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Vauxhall Astra Mk II (1984-93)

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  • 80 style might be dated to some
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    8 Reviews
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      29.07.2010 20:26
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      A good family car

      Vauxhall have been producing the Astra since 1979 as a mid sized family runabout. I had been recommended to try and Astra several times by friends but always declined on the grounds that I preferred a smaller hatchback. I agreed to test drive an Astra 5 door hatchback and I could not believe how smooth the drive was and as the car was from a used car dealer I trust (yes, good used car dealers exist!) I bought it. There are numerous second hand Astras on the market and since used small cars seem to have become thinner on the ground in my area they are a popular choice, prices vary widely depending on age and condition and the area of the country you are buying from. I owned a year 2001 1.4l petrol model for just over a year.

      When it comes to the driver experience, I initially found it really hard to get used to the gearstick as you need to pull the stick up and drag it to the left to reverse which is odd. A lot of the controls were difficult to find, it took me ages to find the switch for the inside light. Apart from the controls being non intuitive there were no real niggles when driving except the fact that the side windows steamed up far too easily even with the fan directed to blow onto them which is a pain if you do not have someone in the passenger seat to wipe the window clear on that side for you.

      One of the things that I liked so much about my Astra was the fact that both front and rear seat passengers had a lot of room to move around. The seats are nice and comfortable and it is a good car to use if you are transporting adult sized teenager around as they will have a lot of leg room. The large boot space makes it an ideal car for the family as the boot will easily stow a lot of luggage for a week away.

      The Astra excels on the motorway where it sits happily at 70mph even going up the hills on the M90 without any juddering. The car feels really smooth on long straight roads and it is here that it handles the best where it feels nice and sturdy. If anyone knows the length of the M90 just south of Perth where you go down a steep slope while going round a long bend you will know that it can feel quite precarious in certain cars but I felt much more secure in my Astra here than in previous small hatchbacks.

      I spend a lot of my time on small country roads and I was happy enough with the handling here, the Astra takes corners well and the car feels nice and sturdy at all times. It's the same driving in town, the car is happy enough in a stop start environment of busy traffic but fuel economy really suffers here. I was surprised at how easy I found the Astra to park and manoeuvre i.e. 3 point turns compared to my usual small hatchback.

      Talking about money now and the Astra was surprisingly cheap to insure, exactly the same price as a small hatchback would have been. Being a 1.4 engine I also qualified for the cheapest band of road tax. The biggest downside for me was the high fuel consumption, I probably used about twice the fuel that I currently use in a fiesta and I was fed up of spending a fortune on petrol.

      I enjoyed my year of Astra ownership because of the good driving experience, the Astra is a good all round performer and I never had any mechanical problems at all and routine maintenance is easy as the car is so common. My Astra was written off when it was hit by a gritter and I was really sad to say goodbye to it.

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        21.02.2004 12:38
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        • "80 style might be dated to some"

