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The 2016 Opel/Vauxhall Astra K has been officially unveiled ahead of its Frankfurt Motor Show debut in September – GM’s challenger in the cutthroat European family hatchback sector marches into its 11th generation with sharper looks, new technology and a huge weight off its shoulders.

How much weight? As much as 200 kg depending on model and trim, and even the smallest difference model-to-model from the outgoing Astra is at least 120 kg. The bodyshell itself is 20% lighter than before (at 280 kg), and the use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels, more compact subframes and lighter front and rear axles lopped off another 50 kg. As such, the new Astra promises to be more agile and more comfortable than its predecessor.

Coupled to that are a range of new engines, beginning with the 1.6 litre CDTi turbodiesel with a variety of outputs starting from 95 hp. On the petrol side sits a 1.0 litre ECOTEC direct-injected turbo three-pot that delivers 105 hp; moving up, you’ll find a 1.4 litre version with 145 hp. Other engines will be made available with up to 200 hp on tap.

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Inspired by the Monza concept from Frankfurt 2013, the styling of the new Astra is more defined than before. The side profile and the hockey stick-like swoosh along the flanks are evolutions of the current car, but there’s a hint of crispness brought along by sharper arrow-shaped headlights that flow into the grille (a growing trend among German brands, it seems), as well as a rising character line that cuts across the door handles.

A defining characteristic is a cut in the C-pillar (as on the Adam) that visually separates the body from the cant rails, giving the illusion of a floating roof. At the rear, slim L-shaped tail lights are joined by a line just above the large Blitz/Griffin badge.

Despite being smaller than before – nearly five centimetres shorter at 4.37 m and 2.6 cm lower at 1.46 m – Opel claims the new Astra is more spacious. Rear passengers will enjoy 35 mm more legroom thanks to improved packaging and newly-designed seats, even though the wheelbase has actually had two centimetres chopped off. The distance between the front and rear seats has also been increased.

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The design of the interior is markedly different from the current Astra, with a more horizontal layout characterised by newer Opels such as the Adam and Corsa, as well as reduced switchgear; the latter in particular is a sea-change from the button-fest that existed before.

A large colour touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard is linked to a new-generation IntelliLink infotainment system that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. OnStar, GM’s erstwhile US-only 24/7 concierge and emergency service, also makes its debut in Europe in the new Astra, bringing with it 4G LTE connectivity to serve as a WiFi hotspot.

Safety has also been raised with the advent of the K generation. IntelliLux matrix LED headlights are optional – it utilises 16 LEDs and works with the Opel Eye front camera to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic on high beam. Also available are Forward Collision Alert with Collision Imminent Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Assist, Advanced Park Assist and Side Blind Spot Alert.