The Vauxhall Astra, one of the UK’s most popular new cars, will be given cosmetic and engineering tweaks next year to keep it competitive. And these spy shots of the car testing in Germany are our first sighting of the new model.

By the time the updated Astra lands in dealers during the second half of 2019, its competitors will have been strengthened significantly; an all-new Ford Focus will be in showrooms, as will the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf.

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Based on these spy shots, at least, Vauxhall isn’t planning on beating its rivals with a radical redesign. The light camouflage at the front and rear indicates there’ll only be minor cosmetic tweaks to the headlamps and front bumper, while a minor update around the back is expected.

Despite Vauxhall now being under the stewardship of Peugeot and Citroen owner PSA, the Astra will remain on the same GM-developed platform and stick with the same range of engines from the existing model.

The cost of developing PSA parts and engines to fit in the current Astra would require too much investment. That means the existing 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol will be offered alongside the larger 1.4-litre turbo petrol and 1.6-litre diesel engines; all are expected to benefit from a range of performance and economy tweaks. However, there is the possibility of a warmed-up GSi version of the Astra to broaden the hatch’s appeal and further bolster the GSi brand, which is currently limited to the Insignia and Corsa.

If Vauxhall goes ahead with a GSi-badged Astra, the 2.0-litre turbo from the Insignia GSi is the most likely engine for it, although power would be detuned from its current 257bhp output.

Vauxhall is also keen to stress that the flagship VXR is not dead and will return at some point in the future, but not on the current generation of Astra. 

There will be a more radical overhaul of the Astra when the updated seventh-generation model is phased out in around 2022. The platform, engines, software and hardware will all switch from GM to PSA parts, although question marks remain over whether the car will continue to be produced at its current home of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. A decision on the future of the plant will be made in 2020, two to three years ahead of the next-generation Astra going on sale.

The time is needed to allow Vauxhall to prepare whichever site is selected for production. To date there have been two rounds of job losses at Ellesmere Port; 650 employees have taken voluntary redundancy as the site moved from two shifts to one earlier in the year.

Vauxhall’s current head count stands at 4,500 in the UK, with 1,800 of those at the site in Cheshire. The Ellesmere Port plant opened in 1962.

What does the facelifted Vauxhall Astra have to beat? This is our list of the top 10 hatchbacks currently on sale

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