        The Vauxhall Astra GTE. *********************** (GM) & Vauxhall Policy - 1970's. ******************************** General Motors own Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Germany which is why their cars are so similar.It is a policy known as badge-egineering where two subsiduary companies both produce the same car under different names i.e. Ford Fiesta/Mazda 131 or Vauxhall Nova/Opel Corsa. Before 1975 GM was content to let Vauxhall and Opel do their own thing but after advice from GM they began work on the Cavalier/Ascona and Chevette(Shuv it)/Kadett range,both being launched in 1975/76.It may seem hard to believe now but the humble 'Shuv it' was the car that pulled Vauxhall through the lean and bad years of the mid to late 70s.Apart from the mad 'rally-bred' HS and HSR models with the OHC 2300cc engine,the Chevette came with an old 1256cc OHV engine and had rear-wheel drive which made it seem dated when compared to the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Polo from Volkswagen which were both front wheel drive and had transverse-mounted engines like the Mini. I personally love rear-wheel drive cars and believe that the front wheels of a car should be left to steer while the rear ones drive.When the front wheels lose grip you lose the ability to steer and also traction.Front wheel drive cars suffer predominantly from understeer - yes,I know that Capris,for example,suffer from understeer aswell but that is easily converted,with a bootful of throttle,to power-on oversteer - try that with your FWD car,in fact don't just in case someone does after reading this.If you give it a bootful of throttle with your FWD you WILL end up
        in the hedgerow. Front wheel drive - pros and cons. ********************************** The subject of suspension geometry is long and somewhat boring,if you're not really interested.Many factors are involved in the way a car handles so this is a simplistic description but here goes. Understeer occurs when you enter a corner too fast and the front wheels lose their grip,the car does not turn-in quickly enough and you find you have to apply more steering lock to turn the corner or end up going straight on.This is because the front wheels lose traction and with it the ability to steer but if you lift-off the throttle the front end will come back under control.This makes for a predictable and safe handling car. Whereas oversteer occurs when the rear wheels lose grip and either slide outwards or in the case of a powerful RWD car the wheels try to overtake the front.As the approach to this is to steer-into the slide or apply 'opposite lock' it depends much more on driver skill to handle this situation although if you can control this sort of car then you will find that you can corner faster and harder than with a FWD car. Ask yourself why Formula 1 cars are still RWD instead of FWD or 4WD. This is a basic description and if I find a review where I can explain the ins and outs of suspension,road-holding and handling more fully then I will(I bet you can't wait,can you - no need to comment!!) The other advantage of FWD is that with the engine and g/box placed 'east-west' within the engine bay or 'transverse' as opposed to 'in-line' or 'north-south' as in older cars there is a lot of space to be gained - there is no transmission tunnel for the g/box and propshaft,no space needed for a final drive at the rear and the engine bay can
        be shorter.Lift the bonnet on any modern car,say a Fiesta,Focus,Nova,Vectra,Mondeo etc you'll will see the engine going 'transverse' whereas with most BMW's(the ultimate driving machines apparently) or a Sierra,Cortina or Capri the engine and g/box are 'in-line'. Enter the Astra. **************** As an answer for the front wheel drive small family market Vauxhall/Opel released the Astra/Kadett model in 1979 and it was a sucsess from the word go.With the Volkswagen Golf/Polo and Ford Fiesta being launched some years previous to the Astra Vauxhall/Opel had extra time to design their first FWD and the chance to study their rivals to further develop and refine the Astra,taking a MKI Volkswagen Golf chassis and running it with their own engine and running gear to gain further insight into the dynamics of FWD(This sort of thing is not uncommon among car manufacturers,when developing the new 105E Anglia,Ford bought a Mini and on taking it apart discovered that BMC were building the car at a loss,losing almost £30 per car and so decided on a cheaper and more traditional layout for their Anglia). With engines ranging from a 1200cc OHV offering 55bhp to the 1800 fuel-injected 113bhp OHC and a 3-door,5-door and estate body there was a car to suit all needs.It featured Macpherson struts and an anti-roll bar upfront and semi-independant trailing link with anti-roll bar(on larger engined models,GTE inc.) at the rear while having rack and pinion steering,usually without power assistance accept as an option on later higher-spec models but for such a light car it is hardly necessary as without it,it makes for positive steering with good feedback from the front wheels.There is a te
