Fancy a flutter? We'd put money on this car being the surprise hit of the Astra range, and you don't need to be a diesel fan to fall for it.

Until now, Volkswagen was the only marque in the hatchback sector to produce a proper hot oil-burner, and its Pumpe Dί¿½se Golf became the most sought-after model in the German company's range. But now Vauxhall has developed this - the Astra 1.9 SRi CTDI.

Unfortunately, it doesn't hit the UK until the autumn, but the 150bhp Fiat-sourced, four-cylinder common-rail unit is going to have a big impact on the whole market. Although not as quiet as the Golf, the Astra is super-smooth - its lack of vibration is truly impressive.

As with its petrol relative, the turbocharged diesel has a linear power delivery with no hesitations or surges. Once mastered, the gearchange is clean, and the mid-range thrust of 315Nm is on tap from 2,000rpm.

This means the Vauxhall is every bit as capable and entertaining to drive as the 2.0-litre petrol when it comes to overtaking manoeuvres. Add in the long gearing (70mph equates to 2,000rpm in sixth), and you've got a deceptively quick car which can also eat up the motorway miles effortlessly.

The extra weight of the oil-burning lump up front has no detrimental effect on the handling, either, because each different model in the Astra range has its suspension specially tuned to compensate for the weight difference and achieve the best possible compromise.

Inside, driver comfort and practicality are good, but the layout won't give Golf designers sleepless nights. Prices have yet to be announced for this particular model, but the company has hinted that it will be ΂£1,000 more than the 100bhp diesel versions of the Astra. That's around ΂£1,500 less than the equivalent 140bhp Golf GT TDI.

And as the engine only needs servicing every 30,000 miles, emits just 151g/km of CO2, complies with Euro IV emissions regulations and tops 50mpg on the combined cycle, this Astra will have impressively low running costs for private and company users alike.