Vauxhall has developed a panoramic windscreen which will first appear on the soon-to-be-launched 3-door Astra Sport Hatch.

Making its debut at the Paris Motor Show later this month, the panoramic roof offers the driver and front seat passenger an almost unlimited field of vision, similar to the view from an aeroplane’s cockpit. And it’s not just a concept – the optional feature will go on sale in summer 2005.

The windscreen glass extends seamlessly from the bonnet up over the front seats to the B-pillar, with no crossbeam restricting the view.

Apparently, this creates a driving experience which can’t be matched, even by a convertible. “Only flying is better,” reckons Matthias Hallik, the designer who had the initial idea for the panorama windscreen. “This makes driving through beautiful scenery or a brightly-lit city at night a really special experience.”

Thankfully, crash tests show that the panorama windscreen maintains the standard Astra’s safety record, thanks to the car’s strong A and B-pillars, an additional crossmember in the middle of the roof and a sturdy floor assembly. Despite this, the new model only weighs around 10 kg more than the standard car.

Passengers in the panorama Sport Hatch are also protected against the elements. Excessive sunlight is filtered by special heat-absorbing glass and a sophisticated shading system, with two fold-out sun blinds.

The 1.8 m2 arched panorama windscreen, made of six-millimetre thick laminated safety glass, is shaped by means of an innovative gravity bending process. Selected points on the glass panel are heated so strongly in a special oven that gravity pulls it into the predefined shape.

The panoramic roof option will be available to British buyers in late summer 2005, a few months after the launch of the standard Astra Sport Hatch.