        ndancy ,especially with the MKII GTE's,for lift-off oversteer,which means that if you were to come into a roundabout too hard and suddenly let off the throttle then the rear end tends to break lose and slide out which may catch people by suprise,it seems mainly due to the high back end on these cars and the size of car as the neither the Cavalier nor the Nova seem to suffer this problem - Nova owners may correct me as I've never owned one and had but a few shots of my brother's 1.2 Merit - what's this an understeering FWD car exhibiting oversteer which defies all that I said earlier about FWD cars and their inherent tendancy towards understeer - I said suspension geometry wasn't simple!!.The rather slab-sidded,angular looking MKI was superceded by the MKII in 1984/85. GTE. **** The MKI Astra GTE was born to beat the opposition,the 1300S Fiesta(plus the later XR2),Escort XR3 and the Volkswagen Golf GTI,in particular.The early eighties saw the emergance of the 'hothatch' which were basic small family models with mildy tuned engines,suspension and brakes all packaged with lots of plastic add-ons and eye catching graphics,'go-faster'stripes etc designed to appeal to the younger market,with the practicality of the base family model but the sportier lay out they replaced the older Truimph Spitfire/Stag,MGB GT open top sports car style and with the loud styling seemed to complement their era rather nicely,though they are very much responsible for the start of the ever-upward spirralling insurance cost we live with today. Launched in 1983,the MKI Astra GTE had the 1796cc OHC 8 valve 18SE engine which produced a r
        espectable 113bhp@5800rpm and 111lbft@4800rpm giving it a 0-60 time of 9.5secs and a top speed of 116mph and with all the extra development time for both the Astra itself and the GTE model,in particular, made for a harmonious engine/chassis package.Sporting a Bosch LE-Jetronic injection system and breakerless ignition to help keep it all in time put it beyond the XR's by Ford.With vented disc brakes on the front and rear drums the braking set up was adequate without being revolutionary. As befitting an early '80s hothatch the 3-door bodyshell recieved a front valance spoiler,plastic wheelarch extensions,side-sills,rear hatch and valance spoilers and lots of GTE badges to prove it's obvious 'boy racer' appeal but all this did make for an attractive looking car. When I passed my driving test,back in 1990,these cars were everywhere but nowadays are a rare sight on our roads which is a shame as the MKI Astra was the very first performance FWD Vauxhall and the overall look of the car despite the 'boy racer' paraphenalia was clean and stylish. Engine 0-60 Top Speed Power(BHP) Torque(lbft) MKI Astra SR 1598cc 11.8s 104mph 88 @ 5800rpm 93 @ 3800rpm MKI Astra GTE 1796cc 9.5s 116mph 113 @ 5800rpm 111 @ 4800rpm MKII Astra GTE 1796cc 9.2s 118mph 112 @ 5600rpm 116 @ 3000rpm MKII Astra GTE 1998cc 8.7s 127mph 122 @ 5600rpm 127 @ 2600rpm MKII Astra GTE 16v 1998cc 7.4s 132mph 156 @ 6000rpm 150 @ 4800rpm The MKII Arrives. ***************** Released in October 1984,the MKII Astra was hailed as revolutionary on it's debut.It had a mu
        ch more rounded style with 3-door,5-door and estate versions again being offered.The GTE,with bonnet vents,rear hatch-spoiler,side sills and last but not least - the digital dashboard looking right at home in the digital watch/Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy 80s but underneath it still used the same engine/suspension package as before. Things were moving fast in the hothatch market and whereas the MKI was on top,the MKII faced such cars as the latest Golf GTI and Peugeot's 205GTI,the little French rocket was a little faster and handled better.Utilising first the LE and then the L3 Jetronic injection system from Bosch in the 1.8 variants,the later 2.0 models used the Bosch Motronic ML4.1 and M1.5 engine management system which controlled the fueling and ignition in one overall,intergrated system.In order not to be left behind Vauxhall decided to fit the 1998cc 20SE engine rated at 122bhp which did a little to improve on the 1.8GTE,having driven both and owned two 1800MKIIs though would say that the original 1.8MKII GTE was a better car as the engine revved harder and further than the later 2.oGTE.Performance figures don't always show the whole picture and can be misleading,to say the least,they are not as important on the road as they seem on paper and have nowhere near the significance that they bear down the pub.Also my 1.8 had a home-made induction system(see my K&N review),performance exhaust manifold and system,some home ported headwork and HL/LD cam so would obviously perform in excess of a 2.0GTE but all the same the even the standard 1.8 was an exceptionally sweet little engine. All hail the coming of the XE. ******************************
        It was clear that a slightly more powerful engine was not enough,especially when cars like Ford's Escort RS Turbo were on sale.Vauxhall's answer was a masterstroke. When it comes to the 'engine to have' Ford used to rule the roost with their Lotus twin cam and then the Cosworth BDA series of engines but it is no longer the domain of the blue-oval because the GM came out with the XE.Based on the Family II engine block the Cosworth designed 2.0 16 valve XE engine is a legend.Stepping out on a limb,I would say that the XE is the finest naturally-aspirated twin cam 16v on the go today - though fans of the K-series Rover engine may disagree!! I don't include the mighty Cosworth YB's from Sierra,Sapphire and Escort RS Cosworths as these were turbo-charged. First hitting the roads in 1988,the Astra GTE 16v was a much more complete car than the earlier 2.0GTE.Along with the new engine you also had a revised suspension/brake