A contender to the mainstream rivals
I have just spent two full days driving the new Opel Astra and I am left feeling rather happy. The Astra has never been on my top list of hatchbacks to offer readers, for no reason other than I couldn’t get the Opel Kadett from the early 90s out of my head. It was THE family car to own and it always brought back memories of my friend’s baby sister wiping grubby Marie Biscuit hands all over me while five of us sat side by side on the backseat. The Astra’s since have of course improved, but for some reason this image of greasy paws on me has never left my mind…until now!
I am happy to report that this unpleasant memory has been wiped from my brain and replaced with a far more delightful one. One that entails a drive along the coast in Port Elizabeth in a car that not only delivers on performance but also on handling and comfort, and don’t even get me started on the spec level!
Design wise, I am not overly sold by the front of the new Astra, I think it looks outdated and resembles its pre-predecessor. But the side profile and rear look sleek, modern and refreshed. Inside sees the biggest improvement. It is far less cluttered than the outgoing model. The Intellilink entertainment system is fairly simple to use although I struggled to connect my phone via Bluetooth, something that I feel should be done in less than 10 seconds and with minimal effort from the user.
The front seats on the Opel Astra’s entry level models, which are material, are softer and far more comfortable than the leather version on the top models. But then again, I am not a leather fan…you either freeze your backside off in winter or burn it in summer. The boot on the other hand impresses in size. It’s very wide and will make loading a pram easy!
Three engines will be on offer, namely the 1,0 litre turbo, the 1,6 turbo Ecotec engines and the 1,4 Ecotec Direct Injection Turbo…which is a first for Astra. We got to drive all options and if I had to choose my favourite it would be the 1,4. It’s punchy enough to warrant not spending the extra money on the 1,6. And if you are really fuel conscious then I would even opt for the 1,0 -litre. It is powerful enough and you will have a consumption of just 4,4 l/100 km.
Back to the 1,4 Ecotec, our test unit was mated to an automatic transmission. Gone are the days when small engines should not be mated to automatic transmissions. This is smooth shifting and doesn’t screech at you as it hunts for gears.
The new Opel Astra is jam-packed with technology and some very impressive firsts for the segment. The Lane Keep Assist, however, can be very disconcerting. If you veer over a solid line the steering wheel turns in to pull you back in to the lane. This all sounds good, but in reality it can potentially be more dangerous. The problem is that if you are overtaking a car who has pulled in to the yellow lane and your wheel ever so slightly crosses the line, you are steered back towards the car (not that you should be overtaking on a solid line, but if a car is parked in the yellow lane you don’t have a choice). A vibration would be more than enough to make you aware that you are veering. With that said, after a while you will get used to it and know how to handle your own car…hopefully! And thankfully you can turn it off by pressing a button!
Due to the spec level being so high, Opel feel the Astra competes more with the likes of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series more than the Volkswagen Golf. Either way, this car is an excellent alternative to the mainstream rivals and one that I am really, truly impressed with!
1.0T Essentia R 254 000
1.0T Enjoy R 284 300
1.4T Enjoy MT R 328 000
1.4T Enjoy AT R 338 000
1.4T Sport MT R 354 000
1.4T Sport AT R 374 000
1.6T Sport MT R 387 000
1.6T Sport PLUS MT R 407 000