Bought as a temporary car in January 2000 after my rubbishy 1991 Escort LX Estate started to drop to bits (see review "Crude, unreliable junk"), this car has far exceeded all expectations. It is by far the most reliable car I have ever owned, despite the engine maladies.
The best thing about this car is the interior. It is remarkably well finished for a car designed 12 years ago, and very comfortable. The engine, depsite sounding wheezy and unrefined around town, is silent on the motorway at 70.
Performance is more than acceptable, even if it is a little sluggish getting from 50-70. The multi-point injection model (82 bhp) I hear is much faster than my SPI model (60 bhp). It does feel much quicker than it's woeful power output suggests though, and the Hi-Torq engine keeps it going up hills with ease.
I still have this brilliant car today after 4 years. It is so easy to own that I don't want to sell it, even if it is spectactularly dull to drive.
And that is another point. The steering is so vague and unresponsive that after the Escort, which itself was hardly a go-kart, the Astra felt as though it had a flat tyre. The suspension is badly set up and the car rolls and pitches into bends. The ride isn't especially comfortable either.
However, if you are undemanding and don't like driving, then this is the car for you. If you like driving, buy a Peugeot 306 or a post '95 Escort.