package with disc brakes all round and plush Recaro seats in the front.Apart from discreet,by hothatch standards at least,16v badging there is little externally to tell the 16v from it's earlier cousins having the same bonnet vents,skirts and hatch spoiler as the earlier car but the performance and the way it performs is in stark contrast. Although it was intended from the off to be used in motorsport the XE used the later Bosch Motronic M2.5 management system when in the GTE which are geared more for emmisions than producing outright power,some later models might use the Siemens system instead.Built with motorsport in mind the XE readily accepts upgrades and can deliver nearly twice it's original horsepower. Driving the GTE. **************** I have owned a couple of MKII 1.8GTE's and a GTE 16v and found with all of them that,as per usual,Vauxhall produce far superior engines to Ford and most other manufacturers aswell.All GTE's have good,positive steering.They let you feel where your front wheels are and what their doing,with good feedback even when cornering hard on the apex.They can suffer from torque steer when taking off quickly but no more than any other quick FWD's though they do understeer badly on wet roundabouts/cornering and aquaplane easily when driving through large puddles and standing water often leaving you a lot nearer the white line than when you entered the water.On dry roundabouts,especially,they can exhibit lift off oversteer not inherent in their bigger more stable cousin the Cavalier but this is normally when you enter the roundabout far too hard and then suddenly lift off the throttle so shouldn't happen to anyone driving at reasonable speeds - it can take you by suprise if you don't know about it,as I found out racing an RS Turbo and hitting a small roundabout in excess of 75mph but with quick reactions and some judicious opposite lock disaster can be averted. The suspension on all variants seems a shade under-damped with the springs overcoming the dampers a little on long undulating country roads but overall they make very 'chuckable' cars with quick responsive chassis's.With well matched anti-roll bars they sit flat when cornering and don't suffer as badly from understeer as the Cavalier can or anywhere near as much as the Escort XR3,XR3i,RS Turbo(all of which I've owned,as well as an RS1600i).The brakes,however,are not so good being adequate rather than re-assuring with the later 16v there is
        an improvement with all round discs but still not powerful. The engines are bullet-proof in the hands of all but an idiot with the 8 valve OHC producing lots of power right up through out the rev-range.All Vauxhall engines love to rev but this is especially true of the XE,in fact if you have an XE engined Vauxhall or Opel and never take it past 5000/5500 rpm then your not using it properly. All the engines found in the GTE will pull from low in the rev-range,evenly and with good throttle response.With the XE once you reach 4000rpm then things really start to happen and if you have enough road hold the throttle to the floor and keep in the same gear till you reach 6000/6500rpm it is then you will understand the greatness of this engine(this is without any of your fancy variable cam-timing and for those who start by saying that Vtec means valve timing,the valve timing is varied through cut gears on your cam - it is the variable cam which alters the valve timing in other words). Both the 1.8's that I owned I fitted with a high lift/long duration cam which altered the power output.I used to be able to get power up to just over 7000rpm and in 5th with a long road the digital dash would read 125mph then stop although the rev-counter was reading less than 6000rpm with another 1000rpm at least to go. Furnished with thick rimmed sports steering wheels,comfortable Recaro seats and plenty of room in the front they make easy,relaxed cars to drive long distances.They make for great 'back road scratchers' aswell being quick and light.The rear visibility is lacking though because of the rear-spoiler and big plastic pieces in the C-pillars.The gear change is fluid and not too knotchy without being porridge-like. With the usual Germanic build-quality,sensible straight forward construction(i.e bolt-on
        wings) these are still a sensible everyday car,the fuel consumption is reaonable,I used to get 30mpg overall and that was with caning it everywhere,while the insurance is a group 12,this is what they classed both my 1.8's - the 16v was a group 15,like my current Cavalier SRi16v,it would seem that 8 extra valves equates to 3 insurance grouping's more risk as all my Cavalier SRi's including the SRi130 were also classed group 12 but I defy anyone to insure an XR or RS at less than a group 15 and in the case of the XR's this is far less car for your money. All in all I recommend any Astra GTE.They are all quick,reliable and inexpensive cars to run,they'll out perform the equivilent Ford,Peugeot,Citreon or Volkswagen.I've raced many GTI's,Saxo VTwhatever's and 205 GTI's and an Astra is the equal of them all,except the 16v which surpasses them even the Golf GTI 16v.The parts are plentiful and cheap while the tuning potential,especially of the XE,is endless.BB Disclaimer - I neither endorse or condone any form of driving that is not within the law or the spirit of the highway code - what I do and how I drive is between me and the local Road Patrol Car - all too bloody often!!!!

