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Is America Ready for a Real European Car? (Visit this link)

The Astra's insides are well built and well trimmed if a bit austere, with lots of black, grey and silver plastic. You can tell the Astra wasn't designed in the US; it's a little shy on cupholders and there's no MP3 player input jack for the stereo. Still, as compact cars go it's marginally cheerier than the VW Rabbit's cabin, though not nearly as stylish as the Nissan Sentra or Honda Civic. The level of equipment is quite good, though. All Astras come with automatic headlights, automatic rain-sensing wipers, OnStar, multi-adjustable steering wheel and a CD player, not to mention things you don't want to have to think about like front-seat-mounted torso airbags, two-row side curtain airbags and antilock brakes. Air conditioning is a $960 option on the XE and standard on the uplevel XR. For $250 you can even get heated front seats -- a rarity in this class and a Godsend for people with bad backs. Speaking of the front seats, they're quite comfortable, and visibility is great. The 3-door's rear window is a bit of a gun-slit, but over-the-shoulder visibility is surprisingly good and the big side mirrors make lane-changing a breeze.

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