overall, it's an amazing car. GM should simply be ashamed of themselves for not adequately marketing and advertising this car back in 2008 and 2009. It breaks my heart to see all those UGLY Nissan Versas, Toyota Matrixs, Honda Fits and all the Mazdas out there (I hate them!), and to see almost NO Astras around. Everlasting shame on GM and all the idiots who run it (they deserve all the bad karma they get). Thank God for the Astra, and thank you OPEL for designing and building this wonderful car!
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.