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          22.10.2002 03:56
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          This was my first ever car - an Astra 1.4 Merit. I loved it, not because it was so brilliant, but because it was my first car. But it's still in the hands of the family, and it's still going strong... Reliability and Quality Never broke down, never saw the garage for things other than services. Performance I found the 1.4 engine perfectly adequate. After all, the Astra was not a big car, and since the Merit spec is the very basic one, the engine did not have any excess weight to propel. Ease of driving No power steering, but who needs it in a car this size. OK, a bit of work is required when parking, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of exercise every now and then, is there. Due to the low spec, there aren't many buttons to get confused about, so everything is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. The car has good and predictable road manners and is generally a good beginner's car. Space I was suprised to find that the Astra took more or less anything thrown into it, be it 4 people and luggage or a complete bathroom suite (including a full-size bath, toilet, cistern and wash basin!). The rear seats fold down and also split, so there is plenty flexibility. Why my current Chrysler Voyager can't do that is beyond me... Comfort Not sure why they came up with the name "Merit" for the basic version, since it doesn't have any merits in terms of spec. Even the clock had to be retro-fitted... Maybe they mean you get the steering wheel thrown in... Other than that, the Astra was reasonably comfortable (reasonably by 1984-93 standards, that is). Long journeys were rather tedious, though, due to noise and a ride that was a bit on the uncomfortable side. Economy and value for money The 1.4 was quite economical (sorry, cannot remember the exact mpg figure) and very cheap to run. Servicing was well below £80 in those days, and even
          a new exhaust did not break the bank. Given the production volume, I would guess there is a buoyant parts and spares market out there, so you should be able to run on of these on not much more than a shoestring these days... Just watch out for the very rusty ones... Summary A reliable, cheap-to-run and surprisingly spacious car that is now a little past its former glory. Late models (H or J reg) should still be good for some time, provided there's not too much rust.

