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by Matt Brogan

European car buffs have handed the Vauxhall/Opel Astra its first major trophy last over night in Berlin, by winning the Golden Steering Wheel in the compact class. It is the most prestigious award issued by Auto Bild magazines group. This year’s election involved readers in 26 European countries, representing more than 40 million readers overall.

The all new Vauxhall/Opel Astra won by a comfortable margin, getting top marks in the engine, fuel consumption, chassis, braking, steering and driver assistance safety systems categories. Race drivers and technical experts ranked the Astra number one, awarding the Astra seven out of eight points while technical experts awarded the compact car five out of eight.

“This is terrific news and a real feather in our cap,” said Andy Gilson, Vauxhall’s Marketing Director. “Not only has the new Astra been shortlisted for the European Car of the Year, which we won last year with the Insignia, but it’s now taken an important award from an international jury of readers. And all before the car hits showrooms on December 11.”

The Golden Steering Wheel election is organised in two phases. In the first round, European readers voted for their favourite vehicles, selecting a total of 46 in six categories (small, compact, mid-upper, luxury, supersport and vans). Next, a panel of 50 experts including technicians, race drivers, chief editors and VIPs tested and judged the nominees on dynamics, comfort and quality. Racing drivers who participated in the voting, included two-time World Rally Champions Walter Röhrl and Isolde Holderied, and DTM pilots Mattias Ekström and Ralf Schumacher.

Vauxhall/Opel last won the Golden Steering Wheel in 2005 with the Zafira.