The 2004 Astra is being called Opel's most important product, as it competes in the hotly-contested compact car division that accounts for 30 percent of the European market. 30,000 pre-orders were made prior to a single delivery, which is more excitement than that generated by the new Golf, which the U.S. doesn't get until 2005. The most significant thing about the Astra is that it is an economy car (with an MSRP of $15,666), but it doesn't feel like one. It's handsome. It's fitted with nice materials. And it has five (!) engine choices, including two diesels. The vehicle which most resembles the Astra in the American market is the upcoming Chevrolet Cobalt, which is built on a similar platform and shares some suspension parts.