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            12.06.2002 05:16

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            I don't know if this is the right section - but here we go. I bought a 1.6 diesel astravan a few years ago, and I couldn't find fault with it. I was told the important thing to do with a diesel was to change the oil regularly - this was done every 3000 miles, with a full set of filters every 6000. In t5he two years that I owned the van, the only running expense apart from the servicing was a set of brake pads, and I put a new timing belt on the van as soon as I bought it (better £70 than £700). The van only had a 4 speed gearbox, but it would still get up to an (indicated) 100mph on continental roads, and return about 48mpg if driven normally. I ran the van for a couple of years and sold it for only £300 less than I paid for it. Overall, an excellent vehicle, reliable, comfortable and superb value.

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            04.12.2000 19:13
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            I have a Mk 2 '89 Astra, and I can honestly say it is the second best car I've had (out of the two that I have owned, and the five I've co-owned. The astra provides a comfort that I have yet to match in any car. It is like driving an armchair, I only have the 1.3 model but the speed is surprisingly good especially as the car weighs so much in the first place. The simpleness of the car, combined with its similarity to the SRi and GTE models allows it to be modified & improved cheaply without really affecting insurance quotes. I have already put GTE bumpers front and back, after spraying them myself, and it cost me less than a hundred quid. I have also modified the mirrors and am now looking into fitting a digital dash from the GTE. Now, I know it sounds like I think there is nothing wrong with this car however all cars have faults, the astra is prone to rust and if not caught quickly enough the car will soon resemble a colander. The main areas prone to this are the front wings and the rear wheel arches, if it has started here you will find it very difficult to stop, I know, cause I couldn't. However it is very easy to get replacement wings for the front and relatively cheap also (I think I paid eighteen for mine). The only snag is you have to paint it!! and unless you have the equipment yourself it can become rather expensive. Another fault with them is the carburretors, well to be honest it is actually the automatic chokes that are the problem, they seem to fail after a time, and to find a decent replacement is an absolute nightmare. Updated 19/02/01 : since writing this my car has been stolen it seems the astra is a little too easy to break into. Oh well easy come, easy go!!!!

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              23.08.2000 04:37
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              When I first passed by license I bought a 1.3S Astra. I thought it was fantastic. It looked good, sounded good, and felt good to drive. At the traffic lights it was off like the clappers, flying along. It wasn't too bad up the motorway either, the only problem was that it only had 4 gears, which meant that it liked to use petrol as if it was free. The reason why I got rid of mine in the end was because it was going through about 5 litres of oil a month, not nice. I think these cars are great but there are more and more ending up in the scrap yard these days, it's a shame.

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              09.08.2000 19:31
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              This is generally a good, sound car. I have the 1.6 with 90bhp which is enough on the open road. It is the L trim model which is very basic. I bought it for 200 quid with 100k miles which I thought was bit of a bargain. It is very reliable and I have only had to replace the fuel cap. The build quality is a bit dodgy and the bodywork seems very tinny. The hanling is poor and the damper and springs are too soft. The steering is very vague and I can go 10 degrees either way without alot happening at all. I enjoy driving it and find it relaxing as it floats about. One thing I would say is that the mpg is terrable around town but brilliant everywhere else. Don't buy a golf

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              20.07.2000 05:33
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              I purchased this my first car a year after I passed my test. My friend owned the GTE version of the previous shape squarer model Astra. The thing I liked about this model were that although it was a very speedy 5-door hatchback, there was no lip around the boot allowing you to slide heavier gear in and out of the car like you would expect from an estate car. This proved very useful as we were both in a band together and we could save our grunts by sliding our heavy equipment in and out of the car. By the time I had saved enough money for the deposit, for the more conservative GL model, the shape had changed to the more rounded style. By this time everyone had got used to this more rounded style to the extent that they had stopped calling the new Ford Siera the 'jelly-mould' car. Unfortunately, the boot lip had been re-introduced to the design which, by this time was not perceived as much as problem as this design had been blamed for the previous model's predisposition of rusting so readily. I opted for the GL model as the 5-position steering wheel that came in very handy for getting in and out of the car as I was quite well-built. Also, the five door version so that the front seats are more solid as they don't have to move to allow the rear passengers to get in and out of the car. I have driven the car everyday and all over Europe where I have worked extensively. This means at holiday times I have had to rely on the car for long return journeys to the UK. Also, moving to and from digs abroad the luggage capacity was capatious. The 5-speed gearbox ensures goo fuel consumption coupled with the ability to cruise at high speeds with releatively good fuel ecconomy and engine noise. August see my cars 16th birthday and I have just had the sills replaced last year and I replaced the drivers seat as it finally collapsed a few years ago under my 24 stones weight. I will have to replace the car
              sooner rather than later but I will drive it until it breaks down - touchwood. I am sure I won't find a car as reliable and I will miss driving it when I have to let it go.

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